Have we weakened the psyches of children that much?
I went through the old 11-plus exam system in Britain. You had a single take of a single test in 5th grade, which determined which school in the school district you were permitted to attend from 6th grade onwards.
At ages 15 and 16, we took O-levels, national exams in several subjects, which determined whether you might get a chance to go to college, and even whether you could continue for the last two years of high school.
At age 18, we took a handful of A-levels, in the general area which we wanted to continue to study. The grades on these tests determined whether you were going to University, and where (it was a little more complicated in that you chose a handful of places to go and the highest-ranked school on your list for which you qualified was the one that you went to).
At University, we took a battery of 3-hour tests at the end of the first year, which determined whether we were allowed to stay. Similar batteries in years 2 and 3 determined what level of degree (if any) we received.
I recall students being a little nervous on each of these tests, including me. I do not recall any of them needing counseling. Cheaters were expelled, if they were caught.
Perhaps the major difference was that we all accepted failure as a possibility that wouldn't destroy us. No one insisted that 'every student can perform at the highest level', as I heard a recent advertisement for teachers say.
By Timothy Shane Norfolk - now retired after a lifetime of university mathematics teaching and research. You can find out more about Dr. Norfolk and his work by visiting his site.