The Great Debate: Sorting School Subjects by Color

Sam Walsh and Carly Dixon

There are many silly debates that fill up the space in our brains and provide lots of argumentative fun for friends and not-friends alike, such as: Are there more wheels or doors in the world? Is water wet? Many such questions as these have dominated the lunch table debate for a long time.

The most recent question being brought to said table is this: What color should be assigned to each school subject? Sam and I sent out a mass survey to determine the people’s opinions on this topic, and boy, were they varied.

To get to the bottom of this variation, Sam and I ventured back to where we suspected these opinions started: Mrs. Danielle Penrod’s sixth grade science classroom. Penrod, who is responsible for assigning folder colors to school subjects, explained to us that she does so to help incoming students learn to be more organized as their classes advance. We asked her why she chose to assign certain colors with certain subjects. Penrod explained to us the complex history behind this sociological phenomenon. “Mine used to be green,” she said. “But then, Mr. Green taught math, so we made math green.” To this day, they have never switched the colors back, and math remains green, while science is categorized as red.

In the junior high, English is split up into two separate classes: reading and language arts/grammar. According to Penrod, a yellow folder is used for reading class, and a blue folder used for language arts. For history, a purple folder was recommended, however, she admitted that since purple’s a harder color to find, if students break pattern on any color-subject correlation, purple-history is usually the deviant.

Results from the survey show opinions line up fairly closely to this organizational system, implying either that students likely carry these things that they are taught into their adult lives or that, for some reason, most people are really quite sure that these specific answers are the correct ones.

 The largest general agreement, as seen above, is that science is definitely green, with red coming in at second place. This aligns with the historical knowledge we have gained from Penrod, which confirms that the reflexive assignment of color-subject for science is green, but some (presumably students who have passed through the sixth grade at Waverly) assign it red  because that is what they are taught as children.

History is definitely the largest mixing pot, which also goes back to our roots, as history was intended to be purple but became whatever color the extra folder on hand was. It also makes sense that history would have less of a defined opinion because it is the last core subject we are introduced to as students, meaning our opinions about the subject were later formed and therefore less intense.

 The English results were an exact tie for first between yellow and blue, which are the two colors used to represent the divided English classes in the junior high. If one subscribes to the belief that the formerly referenced organizational system has an effect on an individual’s opinion, then it would only make sense that English is so evenly split up in this fashion.

Finally, math, and this subject was dominated by three colors: red, blue, and green.  While the red and green ideas make sense due to the middle school folder colors, blue is definitely the sleeper pick.  All four math teachers here at WHS seem to agree that math is blue but we’re still not quite sure why people have drawn this deviating conclusion about math when every other subject aligns with the junior high’s folder color assignments. Overall, however, the general population just barely reached the final conclusion that math is, in fact, red.

The mission we set out on was to find out people’s opinions on which color represented which school subject. These are the answers we found:

  • Math: Red

  • English: Blue/Yellow

  • Science: Green

  • History: Yellow

So, conclusively, we are left at the table wondering, is there a right and wrong answer to this question? Though the people have spoken, are they correct? Are these the right answers, or are the people who responded to the survey crazy? Even with these answers that we have received from the general public, it seems likely that the debate continues.