Exchanges, collections, thefts… How did 4 colors come into fashion?

For decades, the Bic 4-colors have been a staple at the bottom of school bags, between pencils and fluorescent highlighters, among others. It stood out only for its inventiveness: the fact that it contained four interchangeable nibs (blue, black, green and red) in the same pen. Practical when you want to change colors in the blink of an eye or are a fan of a minimalist case.

Also read >> Right of withdrawal: a teacher describes the chaos at his college in Seine-Saint-Denis

4-colour highly desirable pen

But within a few years, the 4-color Bic moved into another category: the coveted category of objects that middle school students in grades 6 to 3 collect and change during recess, as we did back then. So much so that this iconic pen has become a nightmare for the teaching staff. Fanny, CPE at a college in Montreuil (Seine-Saint-Denis), tells us, “It seems like I’ve always known about this phenomenon since I’ve been on the job for nine years. Students have fun playing the pen, the more original the pen, the more popular it will be. “This has been confirmed by Houda, who teaches history-geography at an institution in Montfermeil (Seine-Saint-Denis). “It’s an app that really sticks, with some people bragging about having four or five different 4-color pencils. Teachers hate Bic for this. »

An interest felt by Bic, who produced the 4 colored pencils. While the pen was originally blue or orange, the brand has been replicating limited editions for a number of years to regularly rekindle teen interest. Colors, design, textures… Bic offers dozens of models on its website in flashy, metallic colors or with character depictions. According to “Le Parisien” interviewed by Bic, 240,000 4 colors come out of its factory in Marne-la-Vallée (Seine-et-Marne) every day. What promises college students to regularly expand their collections.

“I once found 22 in a student’s bag”

The problem is that the Bic 4-colors that have become possessions are also the object of greed and are regularly the subject of theft among students. “They complain that their 4 color is lost too often. They don’t know how or when, says Caroline, a German teacher in Gargenville (Yvelines). Others, however, exchange, or rather beg their comrades to hand over their pens, because they do not have it. I experienced during the course. The student even asked me for mine… He was really enthusiastic… I think he focused more on pencils than lessons. It was an obsession! »

Houda even recounts that he took a flight with 6th graders on the full course. “A student stood up to get his textbook, and meanwhile, his neighbor stole his pen… That’s the atmosphere! He immediately handed it back under threat of punishment. Also, during fire drills, my students always remember to get their kits before they go out for fear of someone stealing them… Burning or saving their pencils: the tough choice! », underlines the professor playfully.

While students’ obsession with 4-color Bics isn’t generally mocked, it can sometimes be a nuisance to the establishment. “Three or four years ago, I had to interfere with class regularly because the thefts caused conflicts among students that could result in insults or fights, sometimes making attendance impossible,” Fanny recalls. “A few times I had to look through all the student kits for a class and confiscate 4 extra colors from students. When I found 22 in a student’s bag…” continues CPE.

Colleges face dilemma of 4-color ban

What to do to stop this traffic? Rather than simply banning the coveted pen, Fanny and her team appealed to discreet students. “We tried to make them realize the craze and the fact that this 4-color ‘market’ has made them victims of marketing using a theft-based phenomenon. Some responded positively and decided not to take it anymore, but most students just don’t have the maturity and perspective to make it happen. As a result, his college decided to ban students from having more than one 4 color and incorporate this new measure into its internal regulations. However, this time, it was the parents of the students who did not follow.

Caroline finds it “disappointing” to ban 4 colors because of a minority of students. But there comes a time when you have to stop wasting your time with pen stories and get straight to the point. As a parent, it would also bother me if my child’s equipment was stolen. Great words, great drugs…”

Houda recalls that in Montfermeil, the ban was nearly enforced a few years ago “when there was a lot of traffic between students and even fights and students crying.” “But it fell by the wayside because other issues overwhelmed us: lack of chairs, lack of equipment… Lack of tools, pretty simple,” Houda complains.

Caroline’s only consolation in the event that the 4 colors are permanently banned at her college: “no longer hearing the “clac clac clac” cacophony at every color change for every student”. “I won’t miss it, that’s for sure.”

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