I am reading "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," the book excerpted in the WSJ article for which Mr. Coyle kindly posted a link. Aubrey is taking Mandarin from a disciplinarian Chinese native, and I said I'd be interested in her opinion. Her reaction to the article: She was furious. She had grown up under just such a mother, and it wasn't a happy memory. Her mother would say, "I would rather have given birth to a piece of roast pork than you" to shame her, and the recollection still stung, years later. We may admire the Chinese kids for their "A" report cards, but they in turn envy the American ability to think "out of the box," innovate and found big enterprises.

I like Ms. Chua's style, and the book certainly is thought-provoking. I agree that the best way to self-esteem is to master a skill. However, the short biography she provides in the book provides an unwitting clue as to the drawbacks of the Chinese approach. At Harvard, she was unable to ask questions in class, as her instinct was to simply take notes on everything the professor said. When it came time for a job interview for a Yale professorship, she found herself tongue-tied and wasn't hired. (She did get the job seven years later, after writing a cutting-edge book on how ethnic conflicts doom democratic majority rule in the Third World.)

Dylan Distasio comments:

David Brooks responds to Amy Chua with piece titled "Amy Chua is a wimp ".

I have the opposite problem with Chua. I believe she’s coddling her children. She’s protecting them from the most intellectually demanding activities because she doesn’t understand what’s cognitively difficult and what isn’t.

Practicing a piece of music for four hours requires focused attention, but it is nowhere near as cognitively demanding as a sleepover with 14-year-old girls. Managing status rivalries, negotiating group dynamics, understanding social norms, navigating the distinction between self and group — these and other social tests impose cognitive demands that blow away any intense tutoring session or a class at Yale.





Speak your mind

3 Comments so far

  1. marion d.s. dreyfus on January 18, 2011 11:59 pm

    I saw thousands of young adults (18-22) while in China. Some were lazy, and some were from rich families, but the majority saw how much sacrifice and hardship their parents had to go through to put them through school, and they worked very hard to compensate their sacrificing parents. Some had allowances that meant their parents did without food or entertainment beyond the barest minimum. Many parents worked in different cities to be able to afford school for their single precious child. Many scrimped and saved to ensure a better school. I saw how many of my students had chapped hands in the bitter winters–I bought dozens of pairs of gloves for them, since they could be shivering in class, as the temperatures were not much higher than the ambient outside temperatures, inside. (The structures of schools were not conservative of heat, since they focused on the unbearably hot summers, where heat dispersal was the goal.)

    I worked my students harder than any other Western teachers, I was told, and at first they rebelled and some were snidely rude and refused to do the work required. But in the end, many came over to me and thanked me for forcing work and knowledge on them, forcing them to write, forcing them to think, learn poetry, read and write alien materials, forcing them to analyze scripts and whatnot. They eagerly came to afterschool programs I taught or hosted. I had hundreds of non-registered students from other colleges come to my weekend film fests, where I taught additional essays and enhanced vocabulary, providing extra practice for the interested and motivated.

    And most telling, people came begging to add them to my classes, because they were convinced they could get ahead faster with my brand of discipline, insistence on learning, and comprehensive recognition of many things important to learning.
    They could not get enough of listening and practical give-and-take, and many asked me to social events nightly so they could get precious extra hours with someone from whom they could learn.

    I was told afterwards that many more of my students won grad school entry and plaudits, and more of my students won school-wide awards. Did this indicate they had Chinese mothers? Sure.

    (I also won three Best Foreign Teacher awards –and lost a fourth because the judges were…frankly bribed with delicacies.)

    marion ds dreyfus

  2. Ed on January 19, 2011 10:23 am

    “…after writing a cutting-edge book on how ethnic conflicts doom democratic majority rule in the Third World.”

    Just wait! Such conflicts have exploded in Europe and will explode here. Ethnic conflict is the future of our “multicultural” society.

    Those who believe the demographic shifts are benign typically live in wealth bubbles and are blind to the rising problems.

  3. marion d s dreyfus on January 20, 2011 2:54 pm

    Ed is correct in his remarks about multiculturalism, which will spell the end of democracy as we know it. especially is this so when avatars of the melting pot, so-called, fail to note that in every case, the host democracy loses to the invading nativists who supplant and upend the host country’s democratic principles and values in all but a very few cases.


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