kitchen table math, the sequel: Chinese moms, part 4

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chinese moms, part 4

C. and I saw this a while back & he's been quoting it to me ever since.

I'm printing out a copy of the Chinese mom story for him to read now ---


Catherine Johnson said...

C. is guffawing just about as hard as Ed guffawed the other morning over the breakfast table.

Catherine Johnson said...

Now he's telling me all the other really hard parents.

"Jamaican parents are really bad," he says.

Catherine Johnson said...

Bad meaning strict.

Catherine Johnson said...

C., age 16, just came in from outside, said, "God, I'd hate to be a Chinese kid," then picked up the article and started reading again.

Catherine Johnson said...

He's been reading sections out loud.

SteveH said...

I burst out laughing on this one.

Read also Lang Lang's Journey of a Thousand Miles for another parent/son/number 1 struggle.

Catherine Johnson said...

Me, too -- didn't see it coming!

I'll go look at the book - thanks!

PhysicistDave said...

Jeff Yang has a book review and interview with Chua published yesterday on the SF Chronicle website:

Yang confirms what a lot of us have suspected: the WSJ article was taken out of context, and Chua has a tendency to exaggerate more than a bit. E.g.,

>"I was very surprised," she [Amy Chua] says. "The Journal basically strung together the most controversial sections of the book. And I had no idea they'd put that kind of a title on it. But the worst thing was, they didn't even hint that the book is about a journey, and that the person at beginning of the book is different from the person at the end -- that I get my comeuppance and retreat from this very strict Chinese parenting model."
>While the Journal article was unquestionably good for sales and awareness of the book, which has already hit #7 on Amazon and is only headed upward, it has been painful for Chua. "I've gotten scary messages. Death threats. All from people who haven't yet read the book," she says. "And while it's ultimately my responsibility -- my strict Chinese mom told me 'never blame other people for your problems!' -- the one-sided nature of the excerpt has really led to some major misconceptions about what the book says, and about what I really believe."
>"I don't think people pick up on this enough, but I'm an unreliable narrator!" she laughs. "My daughters kept telling me, 'You're exaggerating this, Mom. People are going to think you're so harsh!' But the truth is, even though I was maniacal about music, I did actually let my kids go on playdates. And I say in the book that 'I don't care if my kids hate me,' but if you read on you'll realize, that's not how I actually feel. Who wants their kids to hate them? I'm very close to my daughters, and I wouldn't trade that for the world."
"I'm not going to retract my statements about Chinese parenting. But I'd also note that I'm aware now of the limitations of that model -- that it doesn't incorporate enough choice, that it doesn't account for kids' individual personalities. And yet, I would never go all the way to the Western ideal of unlimited choice. Give 10-year-olds total freedom, and they'll be playing computer games eight hours a day. I now believe there's a hybrid way of parenting that combines the two paradigms, but it took me making a lot of mistakes along the way to get there."

Yang also sums up the positive side of Chua’s approach:
>What values? Basically, the same ones that glimmer between the provocative lines of Chua's article: The desire for excellence. The need for delayed gratification. The direct connection between hard work and positive results.
>Good old-fashioned Asian values. And American ones, too.

And, of course, that is the core point: once upon a time, Americans truly valued learning (think of Lincoln studying Euclid while riding circuit), truly for its own sake, not simply to get into the best college or to win some competition or award. That is what is being too often overlooked in this debate: the valuing of true education has been so lost in America that even a hyper over-emphasis on "achievement" (i.e., proving your "achievement" in a public way) such as Chua indulged herself in can look good by comparison with the current American norm.


P.S. Catherine, you were ahead of the curve on this topic: this story is going viral across the Web!