Other Voices · But before I get into that, I should link to some of the remarkably intense and wide-ranging reactions to Ms Chua; I liked the pieces from Christine Lu, Betty Ming Liu, and the MetaFilter community.
We can draw a couple of conclusions right away: First, Ms Chua is serious and this isn’t, as some speculated, a work of satire. However, the piece may be to some extent troll-flavored linkbait for her upcoming book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.
Our Exposure · My son, now eleven, attends Dr. Annie B. Jamieson school in Vancouver because of its Mandarin Bilingual Program; he’s in his third year there and is picking up Chinese at a remarkable rate.
It turns out that because of the school’s location, its student body is 80% “Chinese”, as in there are some speakers of a Chinese language at home. Also, it has a superb strings program; we have to badger my son to practice but he’s developing a pretty good tone on his violin. Also, it deals out homework in volumes that Lauren and I think is excessive for eleven-year-olds; he’s sometimes hard at it right through till bedtime.
Also, it’s a terrific school, with cheery students, no observable bullying, and meticulous organization. Taking him out has never crossed his mind or ours.
He did OK in Grade four, got himself into serious work-habits trouble in Grade Five, and with the help of a virtuoso teacher (thanks Ms Tan!) is into mostly-A’s territory Grade Six, and proud to be there. He also plays organized soccer and baseball, is a Nintendo virtuoso, and generally enjoys life.
He tells stories of other kids who have tutors in every evening; the tone is reminiscent of On being “Too Asian?”, an instance of the plentiful discourse that followed on a popular Canadian magazine’s recent Too Asian?
What I Think · Reading this piece shook me and made me wonder, because either Ms Chua is bringing her kids up wrong, or we are. Here are I some things I believe:
The word “Chinese” doesn’t mean anything. Are we talking about an electrician in Shenzen, a grandmother in Taipei, or a first-generation immigrant mall worker near my son’s school? Or maybe our neighbors, nth-generation Canadians who have Asian genes and a Chinese surname but are right in the middle of the cultural mainstream.
In Vancouver, and increasingly up and down the West Coast, these days the color of a person’s face and the shape of their eyes tells you exactly nothing about what kind of a person they’re likely to be, nor about their socioeconomic status or career choice.
I think I’m living in the future.
Lots of “Chinese” mothers, just like other mothers, are overstressed with demanding jobs and child-care and elder-care and are happy to collapse with their kids in front of the TV when the assigned homework is done.
What’s the business with piano and violin? My boy is doing the latter because that’s what’s on offer at school, but I’d be happy if he took up electric guitar or sax or percussion or whatever when he gets a chance to choose.
There are lots of “Chinese” kids in my son’s class who get B’s or worse.
Like many, I’m troubled by the “Everyone must have prizes” and “All that matters is how hard you tried” narratives on offer to children. Among other things it’s stupid, because the kids blow that stuff off anyhow; they know perfectly well who won or lost the soccer game or got an A vs a D, and they care.
What do you want for your kid, anyhow? I’d be happy if he was mostly happy, and ecstatic if he managed to leave the world a slightly better place than he found it.
The article’s assertion that you have to be good at something to enjoy it is pure bullshit. My talents at African drumming, stir-frying, soccer-playing, and sex are all perfectly ordinary but I wouldn’t want to give any of them up.
I don’t observe that the populations of senior management or famous scientists or leading-edge computer programmers or successful politicians or rock stars are being dominated by people who are results of “Chinese Mother” parenting practices. On the other hand, they do seem to be loading up the top ranks of violinists and pianists.
If you define success as “good grades” that means you’re buying into your local education district’s notion of how success should be defined and measured. Sometimes I disagree.
I think we’re bringing our kids up OK.