Remember the prim maiden school teachers who sternly reprimanded you if you made a grammatical error?

Did it ruin your life?

Probably not, but Christina Hoff Sommers reports that school children today are not subjected to such inhuman brutality. They don’t even get papers returned with ugly red marks: 

“Purple is replacing red as the color of choice for teachers. Why, you may ask? It seems that educators worry that emphatic red corrections on a homework assignment or test can be stressful, demeaning — even ’frightening’ for a young person. The principal of Thaddeus Stevens Elementary in Pittsburgh advises teachers to use only ’pleasant-feeling tones.’…

“A calmer, gentler grading color? Are schoolchildren really so upset by corrections in primary red? Why have teachers become so careful?

“It seems that many adults today regard the children in their care as fragile hothouse flowers who require protection from even the remote possibility of frustration, disappointment or failure. The new solicitude goes far beyond blacklisting red pens. Many schools now discourage or prohibit competitive games such as tag or dodge ball. The rationale: too many hurt feelings. In May 2002, for example, the principal of Franklin Elementary School in Santa Monica, Calif., sent a newsletter to parents informing them that children could no longer play tag during the lunch recess. As she explained,

In this game, there is a ‘victim’ or ‘It,’ which creates a self-esteem issue.’”

The schools aren’t the only place kids are overly protected. The Girl Scouts used to try to foster self-reliance. Today the goal is instilling self-esteem:

“The Girl Scouts of America recently launched a major campaign ’to address the problem of low self-esteem among 8- to 14-year-old girls.’ (Never mind that there is no good evidence these girls suffer a self-esteem deficit.) With the help of a $2.65 million grant from Unilever (a major corporation that owns products such as Lipton and Slim Fast), its new program, ’Uniquely ME!,’ asks girls to contemplate their own ’amazing’ specialness. Girls are invited to make collages celebrating themselves. They can play a getting-to-know-me game called a ’Me-O-Meter.’”

But Hoff Sommers (or any sane person, for that matter) suggests that such coddling may be bad for children:

“Children who are protected from frank criticism written in ‘harsh’ colors are gravely shortchanged. In the global economy that awaits them, young Americans will be competing with other young people from all parts of the world whose teachers do not hesitate to use red pens. What is driving the new solicitude?

“Too many educators, parents and camp counselors today are obsessed with boosting the self-esteem of the children in their care. These adults not only refrain from criticizing their young charges when they perform badly, they also take pains to praise them even when they’ve done nothing to deserve it.”