Coddled kids make for spineless adults: Schools kill off challenges, competition

Back to school used to be a time for students to hit the books, playing fields and homework with high hopes of high success. Not anymore.

With the new mindset, these kids may be applauded for their aerodynamic skills/Thinkstock

Some students no longer have to bother with such stuff as they attend schools that follow a treacherous trend of coddling the students, ensuring today’s youth make for tomorrow’s simpering, spineless adults.

Several academic institutions across the nation have done away with grades and anything else that remotely resembles competition – including some sporting events and playground games.

Competition is much too harsh, these schools say. Ranking one student higher than another can damage self-esteem or hurt a pupil’s feelings. It could make a student cry.

Bad grades will never again make children weep in one Illinois school district that axed its entire grading system. Rather than strive for an “A” or know they better buckle down after an “F,” students instead receive feedback with phrases like “emerging” or “modify.”

Even more ridiculous, the “modify” feedback means the curriculum needs to be modified to better fit the child. School officials would never suggest a child modify his study habits or actually pay attention in class.

Students who paid enough attention to make the honor roll in some Nashville schools were shafted a few years back. The schools stopped posting honor roll listings after parents complained it would make other students feel left out.

Other Nashville schools followed suit, with one school banned from listing basketball games’ high-scoring players and another too scared to announce the winner of a spelling bee.

The playground game of Tag was eliminated in one Santa Monica schoolyard, saying it ruined self-esteem by branding one student a “victim” called “It.”

Valedictorian was also eliminated in some institutions – and simply made more inclusive in several feel-good California schools.

Rather than choosing a single student for top honors, anywhere from 50 to 100 valedictorians were chosen to carry the title. Being the No. 1 student surely loses some of its glory – and all of its meaning – when there are 99 other No. 1 students.

Not only does this coddling take away a student’s challenge to excel, it takes away any reward for a job well done.

Kids learn much better in a stress-free environment, the schools argue, one devoid of those nasty Fs and horrible honor rolls. Instead, everyone is applauded for doing a great job – even if they are barely doing anything at all.

That’s fine and dandy in a fantasy world – but not in schools, which hopefully at least pretend to prepare students for reality. Such pampered pupils can never function upon graduation.

Traffic jams, printer jams and other daily stresses will paralyze them. They’ll buckle under the cut-throat competition found everywhere from the workplace to the line at the local coffee shop.

Even if these students were coddled so greatly they did not cry in school, the real world will certainly kick off some bawling that could last the rest of their lives.


This editorial was scheduled to appear in the Monday, Sept. 13 issue of the Arizona Daily Star.

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and Ryngmaster who was once eliminated from a spelling bee for misspelling “mannequin” and will now forever remember how to spell it. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at and E-mail


About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at
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24 Responses to Coddled kids make for spineless adults: Schools kill off challenges, competition

  1. tiponeill says:

    Gee – sounds just like my grouchy grandad – yep, this coddling must stop 🙂

  2. fraser007 says:

    My God. It sounds like the liberal democrats have taken over the school system! Oh wait they have!! This is why charter schools are growing. To get away from this crap.
    ( Now waiting for all of the “liberals” to now call me a fascist knuckle-dragger!)

    • leftfield says:

      I’ll bet they don’t even allow name-calling in those schools!  Durn dem librals!

      • fraser007 says:

        I wish that charter schools didnt exist. The kids need to be in the “melting pot” of public schools. I bet it even worked for you my Marxist loving friend. (Oh wait I forgot you went to the school where you wore white shirts and red neckerchiefs and sang the International on the morning. Or maybe in yur dreams!! lol).
        Parents are fleeing the public schools because liberal social changing teachers are foisting that crap on their kids as well as having to deal with drugs and gangs etc.
        See I didnt insult you once. Whats knuckle-dragger-fascist in Spanish?

      • leftfield says:

        Now, fraser, if I call you an old gringo in Spanish, is that more demeaning than calling me a Marxist-lover?  Both are accurate descriptions, are they not? 

        Yes, I wish charter schools did not exist, too.  IMO, the impetus for charter schools has arisen from a variety of wants:  parents dismayed with the quality of education in public schools; the conservatives trying to strangle public education; parents dismayed with the “liberal” aspects of public education; parents concerned about the safety of their children in public schools.  There are probably other reasons, too.  I think in order to be democratic, they must be open to all and they must demonstrate that they are not bleeding money from public schools.  If these criteria can be fulfilled, I would have no problems with charter schools “competing” (I just used a dirty word) with public schools.  After all, we started plenty of “alternative” schools back in the good old days.

      • fraser007 says:

        This we agree my Marxist friend.

  3. leftfield says:

    Sadly, I doubt even this would kill off enough competiveness to put an end to Hot Dog eating contests and “Survivor”.  Oh well, back to the drawing board.  Who knows what our next nefarious plot to sap the fiber of decent, red-blooded Americans will be?  Open borders?  Gays in the military?  Electric-powered automobiles?  Ha!  Ha, ha, ha, ha!  (he laughs maniacally while rubbing his hands together; all the while his shifty eyes dart back and forth)

    • Rynski says:

      nice imagery at the end! hahahha
      …and i’d say that if people were brought up in an environment that was more challenging and thought-provoking there would be a better chance that all the TV crap would be toooo boring for their well-honed minds – or at least i can hope such things…

  4. leftfield says:

    You know, I’ll bet that, some time long ago in history, the older cavepersons sat around the campfire, gnawed on some bones, and complained about how the lack of discipline and drive in the younger generation was going to be the end of civilization. 

  5. azmouse says:

    A ‘victim’ called ‘It’. HAHAHAHAA!! That is too funny!

    Yeah, this isn’t good. I have one last boy still in school. He’s a senior and from what he says, the teachers have absolutely no control of their classrooms.
     Seems many kids have entitlement issues already and this stuff is probably just gonna add to it.

    • Rynski says:

      hey azmouse! cool you chimed in!
      i agree – things have gone waaaay too far. and i thought it was bad enough when brothers grimm was disney-fied – guess there is no limit to the madness and entitlement.
      so glad your son is senior and outta there soon! how very sad that no control exists in the classroom. sigh. also agree thinking like the above will DEF. hinder any chance of it even further.
      instead of that old ‘customer is always right’ motto, the sense seems to be ‘student is always right’ – to the point of rewriting curriculum if a kid doesn’t feel like studying for it? absurd.

      • azmouse says:

        Just so ya know, I often can’t take the time to comment, but I always read your blogs!

        Yes….children are a blessing! Ya never know when you might need blood or a spare kidney.

      • Rynski says:

        awww, thanks, azmouse!
        how cool to know you’re reading – also always enjoy your comments when you get a moment – wholly understand you being busy busy with blessing of children…protect those kidneys – hahahahhaha.

  6. tiponeill says:

    On a more personal note, the Blessed Brothers of the Holy Bullwhip and Sisters of the Blessed Ruler made certain that I received a first class education.
    I do sometimes wonder if they had something to do with my fondness for black leather and S/m clubs, but whatever the case it seems to have turned out alright.
    Maybe it could be a national model.

  7. Alan in Kent WA says:

    I can remember that I couldn’t wait to hit 18 and become an adult.  Now its like 18 is kid midlife as one may not become an adult until 36, if ever!  I find it carries on forever as we are taught as being too stupid to figure life out, and we need a government program to guide us through our existence.

    • Rynski says:

      ha! too true alan in kent wa.
      …and that need for a gov’t program to guide us through existence – perhaps it’s just one more ploy to make people into the great dependent sheep herd? (hahhahahha). i hear the baaaaaaas now….

  8. d.lynch says:

    I am in total agreement with todays article..  I have a daughter who is a sophomore at Marana who is totally into her grades and her class ranking.  She would be devastated if they took those away and made everyone on a equal footing

  9. Jerry says:

    So you think it’s not happening here in Tucson?  Wait till you see the proposed report card that Amphi is coming out with for its elementary schools this year.  It’s called a standards based report card, and it has no letter grades-only levels-levels 1-4.  Level 1 and 2 are the only possible levels that can be given at this time of year because level 3 and 4 stipulate meets standards for end of year expectations (level 3), and exceeds standards for end of year (level 4).  These “standards” can’t be obtained until toward the end of the year because a number of the standards will not have been taught until the end of the school year.  So, an excelling student who works his/her butt off can expect a level 2, and someone who meets the minimum requirements can also receive a 2.  Where’s the incentive?  Where’s the reward?  Amphi’s moving full steam ahead with this standards based report card, even though the school board has yet to approve it.  Not to mention that there have only now been meetings presented to parents for consideration.  Teachers are being told not to assess a letter grade or a percentage to any graded work, and no graded work is being sent home for parents to review.  On top of that, teachers have not been given direction on how to present distinguishing comments on report cards that would clearly show a child’s level of achievement or understanding. 

    As a parent, I object to this “leveling” of the field that shows no distinction between the effort and accomplishments that my child can obtain and those of another student who shows no incentive to excel. My child regularly shows a willingness and eagerness to do exceptional work, and should be recognized for it.

    The last society that tried to level the playing field for all was called the Soviet Union-is this where we’re heading?

    • Rynski says:

      hi jerry,
      thanks for adding local angle with amphi info – how incredibly horrible, for sure. sounds like an unfair, confusing – not to mention downright useless direction the district is heading.
      i also heard about some track meets where everyone’s a winner – regardless of performance on track – was that in amphi as well, do you know?
      are kids still allowed to play tag?

      • Jerry says:

        Dear Rynski:

        I haven’t heard anything about track meets or other restrictions about games like tag or such.

        Amphi does promote leveling in certain subjects at the elementary level.  Reading and math are the two most common areas where leveling occurs-kids are grouped by their current academic level, and in cases where there are a significant number of kids that read at a low level, they are placed into a class with similar level readers, and the class size is reduced so that supposedly that teacher can spend more individual time with the kids.  This really doesn’t work, because those kids each need more time, and so the amount of time needed is still not sufficient even though there is a smaller class size.  When integrating kids with higher levels of reading into a mixed class occurs, the higher level readers not only encourage the other kids, but also help the teacher by leading small groups of readers, thus providing peer learning and a sense of community, and allowing the teacher time to pull out individuals that need more help while the small groups work together.  When there is no mixed group of reading level kids, the kids that have lower levels cannot receive help from the other kids-they’re as lost as they are. 

        What would really be helpful from the press would be an interview of administrators about particular practices, and why they implement them.  The discussion about standards based report cards, for instance, was very limited, and did not involve buy-in, let alone explanation as to why it is being done, by the vast majority of teachers in Amphi-let alone parent input prior to the full steam ahead as it now appears.  Why policies are being implemented without key input from the majority of teachers and parents is a pointed question that needs to be asked to Amphi administration.

        Another sad state of affairs is happening at one of Amphi’s elementary schools-a K-5 school in Oro Valley.  They are “experimenting” with a teaching method called departmentalization.  Grades 1-5 are rotating the kids through different teachers for all subjects, and rather than a teacher teaching their assigned home room students all subjects throughout the day, they teach one, possibly two subjects to them, then the students rotate throughout the day to other teachers.  This normally occurs with middle school and high school students, but is fairly new for elementary students.  This is being done despite the fact that no studies show that this approach works well for elementary aged kids, and that many studies show that this is not favorable for elementary kids.  Elementary kids need the nurturing stability and relationship building that occurs with a teacher that comes from familiarity.  Teachers and students alike do not get to know each other when they rotate through like this.  Teachers do not have the time to work with individual students, and cannot spend more time on a lesson that is not being fully grasped.  When teachers have their students all day, the teacher can lengthen the time spent on a lesson if a group of kids are having trouble grasping the subject-not so, when they have to be hustled off to the next subject.  Also, those fun, extra- curricular things that happen in most elementary schools, like a birthday celebration or holiday party, don’t happen because the schedule doesn’t allow for it-again a lack of community building, and a lack of cultivating school as not only a place to learn, but as a place for creating well-rounded individuals who receive more than just book learning. This all in the name of standardized test scores and academic labels attached to the schools.  Yes, I want my child to be taught many academic things, and to excel at them, but I want my child to experience the other things in life that are important too. Regimented, highly scheduled learning, that does not allow for any flexibility, does not accomplish that.

        Please question authority, as we are, when authority does not provide adequate reasons for their actions.

        Thank you.

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