Paul Karrer teaches fifth grade in a low-income community in California.

He writes:

Frank Bruni’s New York Times piece “Are Kids Too Coddled?” basically states tougher education standards like the Common Core may require a tough love that some parents and educators don’t like. So some parents are opting their kids out of testing.

Mr. Bruni is a journalist not an educator and it shows. He’s done a very harmful fluff piece on parents who “coddle” their young kids. He misses the many valid points that testing is a total waste unless it is diagnostic for kids. It should not be used for teacher evaluations. It is a destructive input into our educational system because it is subtractive to the content of what we teach. High stakes testing only causes test preparation. Plus, it sucks money out of the classroom.

Mr. Bruni is most fortunate that his life experience is around the sheltered, pampered, and the entitled. But even so, the conclusions he draws are incorrect. Even the entitled know testing is basely wrong, but testing and more testing for those who reside in the clutches of poverty is criminal.

Putting aside my first impulse to deeply insert some number two pencils (erasers first will be my humane gesture) in Mr. Bruni’s ears, I’d like to comment on coddling and reality for the vast majority of us in schools with children swaddled in the luxurious lap of desperate poverty.

Two weeks ago we had parent conferences – my cherubs are ten or eleven years old. A nice age. One parent confided that her child wore a diaper. (I hadn’t noticed – AH HA… THAT’S WHY THE CHILD WEARS BAGGY PANTS ALL THE TIME. )

Later, another parent had her kids spinning around me during our conference. One is on meds (not something I like or recommend) turns out the parent is a recovering meth addict, only the recovering part is in much doubt.

At last year’s conference an Anglo mom brought in her three children. All incredibly low performers, with low attendance rates, and low ability. In the middle of the conference her cell phone rang. For a milli-second this annoyed me. The youngest of the girls beamed at me, “Dad’s ready to cross.”

“Cross?” I asked.

“Yup, he’s at the frontier.”


The mom interrupted her daughter, “We are at the girls’ teacher conference. Her teacher is here.” The mom addressed me, “Their dad says hello.”

The mom refocused on the call, “When you going? Ok..we love you and will pray for you.”

She turned her phone off and couldn’t eyeball me. “Their dad was deported. He’s in the Mexican desert ready to make an illegal crossing on the frontier…the border.”

The girls are all 100% US citizens as is the mom. They linked up with their dad days later, but live on luck’s flip and poverty’s edge. They also moved….again.

Coddle….no, Mr. Bruni we don’t coddle our kids very much. I wish we could. But I hug them a lot…it keeps me from crying.