The Incredibles- New York Times article

Feeling inferior the handicapper general weighs him

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feeling inferior, the Handicapper General weighs him down with 300-pound weights and makes him wear earphones that blast noise, so he cannot take "unfair advantage" of his brain. That's hardly the America of 2004, but today's children do grow up with soccer leagues and spelling bees where everyone gets a prize. On some playgrounds dodge ball is deemed too traumatic to the dodging- impaired. Some parents consider musical chairs dangerously exclusionary. Children are constantly feted for accomplishments that used to be routine. They may not all be honored at a fourth-grade graduation ceremony - the event in the movie that inspires Mr. Incredible's complaint about mediocrity - but they all hear the mantra recited by Dash's sister in response to his ambitions. "Everyone's special, Dash," she says. "Which is another way of saying no one is," he replies. The villain, Syndrome, makes the same point when he envisions empowering the masses with his inventions. "Everybody will be super, which means no one will be," he says, gleeful that he will finally have revenge on Mr. Incredible for snubbing him during his childhood. He may be the villain, but you could also see his psychopathology as evidence of the bad effects of status- seeking among children. Even the winners can be victims of competition, said Denise Clark Pope, the author of "Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed Out, Materialistic and Miseducated Students." "When learning becomes about competing with your peers to get ahead, what gets learned is how to compete and not how to learn," said Dr. Pope, a lecturer at Stanford University's school of education. "Kids learn to cheat, to raise their hands even when they don't know the answers, to form alliances instead of learning the material we want them to understand."
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Her attitude is shared by some parents, especially ones whose children are frantically competing at exclusive private and surburban schools. But fans of competition complain that it's been de-emphasized
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