Tina Barseghian


By Katie Stansberry

According to a recent MSNBC article, 69% of high school currently ban cell phones. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a school anywhere that has enacted a blanket ban on pens and pencils. Here are 10 reasons to reconsider the widespread acceptance of these distracting and potentially dangerous implements.

  1. Pens and pencils are distracting. The tapping, clicking, flipping and rolling can drive just about any teacher around the bend. I remember a happy indoor recess spent throwing newly sharpened pencils at the classroom ceiling trying to make them stick.
  2. Writing implements are dangerous. I still have a small lump of lead imbedded in the soft, fleshy area between my thumb and pointer finger. It’s a souvenir from a mini-sword fight that occurred between my close friend and I in third grade. She won.
  3. Pens can be used to cheat. Now that I’m at the head of a classroom instead of behind a desk, I’ve seen some ingenious cheating techniques. One student managed to write an entire history of media studies on the bottom of their shoe. I’ve also found forearms covered with vocabulary words, ankles tattooed with definitions, and hands dyed with smeared blue ink.
  4. They are incredibly messy. Dusty pencil shavings litter the floor in many elementary classrooms and pens filled with liquid ink are just disasters waiting to happen. Have you ever tried to clean a child’s backpack after a pen broke at the bottom of the bag? No amount of scrubbing can get the dye completely out.
  5. Pens and pencils can be used to bully kids. Those notes that pass from hand to hand across the rows of desks are often far more sinister than they appear. Thanks to the ubiquitous use of writing implements in schools, kids have free reign to write and distribute messages that use offensive language and hateful speech. Recent high-profile cases of student bullying are just the latest examples of why we must crack down on these communication tools.
  6. Kids will just use them to play games. Hangman, Tic-Tac-Toe, word searches, crosswords, and now the latest craze: Sudoko. How can any student be expected to keep their mind on lessons when there are so many tempting distractions just a pen stroke away?
  7. Fancy pens and pencils will cause jealousy and other problems. I remember in fifth grade when the girl who sat across from me came to school with a brand new pack of orange, sparkly pens that wrote in neon ink. Her father had brought them back as a souvenir from a recent trip to Florida. They were the coolest and I wanted them, but they were too expensive for me to just go out and buy. Wouldn’t it be better to nip those kinds of issue in the bud by instituting a widespread ban on pens in schools.
  8. There are health concerns that can lead to bad habits. I think part of the reason I wore braces for six years stemmed from my lifelong habit of chewing pens and pencils. All that chomping in class had to affect my dental hygiene.
  9. They lead to sedentary behavior. Have you ever seen a child running with a sharpened pencil? Or, writing a note while playing kickball? Writing and exercise don’t mix. The obesity crises is reaching epic levels. Let’s get pens and pencils out of our kid’s pudgy hands so they can get moving.
  10. They can be used to embarrass teachers. Sure, no teacher wants to see their goofs show up on YouTube, but a skillfully done caricature can do as much or more damage than photos or video. At least cameras and video capture actual events, when students are given free reign to create images, text or stories about their teachers, there’s no limit to the damage they can do.

Let’s hope this blog post helps open people’s eyes to the danger of pens and pencils in schools. It’s high time someone spoke out in support of a ban on such hazardous tools.

  • Brilliant. Thank you so much. Today I received a request to give 1-3 tests and 6-8 quizzes per trimester. But as my friend Dave Gray would say, “facetime is enormously precious… why should I spend it on solitary activities?”

  • Friskydingo99

    you are retarded. That is the stupidest argument I have ever read.

    • Alesha

      As is banning electronic devices in the classroom.

  • Lisa

    how are the children supposed to take notes?

  • lwcassid

    this is a ridiculous argument by a control freak.

  • Patrick

    Shouldn’t that be “my close friend and ME” and “SudokU”?

  • Katie Stansberry

    Perhaps I should have added a disclaimer to this post. This is a tongue-in-cheek response to individuals who seek to ban new technology in the classroom. I do not actually want pencils and pens out of schools, I just wanted to point out that the same arguments made against new technologies such as cellphones and laptops could easily be applied to these common writing tools.

    • Kevin Corbett

      Thanks for the laugh– outstanding writing Katie! Will u connect w/ me please @Kevin_Corbett thx!

  • I went ahead and removed a gratuitously rude comment that completely missed the point of the article, which Katie Stansberry, the author, points out, compares classroom technologies to essential tools, like pens and pencils. While I strongly encourage relevant arguments, I’m going to delete comments that insult my guest-bloggers without adding anything to the conversation.

    • Alesha

      Thank you for your explanation and your actions. I do hope more educators and administrators see the relevance of new technologies as learning tools to further inquiry and education overall.

  • Refsocrd1

    funny article, too bad it actually came to pass in one high school. thankfully it was retracted.
    I’ll continue the Insanity with a few other things that are just as dangerous.

    Paper:It causes cuts, eye strain, and has lines that dictate where you can write. Also if you roll or fold up a standard piece of paper, properly, it can be used as a weapon. (remember those lovely triangular footballs flying all over the place, loved those things). The only problem was what happens when somebody gets hit in the eye with them. “You’ll put your eye out”

    Desks:these things constrain a person to only working in one location. They should be able to work where ever they prefer. Also, most desks are dangerous if a person falls down and hits it, resulting in various injuries upto and including broken bones and concussions. Also if these desks are not bolted down, they can be used as a weapon. they can be pushed and picked up resulting in major injuries.

    Chairs:See desks.

    Staples/staplers:Do i really have to elaborate on these little monsters.

    Thumb tacks:Sharp points in a small package. Nuff said.

    Chalk & Chalk boards:Asthmatics and those with dust allergies may have a reaction to all that dust. Plus all that waste that has to be cleaned up. What is the environmental impact of this material? A study needs to be done.

    White boards:Huffing of the pens, the board if not properly mounted can fall off and result in injury.
    And what about those mounted on tripods, those are absolutely lethal.

    Walls:These seemingly innocuous items are almost dangerous of all things in a class room. During a fire they limit a persons evacuation points. During an earth quake they can fall on a person and kill them. And if a person shoves another person into them it can result in serious injury and death.
    And the mostdangerous thing in the classroom….
    Students: They can harm a person with their words or actions. They can cause a person to become depressed, or they can cause myriad injuries via their hands and feet.

    Have fun folks, and see how many weapons you can find around the house. And look beyond all those sharp knives, and find something more interesting to use.
    ceramic plates can be fun for self defense. break em over a head, sling em at an intruder. What fun.
    Please note I look at things through a “weird” perspective, I actually look at a desk and can visualize the messed up uses i’ve listed above. mostly comes from an awareness and a knowledge of martial(military) arts. It’s simply a matter of knowing how to use these items effectively to defend oneself in the event of an altercation. Basically if the altercation occurs, what is the fastest way to stop the attacker. Some may call it paranoia, but just because you think somebody is after you, doesn’t mean they aren’t.

  • Milton Chen

    Loved this post and its parallels to so many educational tools, including educational TV and technology. Katie, it’s amazing you survived the dangers of pens and pencils and ended up as a writer!

  • Dfhsldk

    Yeah but if you banned pens and pencils what would you use electronics????????

    • It’s a parody…

      • Isaac Argesmith

        A really bad parody.

  • Click4biology

    great sense of fun Katie and great ammunition to show the absurdity of the argument to ban phones etc

  • Jay

    … and paper for crying out loud! Have you never been hit with a spit wad? Come on! Make it a complete list!

  • Dr. Pedro Cevallos

    Pencils have graphite, not lead in them.

    • True enough. I think it has been many years since they had lead.

  • Ms. Trust

    Why not take it a bit further? Let’s take our responsibility as grownups and shut the schools down for good! The environment is, as proven above, awfully dangerous in every respect. Moreover, young people today don’t learn anything of importance: they do not even stand up when their teachers enter the room. Worst of all… (to be continued).

  • Acaciatc

    Superb! May I share this with area superintendents? (WIl have to be paper!)
    Humor is such a powerful tool to help us (educators) take a hard look at ourselves!!
    Keep ’em coming!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for your feedback. Please feel free to pass around!

  • I find it amazing that some people have such a sense of irony bypass that they missed the point behind this humourous post entirely… worrying 😎 I’m now waiting for someone to correct my British (ie correct) spelling 😎

  • Tracyo

    Also the misshapen middle finger on your writing hand, where the pressure of the pen/pencil has caused a lump to develop and stay there forever !

  • Simon Ensor

    My thoughts exactly!

  • Ken

    above article: example of how the internet allowed morons to spew the diarrea in their heads out to the world.

  • If we ban pens and pencils we should ban teachers from communicating to students…oh wait

  • Shawn Blankenship

    Great article!  Great point!  Although “pens and pencils” are dangerous, we taught our students how to use them appropriately.  We can do the same with cell phones, ipads…. etc.  By the way, I have the same souvenir, small lead mark between my thumb and index finger on my left hand.  Same sword fight but it was second grade.  Too funny!  Shawn

  • Primaryedu

    I love it! As a teacher, this made me laugh!

  • Dre_205

    a poorly done parody. Sorry, wasn’t funny in the least.

  • Doug Johnson posted this idea about 6 years ago too: http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com/blue-skunk-blog/2005/9/28/rules-for-pod-people-and-a-proposal-for-banning-pencils.html (copied here: http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/columnists/johnson/johnson004.shtml )

    • BigDog75

      I knew this article looked familiar 🙂 Wonder if the author would be willing to give Doug credit for his work?

  • Teishadel

    Then what are you going to have them write with ? There bloody finger tips or crayons? Why your at it ban scissors and then might as well get rid of the economic home classes and art classes. I understand they can be dangerous and all but seriously? Over half the things kids come in contact with on a daily basis is dangerous. Why not focus on the problems kids have and why they make these things dangerous? Its not the objects its the person themselves.

    • Peter Lee

      calm down jeez

  • Doug Holton Is Gay

    Dumb ass. How are you going to write? You think people are going to start getting used to using marker?

  • Anonymoose

    “Complaining without offering a solution is whining.” With no alternate solution, that’s all you are doing. Although you make a decent argument against pens and pencils, you don’t suggest anything that may work better, simply because there isn’t. Chalk can be great for math, but horrible for writing. Keyboards can’t be used for math well, but computers can have games. Markers carry the same issues as pens, as for cheating, games, embarrassment of teachers, and health concerns. Crayons are still incredibly messy. Colored Pencils carry every reason stated above, and often don’t have attached erasers. In other words, these are all true, however there is no perfect writing utensil free of most of these issues.

  • Mark Thomas

    I’m stunned by how many posters actually believed the author was serious about banning pencils, (rather than making a point about the latest education fad of banning technology in the classroom). I can just imagine which cable network these types watch and how they vote.

  • Kevin

    Hi, my memories of pencils at school revolved round ‘stabbing’ a girl who was being annoying. She had the idea of blackmailing me so every day I got a rundown on how her ‘wound’ was progressing and how it was infected and she had been to the doctor and was going to go to see the Headmaster. I thought I had better get my story in first so I went to see the Head, who in turn summoned the girl to his study. I dare say she was mightily embarrassed to have to confess it was all a hoax.

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