January 13, 2011

Are Chinese Mothers Superior To American Mothers?

chines mothers.jpg
oops... a simple oversight, I'm sure


"A lot of people," writes Professor Amy Chua of Yale, in the Wall Street Journal,


wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids.  Well, I can tell them, because I've done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• attend a sleepover

• have a playdate

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

• watch TV or play computer games

• choose their own extracurricular activities

• get any grade less than an A

• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

• play any instrument other than the piano or violin

• not play the piano or violin.



It's hard to argue with success-- one of her daughters is pictured playing piano at Carnegie Hall-- and the kids seem at least ISO 400 happy.  So is making them practice 3 hours a day, etc, so terrible?

If you're trying to figure out if her method works or if it is harmful some other way, you're missing the real disease in her thinking.  She's not unique. the disease is powerful and prevalent, it is American, but a disease nonetheless.  (No, this time it's not narcissism.)

I'll explain what's wrong with her thinking by asking you one simple question, and when I ask it you will know the answer immediately.  Then, if you are a parent, in the very next instant  your mind will rebel against this answer, it will defend itself against it-- "well, no, it's not so simple--" but I want to you to ignore this counterattack and focus on how readily, reflexively, instinctively you knew the answer to my question.  Are you ready to test your soul?  Here's the question: what is the point of all this?  Making the kids play violin, of being an A student, all the discipline, all of this?  Why is she working her kids so hard?  You know the answer: college.

She is raising future college students.

Oh, I know that these things will make them better people in the long run, but silently agree that her singular purpose is to get the kids into college.  Afterwards she'll want other things for them, sure, but for 18 years she has exactly one goal for them: early decision.

Before you argue the merits of that goal, let's ask ourselves why that is the pivot point in America?  I don't know any parents who are desperate to raise better parents or better spouses or even better software engineers, we don't think like that.  The few times someone  thinks out of the box-- "I want my kid to be a basketball star" "I want my kid to be a Senator" the parent is identified as an unrealistic nut.  And while a stated goal might be to raise a future doctor, in truth that's really only an abstract promise-- the 18 year goal is explicitly college.  You don't teach your 6 year old to assess acute abdominal pain, do you?  Nowhere to put that on an application.  No, you teach him piano. 

I certainly am not saying forcing them to learn piano is bad, or bad for the kid, or that despite the disease that has infected you it won't benefit the child-- I'm not saying Chua isn't right in her techniques.  I am saying that what Chua is advocating is ultimately pointless because it is for a meaningless endeavor.  The piano isn't for itself, it's for the "right" college, and for 99% of America the precise college you went to is as irrelevant as the beer you used to lose your virginity.  Was it Bud Light or Stella Artois?  Same bank account.

I feel you resisting my thesis, but no moment in time, at that moment, seems as important as getting into college, both to the parents and the kids.  No one anymore celebrates getting a job even though that really represents your future lifestyle, limitations, experiences, everything.

You want your kid to go to a good college, of course I get it.  But that monomania for college has to occur at the expense of something else.  How much better/worse off are you that you went to your college and not your friend's college? In this hypothetical you don't play football.

And is that average class at an Ivy really better than the average class at a state school?  I've taught at both: no.  NB that in my example both the state students and the Ivy students had the same teacher-- me.  I know there are differences between schools, I'm not naive, but most of those are social/political/sexual and not educational.  An Ivy is "better" because its brand is better, like a car.  No I don't mean "hey, they all get you there" I mean that the engine of a Toyota and a Lexus is the same, the difference is the leather seats.  You want to pay for brand, go ahead; but the people in the know aren't fooled by your fancy car and windshield sticker and the people who aren't in the know can only praise or envy you, but they're in no position to help you attain your goals.

Don't think I've forgotten how important college is to a high school kid.  I remember that despite terrible grades I was, inexplicably, put on the wait list to the University of Chicago.  And all I could think was, "I'm going to be Phaedrus!"  I didn't give a damn about the education, I was hoping/believing that that college was going to define me, make me into someone I was not.  I should have been drafted into an infantry battalion just for that.


II.

"Get back to the piano now," I ordered.

"You can't make me."

"Oh yes, I can."

Back at the piano, Lulu made me pay. She punched, thrashed and kicked. She grabbed the music score and tore it to shreds. I taped the score back together and encased it in a plastic shield so that it could never be destroyed again. Then I hauled Lulu's dollhouse to the car and told her I'd donate it to the Salvation Army piece by piece if she didn't have [the piece] perfect by the next day. When Lulu said, "I thought you were going to the Salvation Army, why are you still here?" I threatened her with no lunch, no dinner... no birthday parties for two, three, four years. When she still kept playing it wrong, I told her she was purposely working herself into a frenzy because she was secretly afraid she couldn't do it. I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic.


Take a step outside the article.  This is a woman explaining why Chinese mothers are superior.  The thing is, I don't know any Chinese mothers who would ever talk about their families this way, publicly,  describe their parenting, brag about it.  Never.  And then you see it:  Amy Chua isn't a Chinese mother, she's an American mother.  She had a Chinese mother, but now she's a first generation American, which means she has more in common with Natalie Portman than she does with any recent Chinese immigrant.   As an American, she was raised by the same forces: MTV, Reagan, Clinton, John Hughes movies.  She may have reacted differently to those, but they were her experiences.

And what do Americans do? They brand themselves.  I have no idea if Amy Chua cares about Viking stoves or Lexus automobiles but clearly her brand is SuperSinoMom and her bling are her kids.  When Jay-Z wants to front he makes a video, and when Amy Chua represents she writes a WSJ article.  Because that's her demo, you feel me?

Which means this self-serving piece has nothing to do with "how Chinese mothers are superior" but is really a summary of her episode of MTV Cribs.  "Welcome to my home, yo, let me show you my gold toilet.  It's for peeing and flushing the coke down when the heat comes in the back way."


III.

She meant this next passage to be self-congratulatory, let me know if she succeeded:

"You just don't believe in her [the daughter]," I accused.

"That's ridiculous," Jed said scornfully. "Of course I do."

"Sophia could play the piece when she was this age."

"But Lulu and Sophia are different people," Jed pointed out.

"Oh no, not this," I said, rolling my eyes. "Everyone is special in their special own way," I mimicked sarcastically. "Even losers are special in their own special way. Well don't worry, you don't have to lift a finger. I'm willing to put in as long as it takes, and I'm happy to be the one hated. And you can be the one they adore because you make them pancakes and take them to Yankees games."


Who talks like this?  This isn't a 3rd person account, it's her autobiography, these are her words, she chose these words, these are how she saw it all go down: "accused," "scornfully", "rolling my eyes," "sarcastically."  That's her impression of the world.  She's writing this about her husband

She can't resist getting in a few jabs at her husband.  I cringe when I hear a spouse criticising another spouse in public.  Lesson 1: you should never, ever, ever, demean your spouse in front of a commoner, and that's a much more powerful lesson to teach your kids than a decade and a half of Minuet in G.


minuet in g.png(sotto voce): my husband is a piece of crap my husband needs his face bitch slapped





And while we're on the subject of her husband, when I Google Earth this guy "Jed" what Chinese province is he going to be from?   Oh, Jed isn't Chinese, he's a Jewish American Yale law professor.  Now I can't tell if this woman is a racist or insane.  Its ommission can only be deliberate, right?   It's almost as if she is trying too hard to convince us not that she's a good mother or a successful woman but Chinese, that's the focus for her, so important is this that she needed to make it public-- which makes me want to bet ten million dollars that her children are being raised Jewish.   Is she publicly broadcasting that she's the Chinese mother stereotype to make up for the SinoSems she's created?

You/she'll say that the Chinese discipline is what makes the kids successful, but that's silly.  Given that her husband is a Jewish American equivalent to her Chinese Americanness, why isn't their daughters' successes the result of Jewish fathering?  Chua would say that she's the one who made her practice, but she's at work all day just like he is, right?  I get that she yells more, ok, mission accomplished, but as a technical matter she's not there all the time, the kids have to be self-motivated, and that self-motivation came not just from the mother, but from growing up in with those parents.  Unless she's arguing that the father is pretty much irrelevant?  Oh, that is what she's arguing.   Sigh.

What Chua believes has made her kids succeed isn't just that she makes them work hard, but that she is allowed to yell at them.

As an adult, I once did the same to Sophia, calling her garbage in English when she acted extremely disrespectfully toward me. When I mentioned that I had done this at a dinner party, I was immediately ostracized.  One guest named Marcy got so upset she broke down in tears and had to leave early. My friend Susan, the host, tried to rehabilitate me with the remaining guests.

Look, I totally get how sometimes a parent will threaten their kid with piranhas or downed electrical wires, but why on earth would you brag about it?  Seriously, think about this woman's mind.  Either she is totally oblivious to what people would find appalling, or else she actually thinks that she is going to convince an entire room of what I assume are also baby making professionals that what she is doing isn't crazy, but awesome.

IV. 

Amy Chua wants us to believe she is a "Chinese mother," and my contention is she's not. I'm not saying she's a bad mother at all, only that what she thinks is and what she actually is aren't the same.

What defines a "Chinese mother"-- and any steretoypical immigrant parent situation-- is the  sacrifice.   "We sacrifice everything to give you better opportunity!!" they shriek at dinner.    Look up at her opening list: those are the sacrifices her kids make, but what sacrifices does she make?  Again, I don't mean she's a bad mother, but where is the sacrifice of her own personal happiness, clothing, hopes and dreams?  Note carefully that she may in fact be sacrificing, but in her essay she does not describe those as important (or at all) to the success.  What's important to her is the yelling and the discipline, which she believes is a Chinese technique.

The curse of the second generation, in which they do worse then their parents, isn't about lazy kids but self-absorbed parents.   When you immigrate to America to open a dry cleaning business you don't make it your identity-- it's all for the kids (and boy of boy do the parents never let you forget it.)  Then your kids grow up to become, oh, lawyers, and that does become their identity-- so when these lawyers have kids of their own the lawyering isn't all for their kids, a lot of it is still for the lawyers.  It's not a criticism, it's a comment on the 24 hour day: two lawyer parents aren't home as much as their wife of a dry cleaner mom was, so there's less time for the kids.  There's nothing you can do about that.

Except there is, and what Amy Chua isn't telling you, the real secret of her brand of "Chinese" (read: affluent American) mothering, is that there's likely a brigade of tutors running through the house.  Now it appears on screen that Chua can be both successful and devote all this time to calling her kids fatties, but behind the scenes she has help.  Hey, God bless anyone who can get it/afford it/convince your spouse it isn't because you want college girls around, but if you want to prove that something is associated with success, you have to control for the external variables.

V.


You will observe that she is writing this nonsense not in a peer reviewed journal that could take her to task, e.g. McCall's, but in the WSJ.  Why would the WSJ want to support "the Chinese mother?"  Because if you're reading it, it's for you.
 
The WSJ doesn't care a lick about her, as evidenced by the fact that they actually published this embarrassment.  What the WSJ does care about is defining "good kids" in the same (but opposite) way The New Yorker wants to be the one to define it.  For the WSJ, good = will generate a positive ROI. 

Let's go back to her crazy list of why her parenting is better.   #9: violin or piano, no other instruments.  If Chua is so Chinese, and has full executive control over her kids, why does she-- and the real Chinese parents out there-- make their kids play violin, play Bach and not Chinese music?  They'd be happy to educate you on the beauty of Chinese music, I'm sure, but they don't make their kids learn that.  Why not?

She wants them learning this because the Western culture deems classical music as high culture, and therefore anyone who can play it is cultured.  Someone said Beethoven is great music so they learn that.  There is no sense of understanding, it is purely a technical accomplishment.  Why Beethoven and not Beethoven's contemporaries? The parents have no idea. Can her kids write new music?  Do they want to write music?  It's all mechanics.  This isn't a slander on Asian musicianship, it is an observation that the parents who push their kids into these instruments are doing it for its significance to other people (e.g. colleges) and not for itself.  Why not guitar?  Why not painting?  Because it doesn't impress admissions counselors.  What if the kid shows some interest in drama?  Well, then the kid can go live with his white friends and see how far he gets in life.

That's why it's in the WSJ.  The Journal has no place for, "How a Fender Strat Changed My Life."  It wants piano and violin, it wants Chua's college-resume worldview.  Sometimes it has no choice but to confront a Mark Zuckerberg but they quickly reframe the story into the corporate narrative.  "The Google boys were on to something, but to make it profitable they had to bring in Eric Schmidt..."  The WSJ is operating well within the establishment, right wing, artists-are-gay and corporations-are-not context.  It wants kids who will conform, who will plug into the machine (albeit at the higher levels), it wants the kind of kids who want the approval of the kinds of people who read the WSJ.

Amy Chua thinks she wrote an essay and published it.  Wrong.  The WSJ wanted this kind of an article and they chose one from the thousands available.  They chose hers-- a woman's-- because if this same article had been written by a man it would have been immediately revealed as an angry, abusive, patriarchal example of capitalism.

Which is where this comes full circle.  Amy Chua thinks she's raising her kids the Chinese way, but she is really raising them to be what the WSJ considers China to be: a pool of highly skilled labor that someone else will profit from. On second thought, that is the Chinese way.



----


You might also like:

This Is Why The American Dream Is Out Of Reach

The Dumbest Economic Collapse In History

The Dumbest Generation Is Only The Second Dumbest


----

http://twitter.com/thelastpsych







Comments

Bravo! Once again you find ... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 2:49 AM | Posted by KG: | Reply

Bravo! Once again you find the critical issues behind these types articles in NYT/WSJ and NY Mag. They try to make the determinations and let you argue over the conclusion. Is she a monster or just driven? Wrong question.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 19 (31 votes cast)
Is it just me or is this Ne... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 2:54 AM | Posted by KG: | Reply

Is it just me or is this New York Times article(currently most emailed) on Law school being a bad bargain,not about law school at all?

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/business/09law.html?src=me&ref=homepage

Trend of a generational plunge of new narcissists in to prestige careers at hand?
Listen to Michael Wallerstein:
MR. WALLERSTEIN, for his part, is not complaining. Once you throw in the intangibles of having a J.D., he says, he is one of law schools’ satisfied customers.
“It’s a prestige thing,” he says. “I’m an attorney. All of my friends see me as a person they look up to. They understand I’m in a lot of debt, but I’ve done something they feel they could never do and the respect and admiration is important.”

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 10 (14 votes cast)
"Im going to be Phaedrus!" ... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 2:55 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

"Im going to be Phaedrus!" hehe, don't we all :)

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 7 (9 votes cast)
I read you, so I don't have... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 2:56 AM | Posted by Lexi: | Reply

I read you, so I don't have to read these other things.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 10 (24 votes cast)
(No, this time it'... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 3:05 AM | Posted by Minder: | Reply

(No, this time it's not narcissism.)

Who are you and what have you done with Alone?!?

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 38 (38 votes cast)
I read you, s... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 3:43 AM | Posted by cat: | Reply

I read you, so I don't have to read these other things.

If you're reading it, it's for you.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -1 (15 votes cast)
um, duh?... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 3:55 AM | Posted, in reply to cat's comment, by Lexi: | Reply

um, duh?

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 1 (15 votes cast)
Amazing, spot-on analysis.<... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 5:04 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Amazing, spot-on analysis.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 1 (13 votes cast)
Listening to her on the rad... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 5:58 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Listening to her on the radio this morning was painful. Luckily, this piece offered comfort to the visceral distaste I had for her beliefs in an incredibly methodical way :-)

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 12 (20 votes cast)
All the virtiol that has be... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 6:31 AM | Posted by possum: | Reply

All the virtiol that has been directed at this woman comes from affluent parents who are making a large stick for their own backs. While I think her methods are different rather than superior, how else are children to learn a musical instrument except through practice, practice, practice. When you are left with children who can't concentrate for more than 10 minutes at a time, that will be the end of music, literature and art. Doing something well takes effort and practice and long hours of boredom. She's right, it only becomes fun when you master it. Since modern children are not allowed boredom of any sort, they will reciprocate by producing nothing but the most boring "garbage". But don't believe me, look around you.

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A delight. Thank you for he... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 7:58 AM | Posted by Andy Werner: | Reply

A delight. Thank you for helping us understand and interpret in a critical light - we too often take things at face value, particularly from a *respectable* publication. Bravo!

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"Making the kids play violi... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 8:23 AM | Posted by Clay Boggess: | Reply

"Making the kids play violin, of being an A student, all the discipline, all of this? Why is she working her kids so hard? You know the answer: college." It's not just about college it's about instilling the mind-set of complete focus and discipline at whatever you do so that you can be #1 at whatever it is that you attempt. Otherwise you feel inadequate and insecure because this becomes your identity. It's either black or it's white. There is no gray.

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I kept thinking this must b... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 9:14 AM | Posted by Matthew Walker: | Reply

I kept thinking this must be a NYT lifestyle-trend article, the kind where the Representative Americans are all the kind of affluent, attractive New Yorkers whose friends write for the NYT, and are short of material this week. But it's actually in the WSJ instead! Wow!

The real story here isn't that some Chinese-American narcissist lawyer is playing Battle of the Model Minorities with her Jewish husband. The real story is that somebody's horning in on the NYT's last remaining redoubt of brand identity.

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When it comes to the husban... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 9:21 AM | Posted by Liz: | Reply

When it comes to the husband, the longer version in the Sunday Times said that they arranged that the kids would speak Mandarin and be raised in the Jewish religion.

What struck me about that was that she freely admitted that her husband and in laws were in no way religious, and that she and her family never spoke Mandarin growing up - I don't remember the exact dialect. Surely that's significant?

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funny, in a rollicking way!... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 9:21 AM | Posted by medsvstherapy: | Reply

funny, in a rollicking way!
what can i say?
maybe this: the kids aren't being groomed for college, but for grad school!

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 5 (9 votes cast)
I can absolutely confirm th... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 9:35 AM | Posted by Ben: | Reply

I can absolutely confirm that a "real" chinese would never ever talk about family business to outsiders.

Also, how long do you think till one of your colleagues sees her daughters? (isn't that the American thing?)

Greetings from Germany (where you need far less effort & money to go to the top schools)

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Bravo. Thank you for writi... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 10:06 AM | Posted by Bryan: | Reply

Bravo. Thank you for writing these.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 0 (4 votes cast)
Chua doesn't consider that ... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 10:27 AM | Posted by Alex J.: | Reply

Chua doesn't consider that her behavior and her daughters success come from the same source, innate conscientiousness, which is partly heritable, along with IQ.

1) Chinese genes. (Spatial)
2) Jewish genes. (Verbal - Yale law, fer chrissakes)
3) Hybrid vigor.
4) Profit!!!

I mean it's not as if Jews don't have a reputation for success at the expense of happiness either.

But seriously, "What's the point of it all?" Showing up the other parents.

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I shudder to think what she... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 10:49 AM | Posted by Carol: | Reply

I shudder to think what she would do with a child that had learning disabilities. Let me tell you, no amount of screaming at me helped me memorize anything. (dyscalculia). If anything it hindered my ability to work around my disability.

FWIW, my sons don't get less then As, because I know they are capable of it, but I also expect compassion and learning to work out disagreements, which can only happen with peers. (sorry, I'm the mom, I get 125 votes to their one vote.)

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Found one of the daughter's... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 10:49 AM | Posted by Jen: | Reply

Found one of the daughter's google profiles

http://www.google.com/profiles/SemperPhee

Says "I often bore myself."

Poor kid.

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Chua says in this article t... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 10:59 AM | Posted by daiyami: | Reply

Chua says in this article that the WSJ excerpts from a larger book don't show the journey she made, and are misleading.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2011/01/13/apop011311.DTL&type=printable

Although I think your really interesting analysis still holds, neat discussion.

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These are variations on a t... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 11:23 AM | Posted by nohope: | Reply

These are variations on a theme. The highpowered/WSJ/capitalist version of "getting your kids into college" is structured around practical (and high-paying) career paths: engineer; doctor; computer scientist; research scientist.

The left/NYT/touchy-feely version of "getting your kids into college" is about emotional fulfillment and more "lifestylish" aspirations: director of a nonprofit organization; writer/novelist; professor at a liberal arts college.

That's why the WSJ group forces their kids into achievement-based resume-padding activities like classical music, which show the kind of analytical mind and skill for memorization that makes a good doctor or scientist.

The NYT group forces their kids into "emotional" resume-padding activities like volunteering in a humanitarian setting for the less fortunate, to show how compassionate, enlightened and worldly they are.

Both these groups are based on what the job market will bear at the end of the line. These parents will push the kids in the direction most likely to earn them future prestige and status. In America, that is achieved with certain types of jobs. None of it has anything to do with genuine intellectual curiosity, only with that level of intellectualism that is necessary to impress the right people. It also has nothing to do with being a good person or having good family relationships. It is ALL ABOUT STATUS.

What they want their kid to grow up to be:
- doctor (rich)
- engineer (not quite as rich as a doctor, but pretty rich)
- doctor working in a third world country (not rich, but conspicuously altruistic and therefore high-status)
- writer for the New Yorker (who will potentially write a pop-science bestseller and become rich)

What they don't want their kid to grow up to be:
- housewife (even if she volunteers and has many intellectual pursuits in her spare time)
- plumber (even if he reads and understands Wittgenstein)
- nurse in a moderately affluent area hospital (even if she finds the work fulfilling)
- owner of a dry-cleaning business (even if he loves his wife and children and secures for their health, happiness, education and future)

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 56 (60 votes cast)
You are right - this style ... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 11:39 AM | Posted by A.: | Reply

You are right - this style of parenting is not particular to the
Chinese. Pretty much any parent who wants their kid to reflect well on them, especially in front of relatives, raises their kid in some small variation of this way.

The kids generally end up doing well, if they don't become junkies instead. They won't be creative monsters or anything but like you said this isn't their purpose in the first place. (I'm sure you know that neither Edison or Einstein had the "picture perfect" kind of resume those kids are having.)

And it's true - the real deal would never admit to this kind of behavior. They either love making the child's success seem effortless as this really depresses the fellow competitors...I mean parents. Sometimes they use the backhanded way of complaining about how incompetent their kid is while adding, "he only brought home a B you know.

Sadly, while they may end up getting the respected profession and the $700.000 home they also end up marrying exactly this kind of person. (Or they write stupid articles about marriage for the Atlantic magazine.)

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The stereotype of the achie... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 12:06 PM | Posted by Ethan Lewis: | Reply

The stereotype of the achievement-crazed Chinese mom exists for a reason, they do exist. But Amy Chua's version of it is about as Chinese as P.F. Chang or General Tso (The Asian Colonel Sanders). Publicizing your children's rebellious behavior? What's next, appearing on Jerry Springer? Getting your own reality show?

Yep, just like P.F. Chang. Chinese influenced, but 100% corn-fed union-built American.

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I consider her behavior ver... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 12:08 PM | Posted by k.sol: | Reply

I consider her behavior verbal abuse. Maybe her daughters do well with it, but as a child it would have destroyed me. Setting high standards, yes, I think is good. Enforcing discipline & practice, yes. Believing your kids can accomplish something, and understanding that mastery is better than puffery to build self-esteem, yes. I know a Chinese mother who bought her children additional math textbooks because she thought the ones they'd been given in school were too easy. But calling her daughter "garbage?" Lazy and pathetic? Really?

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I wouldn't let her raise my... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 1:00 PM | Posted by mama6: | Reply

I wouldn't let her raise my dog! I have a straight A student, #7 in her senior class. She's been taking college courses in high school for the last two years. These aren't things she had to do, these are things she choses to do. She's been accepted into the college of her choice, and on an academic scholarship. She's an artist, plays the flute, has sleepovers, plays video games, watches tv and gets plenty of love and attention from her parents, not pressure. This woman is a ridiculous excuse for a parent if you ask me. Those poor girls probably have ulcers from all the pressure she puts on them. Shame, shame!

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hahaha "complete focus and ... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 1:08 PM | Posted, in reply to Clay Boggess's comment, by vince: | Reply

hahaha "complete focus and discipline"? Have you been in the real world yet? The only traits you need to be "number one" (a nonexistent position) are moderate intelligence, moderate charisma, and the ability to bullshit sometimes, suck dick sometimes, and intimidate people the other 33% of the time.
Unless we're talking about truly mastering some sort of craft, in which case the number one prerequisite is love for that craft; an unteachable and un-trainable trait. Horrifying, huh?

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The WSJ published the piece... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 1:10 PM | Posted by Belinda Gomez: | Reply

The WSJ published the piece because it would generate a lot of controversy and thus, sell books. Her agent probably worked nonstop to get this excerpt into the paper--not because the book coincided with some mysterious "agenda". That's not how PR works.

The rest of your take makes a lot of sense, but, please--she's been on the Today Show--is there some agenda there, too?

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An interview-article by SFG... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 1:13 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

An interview-article by SFGate's Jeff Yang suggest that Amy Chua and her book may have been misrepresented...

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She can't resist getting... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 1:32 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

She can't resist getting in a few jabs at her husband. I cringe when I hear a spouse criticising another spouse in public. Lesson 1: you should never, ever, ever, demean your spouse in front of a commoner, and that's a much more powerful lesson to teach your kids than a decade and a half of Minuet in G.
If YLS gossip is any guide, this rates no higher than maybe the 10th worst thing Amy and Jed have done to each other. My impression had been that they're divorced, but if they are actually still married (does the piece say one way or another?) that's even more horrifying.

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Thanks for the link to the ... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 2:05 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Thanks for the link to the SF Gate piece. Apparently the
WSJ article is very much a construction of the WSJ that is intended to serve the WSJ's purpose rather than actually the author's original purpose and intent in the book.

A quote from the author about the article...

"I was very surprised," she 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."

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2011/01/13/apop011311.DTL&ao=all#ixzz1AwZDfRwc

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I went to a party at Chua's... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 2:08 PM | Posted by JP: | Reply

I went to a party at Chua's house once when I was in law school. She's actually a pleasant person.

And yes, the point of all of those activities is College. With respect to College, I can say that she's wrong about drama. Being in school plays certainly didn't cause me to no get into Dartmouth (I used the drama/band/debate/Valedictorian combination, myself). Although I share Alone's pain with respect to being waitlisted. Happened to me with Princeton. Mostly because of the interview. The Dartmouth interviewer and I clicked, whereas the Princeton interviewer and I didn't. In the end, it didn't matter, because I went to a state school for free. In engineering.

And law school itself is a profound money sink these days. At some point, the financial system is going to break. Students will eventually come out with $300,000 in (non-dischargable) debt and be unable to get even a $50,000 per year job. Think about that one.

Oh, and just so all the commenters here can be amused, I spend my professional days representing Social Security disability claimants (and SSI claimant). That's right, I'm one of those attorneys. It's not a bad job compared to corporate law.

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How do you encourage your c... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 2:19 PM | Posted by countingtoten: | Reply

How do you encourage your children to want to read on their own or other activities that will teach them and help them get into college?

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countingtoten: <a href="htt... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 2:24 PM | Posted by A.: | Reply

countingtoten: this is how it's done.

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The one sitting at the pian... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 2:30 PM | Posted by Humbert: | Reply

The one sitting at the piano, Sophia, is hot. I'd go to prison for that.

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Wow, amazing post...definit... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 2:42 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Wow, amazing post...definitely going to chew on this for awhile.

"Facebook? You face book and study!" - Disapproving Asian Father

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Oh, and by the way, her par... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 3:00 PM | Posted by Zero: | Reply

Oh, and by the way, her parents are (ethnic Chinese) immigrants from the Philippines, not China.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amy-Chua/109954445697800

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"What defines a "Chinese mo... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 3:28 PM | Posted by Phil: | Reply

"What defines a "Chinese mother"-- and any steretoypical immigrant parent situation-- is the sacrifice. "We sacrifice everything to give you better opportunity!!" they shriek at dinner. Look up at her opening list: those are the sacrifices her kids make, but what sacrifices does she make?"
This was alluded to in the quote about her husband, but I think she'd say that her sacrifice is that her kids think she's the bad guy.

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I really wish there was a g... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 5:32 PM | Posted, in reply to A.'s comment, by Medusa: | Reply

I really wish there was a global internet-wide Search & Replace tool to replace all instances of Edison with Tesla. I really do.

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This made me think of my fa... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 7:04 PM | Posted, in reply to nohope's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

This made me think of my father...I chose to work in the entertainment business, and he said to my mother "what a waste".

I found success (money) and he said, "I pegged you all wrong".

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Great analysis. Another re... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 8:17 PM | Posted by asm231: | Reply

Great analysis. Another reality of this approach is that elite schools are coming to think of straight-A violin masters as a yawn. It's just not an interesting life story anymore. A professor of mine, who is on an admissions committee at a very competitive university, says he thinks of these students as having already peaked. He said that he is much more inclined to look at applicants who started out patchy but improved over time, or students who overcame major life obstacles (read: not an overbearing yale law mother) to become successful.

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There's no question, though... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 8:24 PM | Posted by Medusa: | Reply

There's no question, though, that classical study of music does huge amounts in terms of a person's memory, mathematical skills, spatial reasoning, and perhaps even IQ. Reading notation is an integral part of this.

Even if it's not for the 'art' or 'prestige' of it, even if you think classical music is 'passe', at the very least the science of it is invaluable, and can be easily seen as a plus for anyone wishing to study engineering, programming, mathematics and stuff like that.

Another reason why American education, literacy and competence is on the wane with regards to the global economy and innovation: drastic cutbacks in music education over the past couple of decades. By people who think it's irrelevant.

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countingtoten - Read yourse... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 8:26 PM | Posted by Carol the Long winded: | Reply

countingtoten - Read yourself for pleasure. Find out what they like to read. Turn the tv off. Have lots of books available. Go to the library.
And just reading won't get them into college.

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Having lived in various par... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 8:59 PM | Posted by Balsamred: | Reply

Having lived in various parts of Asia, including China, for the last two decades, I think there's very little that's Chinese in what she's describing. Chinese parents expect and encourage their children to be successful in school, like parents around the world do, but this kind of micromanagement of childrens' lives is very American. Chinese parents in China don't force their children to play either the violin or piano--many can't afford either. Chinese parents are not likely to restrict their children from TV, computer, or friends.

In China, as in many Asian countries, grandparents are often as much a part of children's lives as parents, something that very few American kids can claim. Several generations of Chinese families have been restricted to having only one child, meaning that in many families the focus of 2 parents and 4 grandparents is devoted to 1 child, which is probably quite different from the attention and focus these kids of two busy lawyer parents receive.

I mean I understand why the kids of immigrants want to hang on to their culture and pass it on to the next generation. I just think they should have a better understanding of what that culture is, and why it should be passed on, before they try to do so. Making her kids learn Manadarin instead of her native dialect is pretty telling--the goal is not preserving cultural heritage or making it easier for kids to communicate with extended family or even just being able to talk to Mom in her native tongue--the goal is something that will look good on a resume or college application.

Or to go in another direction, the goal of raising kids speaking Mandarin and being religiously Jewish by two parents who weren't raised as either of these things is an attempt to claim an identity for their children that they don't feel they can claim for themselves. I've been an expat for many years and I know that identity issues of biracial or bicultural kids can be tricky, but I've also seen that it can be very damaging to raise a child to think of himself as "Chinese," when to Chinese people in China he is "American," or at best "Chinese-American," but with an emphasis on the American part. In China, and also in Korea and Japan, I've seen 3rd and 4th generation Americans raised to think they were part of a culture that they did not understand at all, and then when they were naturally drawn to experience the culture for themselves, they were shocked to find that not only was the culture almost completely alien to them, but that the natives of that culture considered them to be alien as well. It can be really damaging to find out that the identity one claims for oneself is mistaken or untrue. I have seen one case like this that ended in suicide, and another that ended in jail. I try to be really careful with my own biracial, bilingual, dual-citizenship kid because although I want her to be fully a part of both sides of her family and thus both cultures of her parents, I don't want her to have to go through that shock of finding out that she's not who she thinks she is at some point in the future.

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I read the Chua article and... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 9:37 PM | Posted by GilbertOSullivan: | Reply

I read the Chua article and found it disturbing. I knew it would be good fodder for one of your posts and you nailed it. Thanks for expressing what we all wished we'd thought of first.

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<a href="http://wondermark.... (Below threshold) Close but there is an eleme... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 11:19 PM | Posted by Tim: | Reply

Close but there is an element of narcissism here.

Sociology 101, professor asks at the beginning of the first day of class, how many of you are in college because you want to be here? The entire class raises their hands. By the end of the class he asks again, having made similar points you've made, few of us had our hands up.

But that isn't what makes Amy Chua so much an American. Chinese too can be obsessed with getting into college. In Hong Kong tutors gain reputations, and the cash to boot, similar to that of canto-pop stars. On the Mainland, Chinese students endure years of long hours in class as well as out of class study to prep themselves for the world-changing 'Gaokao' -Chinese college entrance exams. Learning to play the violin or the piano is not just limited to immigrants and their children as Western classical music is also greatly admired on the Mainland as well as in the Chinese diaspora in Asia.

Amy Chua is trying to keep up with not just the Jones' but more importantly the Zhou's.

But she can't.

She sacrifices both her kids and husband in this article to prove just how much a 'Chinese' parent she really is. Chua emasculates her husband by branding him nothing more than a pancake dispenser and her kids could be anyone as long as they can be whipped into automatons fashioned after their mother. You think they share the same wardrobe? cause they sure do share their mother's hairstylist.

Her kids and husband are nothing more than characters (more like obstacles) in her struggle to prove that her parenting skills are superior to others. And now that she has the proof, i.e. photos of her picture-perfect kids (notice, no picture of Dad), its time to write that book!

And that is where she fails indelibly at being a Chinese parent - she has forgotten the cardinal rule of Chinese families. You NEVER share family secrets with anyone outside family.

And its exactly what makes her American. You described it well in an earlier post: "crowdsourcing the superego." She knows there is going to be a backlash, but she does not care. Someone will agree with her.

But this isn’t about being Chinese (although my knee jerk reaction was to look at the title again to make sure I wasn’t reading “The Bell Curve”) and its not about her being American; its about being Chua.

If she gets a gig on Oprah and then Dr. Phil then my money is on Helen Keller getting a reprieve on school yard jokes.

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ICYMI Prof. Chua has a resp... (Below threshold)

January 13, 2011 11:30 PM | Posted by Andrew: | Reply

ICYMI Prof. Chua has a response article to this article in the WSJ:

The Tiger Mother Responds to Readers: http://blogs.wsj.com/ideas-market/2011/01/13/the-tiger-mother-responds-to-readers/


What a tiger mother.

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Medusa: I think I understan... (Below threshold)

January 14, 2011 1:43 AM | Posted by A. : | Reply

Medusa: I think I understand. :)

Somehow I get the feeling we'll hear more about Tigers and Pandas the next days than we really ever wanted to hear.

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This is really interesting ... (Below threshold)

January 14, 2011 2:39 AM | Posted by Chris Taus: | Reply

This is really interesting topic. Thank you for sharing this. Very informative. Great topic!

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The photo says it all. The... (Below threshold)

January 14, 2011 8:31 AM | Posted by phil g: | Reply

The photo says it all. The kids are the mom's personal status tools...poor things.

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Balsamred: can you write a ... (Below threshold)

January 14, 2011 9:31 AM | Posted by medsvstherapy: | Reply

Balsamred: can you write a book? I love the topic of parenting, both because I have been paid to do it for kids in treatment, and because I love my children, and love raising them. Your thoughts and experiences sound very cool.

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I have to wonder about Prof... (Below threshold)

January 14, 2011 12:02 PM | Posted by Seth Gordon: | Reply

I have to wonder about Prof. Chua’s “the WSJ quoted me out of context” walk-back. Was she really surprised when the parts of her book that made it into an op-ed were the most sensationalistic parts? On the one hand, if she herself is the product of a no-playdates upbringing, perhaps she didn’t pick up enough social skills to recognize that she was being played. On the other hand, I would have expected an Ivy League law professor to have more people skills than, say, an engineering professor.

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Just wondering. China must ... (Below threshold)

January 14, 2011 12:17 PM | Posted by Permafrost: | Reply

Just wondering. China must have around 300 million mothers. Is she actually saying they are ALL like this?

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Well, pretty good, but one ... (Below threshold)

January 14, 2011 12:44 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Well, pretty good, but one thing that is missing is that college is way overvalued by parents. I've been to college -- not an A student by any means, but also not a flunky. I didn't learn anything in college that I couldn't have gotten elsewhere, and most of the really valuable things I've learned have come post-college. College is like high school. For the most part, kids hang out with other kids, get in minor trouble, stay up too late, and try to squeak by with whatever grade will keep parents and scholarships on their side. And most of the classes were fairly simple -- if you read the book and do the assignments, you'll have a high C to low B.

No independant thought required. College doesn't create "leaders" or "scholars" it creates boy-men who have degrees but not much more maturity than HS could have gotten them. They really (at least per my experience) are asked to take bits of data from various sources and come up with a theory to explain the data. You never have to look at the source and decide if the author is biased or wrong and explain why. You just have to spit back what the teacher said in class.

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Holy crap.Y'know, ... (Below threshold)

January 14, 2011 2:20 PM | Posted by Mae: | Reply

Holy crap.

Y'know, I think this article should be required reading for every would-be parent.

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"I didn't give a damn about... (Below threshold)

January 14, 2011 4:17 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

"I didn't give a damn about the education, I was hoping/believing that that college was going to define me, make me into someone I was not. I should have been drafted into an infantry battalion just for that."

Combine the two and you have me. Attending military college didn't hook the fish either, no matter how convincing the lure.

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Dear "Last Psychiatrist" !<... (Below threshold)

January 14, 2011 4:42 PM | Posted by Florida resident: | Reply

Dear "Last Psychiatrist" !
Thank you for your interesting and informative post.

Charles Murray (the famous one, of "The Bell Curve" and "Real Education" fame; see also his "Income Inequality and IQ", and lots of other great books) writes about that article by Amy Chua:
http://blog.american.com/?p=24765

You, dear L.P., also wrote:
*******************
An Ivy is "better" because its brand is better, like a car. No I don't mean "hey, they all get you there" I mean that the engine of a Toyota and a Lexus is the same, the difference is the leather seats.
*********************
You are wrong. Level of students is MUCH, MUCH HIGHER in Harvard, than in a run-of-the-mill University, be it State or Private one.

Have you by any chance watched movie "The Social Network" ?
The first thing you see is that most students there (both "good" guys and "bad" ones) are with IQ probably above 140. Thast makes a difference, not IQ of Professors !!!

Respectfully yours, Florida resident.

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Ivies are becoming more of ... (Below threshold)

January 14, 2011 5:42 PM | Posted, in reply to Florida resident's comment, by ///: | Reply

Ivies are becoming more of a brand and less of a difference in education for many reasons, one of which is the sheer amount of people. There are significantly more college students than there were 30 years ago, so top students run off to other schools if they don't get their first pick. A lot of these schools offer perks, like loot, or a better location. Hence, "the new ivies," which basically means there's a lot of smart people and not enough schools for them.

But if you go to any school, there are certain demographics that will have IQ's of those people in Zuck's class; e.g., premeds at any university that can proficiently perform physical chemistry. Or anyone that can do Quantum Physics. I don't care if you go to Backwoods University in Nowhere, USA: if you can do Quantum Physics you are smarter than someone who knows how to milk the system. Getting into Harvard may mean you can critically think, or it may mean you're good at milking the system. Post-college time will tell.

This may sound counter intuitive, but I think where you went to high school matters more, because by the time you get to university your identity (or lack thereof) is already set. If you went to a prep school that churns out billionaires, mayors, congressional medal of honor recipients, nobel lauretes, and people who walked on the moon, that will hang over your head for the rest of your life, no matter where/what school you are in. More importantly, it will drive you to succeed.

But perhaps, over time, that too will just become a meaningless brand.

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I just can't believe people... (Below threshold)

January 14, 2011 6:55 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I just can't believe people would waste time analyzing this article. I had a good laugh and moved on.

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As a person of Chinese desc... (Below threshold)

January 14, 2011 7:35 PM | Posted by Melodie Wong: | Reply

As a person of Chinese descent who grew up in a fairly Westernised society, I have to agree with the points The Last Psychiatrist makes. I think Amy Chua has latched on to the stereotype of the 'Asian' parent, which is to push a child to arguably their greatest potential (apparently, college), and deemed herself part of this category. Her parenting style however, seems so vastly different from anything I have encountered in my society, and something more from the books of a great dictator.

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You know being an unmotivat... (Below threshold)

January 14, 2011 7:55 PM | Posted, in reply to Florida resident's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

You know being an unmotivated underachiever from a white trash family, this discussion about competition, success, and getting into "the best college" is really interesting to me. It's like watching another species at the zoo. Wow, so is that what it's like to be in the family of a lawyers and doctors... you're pressured and abused into playing piano all day with the hopes you will be marketable to an ivy league school? That sounds fucking horrible. It's so much better to just live and enjoy life like we were meant to. I mean, some level of pressure and expectations for your children are healthy, but this perverse and emotionally abusive relationship between parents and children seems as pathological as some ghetto dweller who sets zero expectations for her offspring.

I hate to break it to you, but an overbearing image obsessed parent is not the difference between greatness and averageness. The difference between greatness and averageness IS INNATE POTENTIAL PLUS INNATE DRIVE. No great scientist, artist, musician had an overbearing chinese mother forcing them to play piano all day. That sort of drive and talent is inborn.
Although, I would agree that an overbearing "chinese" mother is probably the difference between being slightly below average and slightly above average. However it can also be the difference between being suicidally depressed and anorexic vs happy and well adjusted. Whenever you fuck with your kids head in a most unnatural way, don't expect perfect results. It's not normal to have someone pressuring you 24/7 to do things you don't want to do. These are humans, not decorations or pets. Eventually their individuality and will is going to topple hers, once they are old enough to express it (either that or they will wither into neurotic crazy people with no capacity to be assertive and to have their own will / sense of self, with eating disorders and breakdowns).

I find it interesting alone sees no narcissism here, because for once I see heaps of it. It's clear these children are just extensions of her image and her image mandates nothing but unreasonable achievement and success. It isn't about doing what's truly best for her children, maybe they would be happy as teachers or artists... it's clear all she's thinking about is what reflects good on HER. This is 100% narcissistic. Her children are not real people to her.

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You had me bobbing my head,... (Below threshold)

January 14, 2011 8:01 PM | Posted by Venomous Kate: | Reply

You had me bobbing my head, nodding and agreeing with you until the paragraph which begins "You'll/She'll". By then it felt as if you'd set up your Straw Man (the fictional 'You') and moved from making a logical discussion into an agenda-laden polemic. I stopped reading at that point and, no doubt, I'm probably the poorer for it. However, your shift from reasoned explanation into a personal attack, much of it which based on assumptions about Chua's marriage (of which neither you nor I know more details than those she chose to share) seemed strikingly bitter whereas I was hoping for something more instructive.

Just my 2 cents.

Thank you, though, for caring enough about this topic to what was obviously an enormous amount of time and thought on your part.

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Amy Chua needs to get her o... (Below threshold)

January 14, 2011 8:43 PM | Posted by brownbugz: | Reply

Amy Chua needs to get her own life and let her kids have theirs. Her book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" should be banned. She shouldn't compare herself to a Tiger Mother. Tiger Moms protect their young and let them be out in the wild to be happy and strong. Unlike Amy Chua's slave-driven way of bringing up her kids and dictatorship rulings. Amy Chua is sick. She needs a shrink.

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You don't think she already... (Below threshold)

January 14, 2011 10:21 PM | Posted, in reply to brownbugz's comment, by acute_mania: | Reply

You don't think she already has one?

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Really? Don't you have bett... (Below threshold)

January 14, 2011 10:24 PM | Posted by iloveGarick: | Reply

Really? Don't you have better things to do with your time than criticize others?

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Sure, when my kid gets old ... (Below threshold)

January 14, 2011 10:30 PM | Posted, in reply to medsvstherapy's comment, by Balsamred: | Reply

Sure, when my kid gets old enough that I can check that I haven't screwed her up too badly. ;)

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Read the book on Kindle las... (Below threshold)

January 15, 2011 12:50 AM | Posted by mattmc: | Reply

Read the book on Kindle last night. The family wrote it together to some degree, it's not quite like the article's excerpts. I actually found myself agreeing with the larger point, but distressed about why she chose the violin and didn't put a few more opportunities out there for Louisa, who eventually takes up tennis and sees positive results from the work ethic she applies to it.

How about this- convincing kids to work hard at school, the arts, science projects at home, etc. is better than letting them laze around and watch tv, play video games, and get B's. That's the point...

We don't have an schools crisis in the US, we have a parenting crisis, and while you don't have to run all of the knobs at 10 like crazy Amy Chua, too many parents are failing to make much of an impact at all in terms of getting their kids to study at home. Something's wrong.

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I think you're being highly... (Below threshold)

January 15, 2011 1:02 AM | Posted by WC: | Reply

I think you're being highly critical of Amy as a person but you have a point about her methods - then again so does she.

I don't think of her as a bad person or a "bad parent" per se but her method doesn't work as well as she would like to think. I'm Chinese, my parents are both Chinese and I was raised in a sort of similar way to the way Amy describes. Admittedly, my parents aren't from China, they're 2nd and 3rd generation Westerners so to speak. However, you cannot run away from your roots and my father was almost the same as Amy.

Throughout my life I was expected to be the best. I was beaten with open palms, belts, belt buckles, fists and just about whatever was lying around all for the sake of discipline and academia. This is how Chinese people are, whether from China or born and raised in the Western world. The Asian in you still emerges in some fashion.

This article is personal to me because I was Amy's kids when I was a toddler so I know how it is. However now I'm in my late 20s, educated, independent but not where I want to be. Simply put, I got some things in my life that I wanted personally but missed out on things academically. I've spend the better part of almost 20 years trying to get away from the same things Amy's kids are subjected to.

In a nutshell, my father was the tyrant Amy is and I've disassociated myself from him. I'm disciplined and well educated sure, but I'm social awkward, lack self-esteem and feel like I don't fit in with most everyone. I'm not saying Amy's kids are going to turn out just like me but I wouldn't be surprised that they grab the first light of freedom they can and start to get a bit distant from Amy. I may no have gone to grad schoo like I wanted or even have the high profile job I thought I could get but I'm in a much better place in my life without the plague that is the Chinese parenting model. I was told as a child I was nothing, wouldn't amount to anything and that my friends would abandon me because I would end up behind them. This is the reality of Amy's kids because I got it as well.

Although Chinese as well and grew up traditionally, my mother raised me like a Westerner, focusing more on my esteem and used praised as much as possible. The problem? She was still Chinese and followed the traditional role of the father being king of the castle so while she tried to focus on my esteem, my father overrode her and she had to accept it and keep quiet.

I think personally the bigger difference between my parents is simply that my father grew up with a respectable level of money on his side of the family and my mother was poor. You put Westerner Chinese parents with any semblance of at least a middle class level of income and you get Amy. However, you get poor Westerner Chinese and they tend to be more humble and follow the Western parenting model closer.

I feel for Amy's kids because while they may have an impressive CV, they could very well feel like an alien among regular people like I do because they didn't grow up with a "normal" family. As they get older they could resent her for it and she will feel the backlash if they do.

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I've spent enough time both... (Below threshold)

January 15, 2011 7:25 AM | Posted by Davey: | Reply

I've spent enough time both in China and mixing amongst Asians living in the West to come to one conclusion: on average, Asians are way more messed up than Caucasians. Which I attribute to what is actually child abuse - to which Asians call "teaching discipline/respect".

Asians - please do us all a favor and stay in Asia. You are not wanted in the West. And no, I'm not racist, I just hate your culture and sadistic, unempathetic child rearing methods.

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Speak for yourself, but lea... (Below threshold)

January 15, 2011 11:17 AM | Posted, in reply to Davey's comment, by Hannah: | Reply

Speak for yourself, but leave the rest of us out of it, dear "i'm not racist but" davey. Thank you.

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Come on, how many respected... (Below threshold)

January 15, 2011 12:58 PM | Posted, in reply to Clay Boggess's comment, by jonw: | Reply

Come on, how many respected hobbies are there in the world? Olympic sports, professional niches, classical instruments... a few thousand? So a few thousand people can be number one in their field and feel good about themselves, everyone else is crap. Fortunately most people don't buy it.

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Practicing a skill you've m... (Below threshold)

January 15, 2011 1:36 PM | Posted by Zachary Burt: | Reply

Practicing a skill you've mastered is far more pleasurable than practicing something in which you dabble for non-pure reasons. It also happens to land you a bunch of praise and attention. Praise and attention feel good. "Strokes". It's why you write the blog, isn't it?

If you can afford Harvard then there's no reason not to buy the social signal. Yes, it's a stupid move for poor kids to buy Gucci bags with credit cards, but the rich should indulge.

But fuck you, dude. We're all slaves to SOME social standard. You're not Diogenes. Get off your high horse.

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While I was initially inter... (Below threshold)

January 15, 2011 1:50 PM | Posted by Ferguson: | Reply

While I was initially interested in this blog for its "pull no punches" style and biting analysis of such disparate material, over the past couple weeks I've begun detecting a dogmatic prejudice taking shape that this post has put in full relief.

I'll just speak frankly: if this is what psychiatry is about, then it's no surprise this is the last psychiatrist. There will always be a place for bracing, honest dialog about heated and taboo topics, but to use a platform such as this to disseminate rhetorical tactics that bolster prejudicial kneejerk reactions to attitude and actions taking place outside of what one considers "normal behavior" is nothing but counter-productive. The attitude evinced on this site is one of dispassionate negativity, but it's quite clear to me now that it is actually very positive: it supports the status quo to a fault, affirming old abuses by destroying new "abuses."

The reason the children learned piano and violin is not for the sake of music: it is for the sake of their minds. It is the same reason we used to be taught Latin--these are classical languages that provide an excellent frame for future information. We understand that no one sees the world "as it truly is," but only an interpretation of the world--and that interpretation is generated based on prior knowledge. Kids that learn Beethoven will interpret the world around them in terms of music that has been useful to high-level academics for centuries, while kids that learn Lady Gaga will interpret the world in terms of the music branch of a corporation that wants people to drink more Pepsi and buy new cars every year.

But I'm not surprised this point wasn't made, or even hinted at, in this article. There appears to be an almost willful blindness to Ms. Chua's obvious critique of herself, her admission that she was not perfect as a parent, and what she learned about parenting from her experience. Clearly a person who thinks they are a perfect parent wouldn't even think about relating a story about her friends believing she is an abusive parent--these kinds of observations would only come from someone who has thought deeply on her history and has decided to relate it honestly for the benefit of her community. "Thinking about raising your kids Chinese? Here's what happened when I tried..." And beyond suppressing the modest attitude of Ms. Chua, the author even goes so far as to *assume* she had domestic help raising her children while she stood aloof and screamed at them for being garbage. This is beyond the pale, and in my book is pure racist hatred. I'm sorry you didn't get good grades in school and attend the best colleges, but this isn't a way to treat people who are attempting to interface honestly with the world around them. Shame on you.

All this to say, I'm through reading this blog. While I do enjoy a plurality of opinion, and while I feel this blog has indeed been helpful to me in certain respects, the amount of vitriol and arrogant judgement makes my continued reading untenable. Blatant racism such as that evidenced in this article may be easy enough to ignore, but I will not pretend to be the all-enlightened-one and assume that other articles have or will affirm uglier prejudices of my own. I know the character presented in this article does not stand for the author as a whole person, so I feel free to say that this character (not the person) has an ugly soul that will only corrupt the souls around it. This is not "pull no punches" opining--there is a willful neglect of the facts and baseless allegations that contradict that line--this is an attempt to deride a different culture. Not the Chinese culture, mind you, but the culture of second- and third-generation immigrants who are arrogant enough to think they can tell "native" Americans how to raise their kids.

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zachary - "Practicing a ski... (Below threshold)

January 15, 2011 3:04 PM | Posted, in reply to Zachary Burt's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

zachary - "Practicing a skill you've mastered is far more pleasurable than practicing something in which you dabble for non-pure reasons."

This may well be true for you but it's not true for everyone. And what is a "non-pure reason"?

People who are raised to be perfectionists never get that feeling of satisfaction, that's how perfectionism works...nothing is ever quite good enough and you never really get that sense of achievement, no matter how good you are. This is what drives people to commit suicide, the sense of never being good enough and the impossibility of being good enough to be loved.

And are you suggesting that doing something like playing music for fun or to share with others is "non-pure"? That's really silly and sounds like what someone who doesn't actually play music or make art would say. I'd say doing something to impress others or for prestige is a less pure reason to practice something than for the sheer love of the activity or desire to communicate and share with others. Technical proficiency without any real emotional engagement makes for boring, pedantic art.

So, sure, yes practicing and getting better is pleasurable and can result in a sense of achievement but that's about the process just as much as the result (and about the individual as well).

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This story reminded me of y... (Below threshold)

January 15, 2011 3:13 PM | Posted by Reader: | Reply

This story reminded me of your style:

http://www.slate.com/id/2281133/pagenum/1

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Amy just harvested 6 figure... (Below threshold)

January 15, 2011 3:31 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Amy just harvested 6 figures from her book... she and her jewish husband really know how to get the money out of your pockets -stupid readers

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Nobody wants to mess up wit... (Below threshold)

January 15, 2011 3:47 PM | Posted, in reply to Davey's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Nobody wants to mess up with your community - the caucasians with the sex abused children by the priests from the local church... what a joke!

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To Mr. A. 7:55 pmWha... (Below threshold)

January 15, 2011 5:27 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Florida resident: | Reply

To Mr. A. 7:55 pm
What prevents you expressing you thoughts without "f &&&&" word ?
F.r.

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For once I agree who... (Below threshold)

January 15, 2011 6:37 PM | Posted by David O'Bedlam: | Reply


For once I agree wholeheartedly with everything this rummy shrink has said.

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Asiaphile says what?<... (Below threshold)

January 16, 2011 12:42 AM | Posted, in reply to Ferguson's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Asiaphile says what?

Anyway.

I find it hysterical you spend about a phonebook worth of text chiding alone for being prejudicial, while simultaneously supporting class divisions between wealthy/poor. The importance of knowing latin is to define onesself as a member of an exclusive class. It's like knowing the handshake of a secret club. These are arrogant behaviors which serve no purpose but to encourage division and differentiation of onesself as superior.


There is no benefit to knowing beethoven; however it does identify you as a wealthy person who's parents could afford extremely specialized high level education; it identifies you as minimally intelligent to capitalize on that education.

Basically the gist of your post was: "buying a car to appear
high status is for poor serfs; the proper way to be high status is to know latin/beethoven" and "Being biased against high status people is prejudicial and I will now cry for days; however I will gladly call anyone who likes lady gaga an ignorant serf who spends all their cash on rotating cars because they can't htink critically or demonstrate a modicum of impulse control:

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This was a roller coaster o... (Below threshold)

January 16, 2011 6:11 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

This was a roller coaster of an article like most of Alone's work - most, because I start drowning in words when trying to break into the world of drug testing and journal papers. My parents were immigrants to the U.S. from South Asia. My father came from a poor background but was studying to be a doctor when he married my mother who was from a more wealthy family. She's unskilled if we consider her as nothing more than a college applicant but she does make a mean curry, a skill I apprenticed into and find more useful than any rote memorization ability or note-taking speed now that I'm living with spice-loving masochist roommates.

A minority kid in med school with a doctor parent? That tells most of the story, doesn't it? My mom was the ever-present face at home until dad came back from work. And when that time came I had better have been grinding my nose through those comprehensive curriculum books they kept buying for me, always keeping me a grade or two ahead of course. At this time my dad was just coming out of residency and, flush with more money than several generations of his forefathers had probably earned combined, started to ease his way into the endogenous world of the Minority-American. Everyone became my 'uncle and aunt' and my peers were friends for the four hours they were in our house and rivals at every other hour. Dad and mom both bit hard on that Asian-American Dream our isolated society innocently dangled in front of every brown man with a house.

(Un?)fortunately they didn't fully understand the why behind these goals. Harvard was Harvard - even the folks back home knew the name! And to get into Harvard you had to be the kid who could beat the best white kid in class in multiplication tables by at least a whole minute (30 seconds for white girls). And if there was another Asian? That was a battle to the death as far as they were concerned. Oh, what's that? Extra curricular activities are important? Learn that piano. Learn it good. And teach your brother while you're at it. Legacy won't do him any good if he (they) decides to go engineering and apply to MIT.

Thankfully my dad (and mom, following his cue) mellowed out somewhat. He's still got that 'look-at-my-son' drive that everyone does in our ridiculously gaudy and boring excuses for parties that invite every South Asian soul for miles (except for that one family, they don't mesh well with that other family, etc). But time and Time magazines along with actually meaningful friendships with people who aren't overachieving middle class immigrants have taught him the value of life outside of the Ivy League. That self-serving/self-sacrificing drive was eased out with an interest in his finances, the actual cost of school for all three of his sons, and a rekindled interest in our native culture combined with homesickness after the death of my grandmother and his guilt for not being with her when she passed. Oh, and an unhealthy fear of China inevitably coming to dominate America with its unstoppable army of hardworking, Tiger-mom birthed super workers.

Admittedly I learned a lot during these dark ages. I might never have learned to play a musical instrument or consume volumes of books quickly if it wasn't for Dad's confused but stern upbringing. All of the complexes I developed because of it was annoying though, and I had to teach myself to overcome them, but I've started to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Nowadays, when I'm asked to play the piano or sing for yet another gathering of 40+ South Asians it's always something from traditional culture, something that my parents and everyone else enjoy on its own terms and not because it's Beethoven. And apparently I'm some sort of ultra-son, the last of the Mohican-desis, because everyone else's parents keep complaining how their kids are so Americanized and never listen to them or never help around the house while Anonymous is a Swiss Army Knife of filial duty. There's some truth to it perhaps, my peers seem really flaky or self-entitled these days. Few of them have parents that mellowed out like mine did, I keep thinking that I'm looking at what I could have become if my dad continued down that self-destructive spiral of success(ful college) at all costs. Or maybe I'm just projecting. Probably both.

I think I was lucky. Or maybe Indians have it better than Chinese kids. In which case I was lucky twice. I don't even know where I wanted to go with everything above, I just felt like coming out with it after reading the article. Thanks for the read and the blog in general, Alone. I didn't normally trust shrinks before coming here (Therapy was for Whites, I remember Dad once telling me) and I definitely trust them less the more I absorb the pessimism in his blog, but that felt good to just say it, whatever it was I said. Probably something narcissistic.

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As a Chinese, I would like ... (Below threshold)

January 16, 2011 11:04 AM | Posted by -: | Reply

As a Chinese, I would like to note that learning (European) classical music for the piano or violin seems to be more of an "in" thing amongst Chinese families than learning traditional Chinese music and instruments. This is just my impression, but there you have it.

(I must say, though, that my parents actually strive to move away from what she calls Chinese parenting, because they, alas, are too soft-hearted and just want me to be happy, even if I'm not accomplished. /sarcasm)

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I was raised this way so I ... (Below threshold)

January 16, 2011 2:17 PM | Posted by zztop: | Reply

I was raised this way so I know what it means to be subject to such a creature. That she is a raging malignant narcissist status freak who hates music is obvious to any reader. However, I'm sure that she also really enjoys calling her kids names and shaming them.

That's the hook. It's a complicated mix of geniune desire for her kids to do well and her own narcissism but let's not discount the pleasure payoff she gets from asserting complete control over a defenseless person's life, forcing them to live for her, perform for her and apparently display their lives to the whole world, just for HER HER HER.

It's clear she isn;t satisfied with just be a Yalw Law prof. She has to dominate other fields as well. She has to be a "pareting expert", an " expert on International Relations", an expert on "ethnic tensions"... All fields in which she has no objective training, only subjective opinions extrapolated into seemingly academic analysis which only convinces the intellectually unsophisticated. Her book " World on Fire" is a joke. But she writes with an authoritative voice and people lapped it up. It doesn't stand up to any serious scrutiny.

This woman desperately needs attention. It's pathetic. But she makes money. That is the real tragedy here - that such a shyster triumphs.

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This lady is full of bull</... (Below threshold)

January 16, 2011 7:38 PM | Posted by hu: | Reply

This lady is full of bull

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Right?!But I bet t... (Below threshold)

January 16, 2011 8:39 PM | Posted, in reply to hu's comment, by zztop: | Reply

Right?!

But I bet the proper historians at Yale are kicking themselves for not being deluded enough to write an " International Relations for dummies" type book full of absurd pop history tautologies based on subjective impressions.

Lady just creams $$ off people who don't know better and are impressed with her credentials. I'm not saying only historians should write about history, but jeez, do some research beyond wikipedia before you formulate a thesis. How this lady is Prof of anything is beyond me. Yale must be so embarrassed.

And her relationship to music? What a Philistine.

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Seems like mama-san caught ... (Below threshold)

January 16, 2011 8:55 PM | Posted by GT: | Reply

Seems like mama-san caught some heat over her article:

http://abovethelaw.com/2011/01/yale-law-prof-amy-chua-backs-away-from-controversial-claims-about-superiority-of-chinese-mothers/

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"There is no benefit to kno... (Below threshold)

January 16, 2011 9:20 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

"There is no benefit to knowing beethoven; however it does identify you as a wealthy person who's parents could afford extremely specialized high level education; it identifies you as minimally intelligent to capitalize on that education."

Of course there is a benefit from knowing Beethoven. Not that I'm agreeing with Fergason... the purpose of learning Beethoven shouldn't be for any other purpose than to learn Beethoven...

Beethoven's "symbolic place" within the current social structure (i.e., as a symbol of being "elite" / wealthy) has nothing to do with Beethoven, and everything to do with you / us / everyone you know. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water... (the problem is the difference between high art and low art... in that there is none, AND YET...)

/drunk

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I was thinking about this l... (Below threshold)

January 16, 2011 10:31 PM | Posted, in reply to zztop's comment, by David O'Bedlam: | Reply

I was thinking about this last night but I was away from my computer till this evening (it can happen), and now I find someone already made the point I was going to:

"I find it interesting alone sees no narcissism here, because for once I see heaps of it. It's clear these children are just extensions of her image..."

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Amy Chua thinks she's r... (Below threshold)

January 16, 2011 11:11 PM | Posted by Jack Coupal: | Reply

Amy Chua thinks she's raising her kids the Chinese way, but she is really raising them to be what the WSJ considers China to be: a pool of highly skilled labor that someone else will profit from.

The WSJ folks are smarter than that. They know that consumer products from China today are generally cheap AND poorly made. Primarily poorly designed and made. Like "made in occupied Japan" engraved on products just after WWII. The WSJ is really enticing Chinese dictators to get more western nations shifting their production - and more importantly their technical know-how - to China. That will lead to high quality products from China, but only in the future.

Post WWII, Japan was and has been a democracy and a free nation. China was and is none of those things. That's what's more scary than Amy Chua.

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*Will* there be a post on t... (Below threshold)

January 17, 2011 4:49 AM | Posted, in reply to Humbert's comment, by Zo: | Reply

*Will* there be a post on this blog to which no (young?) male will add a comment that he'd "do her?"

Narcissism on so many clueless levels ...

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The mother is doable.... (Below threshold)

January 17, 2011 5:42 AM | Posted, in reply to Zo's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

The mother is doable.

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whatever...... (Below threshold)

January 17, 2011 11:47 AM | Posted by Max: | Reply

whatever...

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Amy Chua is a successful ma... (Below threshold)

January 17, 2011 2:12 PM | Posted by miriam: | Reply

Amy Chua is a successful manipulator. Her kids will definitely get into a select college because she knows how to manipulate the system: get good marks, pass standardized tests, play an instrument, coach polo to underprivileged children, lead a fund drive to free Mumia, or the Red Cross, but never the Boy Scouts, they are politically incorrect. But she is also a master manipulator in getting her book discussed, thereby selling many copies.

I can just imagine what tactics she used to become a Yale law professor. That's also a system you can game.

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miriam - I think you may be... (Below threshold)

January 17, 2011 3:41 PM | Posted, in reply to miriam's comment, by AnAnon: | Reply

miriam - I think you may be giving Chua too much credit, I highly doubt she actually chose to be portrayed this way (though obviously she's not adverse to selling books). Every player has their own self interest at play here and contributed to it. The WSJ clearly has an agenda in choosing the parts of the book they did (excerpts are usually one chunk of a book, not a bunch of parts sewn together). The kind of parenting being promoted, which is quite narcissistic, is not exclusively Chinese by any means - social climbing parents of all skin tones and cultures pretend they're practicing "tough love" (which tends to be another name for abuse when it involves yelling insults at your child, teaching discipline doesn't require this by any means). They also teach their children, particularly girls, music and ballet because these are signifiers of being upper class. The establishment rich tend not to push their children in this way. I'm not at all surprised that WSJ readers responded so positively to the abusive but aspirational parenting model. What's interesting is that so many people seem to believe that screaming abuse is teaching discipline (though it does sound like Chua was less abusive in reality than is portrayed in the excerpts chosen by the WSJ).

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One weight against the coll... (Below threshold)

January 17, 2011 11:16 PM | Posted by Walter Sobchak: | Reply

One weight against the college theory, is that Chua's kids, being the spawn of tenured Ivy profs, don't have to worry about admissions. The Ivies take care of their own, so U Conn is out of the question unless the kid messes up and gets arrested or flunks a whole year or something like that.

Applying to Ivy league colleges is a mugs' game. After the class is filled up with athletes, affirmative action, legacies, profs' kids, feeder prep designees, and etc., the rest of the applications that belong to 1600 SAT valedictorian Asian kids are thrown in the air and the ones that don't land are chosen.

The public policy response should be to force them to run honest lotteries for admission. The schools set a minimum academic standard, anyone who applies who meets it has his name put in the hat and the names are pulled out of the hat.

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Why?Who really car... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2011 12:29 AM | Posted, in reply to Walter Sobchak's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Why?

Who really cares?

The nature of acedemia (being full of nepotism and politically correct AA bullshit and such) reflects the general state of society, which is basically that of disengenuous unproductive gladhanding uncreative apathetic horseshit. Western society is rapidly racing to devolution and extinction.

Is anyone surprised college has become what it is? College serves two functions; one it has become an elaborate banking scam to bilk the common people out of savings, enslaving them to debts they can never pay down when they are too young and naive to make informed decisions about borrowing (or wisely spending) the thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars they have easy access too... meanwhile the elite echelons of society and their colleges are filled with a bunch of scumbags who don't belong there and are only there because of politics.

Look at the state of things, are we really surprised. If I was more impulsive and less harm avoidant I would have killed myself years ago.

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I agree 100%, especially wi... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2011 12:32 AM | Posted by Termm: | Reply

I agree 100%, especially with Alone and others' comments that a REAL Asian (I say asian, not chinese, because my family's nationality is not chinese but parenting styles are similar) would NEVER discuss how their kids are treated, or their husband/wife is treated, to outsiders. Not even neighbors, not even cousins. Maybe to their own parents, that's it.

Hell, Asian parents will be fighting with each other, possibly using profanity and expletives with rage, with the kids receiving some of the anger ("we're arguing because you didn't get good grades/play music well/excel in X/____") and the INSTANT that doorbell rings, mom and dad shut up, let the guests in, and magically become the most happily married family on earth.

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No surprise there. <p... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2011 3:00 AM | Posted, in reply to Liz's comment, by Dave: | Reply

No surprise there.

What TLP gets wrong in an otherwise excellent post is that most other Chinese would have no issue with Chua raising her kids Jewish, for two reasons. First, Chinese tend not to be be too devout and to be pragmatic about religion. James Fallows, The Atlantic's China hand, blogged admiringly recently about a state-owned Chinese company that converted thousands of its employees to Islam so they could compete for some project in Mecca.

Second, Chinese seem to have an admiration for Judaism in particular, as they think the Talmud holds some money making secrets.

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Mothering doesn't usually d... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2011 4:47 PM | Posted by Permafrost: | Reply

Mothering doesn't usually descend to such abismal stupidity. Mothers usually try to find what their growing children are like, and talk much more about their children's traits as given than fathers do. Normal mothers will try and nurture whatever good traits their children have. But this pseudo-chinese woman is totally oblivious to her own children's innate abilities, and very probably is forcing them into becoming just average piano/violin players when their physical and intellectual abilities would have made it comparatively much easier to excel in other areas, say, as a virtuoso drummer and a world-famous and influential humanitarian worker. This mother hasn't outgrown playing with dolls.

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In Point I, you claim that ... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2011 6:07 PM | Posted by Jay: | Reply

In Point I, you claim that college is the ultimate goal. What if it isn't? Playing the devil's advocate - what if her goal was to teach her children how to succeed? If you teach a child how to practice, study, thrive, etc., it is a process they can learn to adapt in any subject. One of the biggest problems kids face in college is finally learning how to study, plan, and cope on their own. By teaching your children how to succeed, you are right in that it won't matter whether your child attends the local community college or Harvard because he/she has the tools to thrive. While I don't agree with much this woman says, I do believe that children need to be pushed a little. Not everything is optional.
Overall, her article is disappointing though.

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Hi there Anonymous (the Sou... (Below threshold)

January 19, 2011 2:57 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by anonymous doppelganger: | Reply

Hi there Anonymous (the South Asian one who's in med school and went to Harvard),

You mention: "All of the complexes I developed because of it was annoying though, and I had to teach myself to overcome them."

I was wondering if you could help me figure out some of my own solutions - seeing that I'm a South Asian at Harvard who's applying to med school, we share a few common labels.

Advice on how to not be self-entitled and flaky would be a great start...

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Now thats a messed up chine... (Below threshold)

January 19, 2011 7:51 AM | Posted by Antonio: | Reply

Now thats a messed up chinese...

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Now you got to the point of... (Below threshold)

January 19, 2011 10:24 AM | Posted, in reply to nohope's comment, by ELISAMAR: | Reply

Now you got to the point of this matter! It is all about status. Congratulations

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One more observation: is th... (Below threshold)

January 19, 2011 11:31 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

One more observation: is this the kind of person that teaches at Yale??? Oh, oh.
Great article. Very lucid.

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" I don't know any parents ... (Below threshold)

January 19, 2011 12:31 PM | Posted by Brey: | Reply

" I don't know any parents who are desperate to raise better parents or better spouses or even better software engineers, we don't think like that."

I'm much more concerned about teaching my children to be good parents and spouses than forcing them to prepare for college. Relationships, family and community are where happiness, fulfillment and contentment originate. At least that's how I feel, but that's just coming from a Phd Micro Biologist.

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I love the "my husband is a... (Below threshold)

January 19, 2011 10:02 PM | Posted by katz: | Reply

I love the "my husband is a piece of crap" bit (now there's a sentence I never expected to say!). The absent and put-down husband/father is one of the most disturbing, yet least mentioned, parts of the article.

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The real problem is all the... (Below threshold)

January 20, 2011 2:42 PM | Posted by Mark: | Reply

The real problem is all the fake 5-star reviews her "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" book is getting on Amazon. The entire internet has turned against her (seriously, every article and blog is against her parenting style), but somehow the book is currently at 3.3/5 stars?

How do I know they're fake? Many of the reviews were published the same day the book came out. Really? Dozens of people concerned with raising their kids right had the time in one day to read 256 pages? I can understand 1-star reviews on the first day, you can base your review on the first dozen pages that you didn't like, but 5-star? Someone's paying for these 5-star reviews, shame we don't have more honest people on the internet to go rank her book the way it should be.

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I like this analysis. When ... (Below threshold)

January 21, 2011 12:21 AM | Posted by val: | Reply

I like this analysis. When I'd read this earlier I thought of all my asian friends, then jewish friends, then all the people at my college since it's well known and I've met the kind of mom she is and she isn't always chinese but is american.

All I concluded was that her idea of success isn't the same as the one my parents raised me with. My parents told me the same things you say, that the name of the college doesn't matter and they thought drama was a fun thing for me to do. They just wanted me to have some fun in anything I did, even college was an option because they'd never went and managed a decent life. Just pick up a trade I enjoy. So that's kinda somewhat my success will be. I met kids that play piano/violin and it's fine with me since I'm happy and we're at the same school and it doesn't bother me. And I love my parents, so much.

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Forcing children into doing... (Below threshold)

January 24, 2011 6:31 AM | Posted by Elli Davis: | Reply

Forcing children into doing something they don't like is the biggest threat to their normal development. Parent should only supervise the activities that their children choose and provide their support. The approach that Amy promotes in her book puts a lot of pressure on them which may have detrimental consequences once they grow older.

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So many great points in thi... (Below threshold)

January 25, 2011 8:59 AM | Posted by ChuaChua: | Reply

So many great points in this column! And for sure, it's for me :-)

Chua does not realize how much she is conforming to a measure of success that she never questioned.

Peter Thiel from Paypal is talking about the "education bubble" where you don't get your money worth and offers 100K to drop out.

If self-actualization is a point in life, Chua likely missed it in favor of becoming a beta serving the alphas. It's up from epsilon semi-moron, but all are told while they sleep "I am so happy to be [my class]"...

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People who have given my ab... (Below threshold)

January 29, 2011 7:25 AM | Posted by Davey: | Reply

People who have given my above comment a TD:

I bet most of you agree with me, but this conflicts with your (society-influenced) self-image.

Gutless and weak.

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Awesome article!... (Below threshold)

January 29, 2011 10:41 PM | Posted by Rodrigo: | Reply

Awesome article!

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I'm sorry, what is your the... (Below threshold)

February 1, 2011 8:59 PM | Posted by Jessica Kinnevan: | Reply

I'm sorry, what is your thesis exactly? Is your thesis that this woman is raising college students? Or is it that Chinese-American mothers are extreme in pushing their children into academic success? Or is it that women like her get a public audience because they are an under-represented minority? I'm not really sure what your trying to say.

I think this particular mother is extreme. She seems to be under the delusion that sacrificing the personal happiness of her children is worth an Ivy League acceptance letter. Perhaps her personal happiness as a child hinged somewhat on her mother's approval, something a lot of children want, and getting into the "right" school made her own mother proud, so she wants the same thing for her kids. Lots of people stupidly make the same parenting mistakes their parents did, not just Chinese Yale professors.

Broken misguided logic plagues families from all cultures, but in her case, it is likely one that originated the generation that came to America poor and uneducated, and suffered for it. The residual mindset of "Academic perfection is the key to happiness" was likely founded on a deeply ingrained feeling of inferiority and humiliation, a feeling that no longer exists in her family, except for the what the mother is perpetuating. Education is useless if not applied that a useful end. If playing piano gets her kids into a school her kids WANT to go to, then it was useful. But it looks like she's preparing her kids for a successful career in the Ivy Leagues that they don't necessarily want. Sure, kids don't always know what they want. But why not treat them like uninformed adults and help them figure it out for themselves.

Her children resist her now, they will resent her one day if they don't already, and they will soon find that academic success does guarantee neither career success nor personal happiness.

I wasn't clear on your conclusion. Your ending statements were orthogonal to the original topic and unsupported. You said, "If this same article had been written by a man it would have been immediately revealed as an angry, abusive, patriarchal example of capitalism." This has nothing to do with the rest of your article, but since you mentioned, I'd argue that it revealed this mother as an angry, abusive, matriarchal example of emotionally driven parenting.

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What this woman is i... (Below threshold)

February 2, 2011 6:39 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply


What this woman is is an overprivileged, arrogant, sadistic little bitch. Knocking such women up was a stupid idea: types like that are what anal is good for.

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One thing that Chua's artic... (Below threshold)

February 4, 2011 8:13 PM | Posted by Abby: | Reply

One thing that Chua's article fails to mention is the culture of bribery that is rampant in Asian school systems. According to people I know who lived in Korea, Hong Kong, and China (and according to numerous books and articles), the top students are often the ones whose parents could afford to bribe the teachers the most. When the student's grades bring honor or shame to the parent, it can become a parenting competition that has nothing to do with honest education.

Also, there is some real pressure that leads to a high suicide rate for students who honestly can't learn as well or fast as others. I wonder how dyslexic students cope, or those with learning disabilities.

I read a memoir recently, about a Chinese immigrant to 1980s NYC who is a gifted student, but she faces bad grades and social ostracism in America. Here's the author's site:
http://www.jeankwok.com/

The book showed how this girl's mother understood how her suddenly poor grades were a result of the language barrier, and not the girl's actual intelligence. Even so, the mother tried very hard to bribe the girl's teachers, which was humiliating for her, since bribery is frowned upon in American education. There was also an element of fierce competition with another Chinese mother--one who had enough money to successfully bribe teachers. The girl was absolutely desperate to bring her grades up ... her future and her family's survival depended entirely on how well she did in school.

At the same time, I do agree with the idea of having enough confidence in your child to push them to excellence, rather than letting them fail. Just as long as the parent has a good grasp on what their child is humanly capable of ...

~Abby

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Good piece, although unlike... (Below threshold)

February 7, 2011 9:50 AM | Posted by T. AKA Ricky Raw: | Reply

Good piece, although unlike you I disagree and totally think this is about narcissism:

http://therawness.com/tiger-mom/

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"...only that what she thin... (Below threshold)

July 22, 2011 7:11 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

"...only that what she thinks is and what she actually is aren't the same."
Does this constitute narcissism? She puts up an image for everyone else, while under the illusion that the image is real?

"Someone said Beethoven is great music so they learn that."
Randian second hander anyone? Applicable to most of the values she instils in her children

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"...only that what she thin... (Below threshold)

July 22, 2011 7:12 PM | Posted by jwf: | Reply

"...only that what she thinks is and what she actually is aren't the same."
Does this constitute narcissism? She puts up an image for everyone else, while under the illusion that the image is real?

"Someone said Beethoven is great music so they learn that."
Randian second hander anyone? Applicable to most of the values she instils in her children

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You hit the nail on ... (Below threshold)

February 9, 2012 9:54 AM | Posted by Auric: | Reply


You hit the nail on this one:

"That's why it's in the WSJ... It wants kids who will conform, who will plug into the machine (albeit at the higher levels), it wants the kind of kids who want the approval of the kinds of people who read the WSJ.

Another year, another "superior" parent from the WSJ:

"Why French Parents Are Superior"
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204740904577196931457473816.html

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Why is the art of music req... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2012 10:50 PM | Posted by Andre M. Smith: | Reply

Why is the art of music required to endure the ill-informed antics of such inartistic imbeciles as Amy Chua? Her lust for fame as an old-fashioned stage mother of either a famous violinist (yet another mechanical Sarah Chang?) or a famous pianist (yet another mechanical Lang Lang?) shines through what she perceives as devotion to the cultivation of the cultural sensitivities of her two unfortunate daughters.

Daughter Lulu at age 7 is unable to play compound rhythms from Jacques Ibert with both hands coordinated? Leonard Bernstein couldn’t conduct this at age 50! And he isn’t the only musician of achievement with this-or-that shortcoming. We all have our closets with doors that are not always fully opened.

And why all this Chinese obsession unthinkingly dumped on violin and piano? What do the parents with such insistence know of violin and piano repertoire? Further, what do they know of the great body of literature for flute? For French horn? For organ? For trumpet? Usually, nothing!

For pressure-driven (not professionally-driven!) parents like Amy Chua their children, with few exceptions, will remain little more than mechanical sidebars to the core of classical music as it’s practiced by musicians with a humanistic foundation.

Professor Chua better be socking away a hefty psychoreserve fund in preparation for the care and feeding of her two little lambs once it becomes clear to them both just how empty and ill-defined with pseudo-thorough grounding their emphasis has been on so-called achievement.

Read more about this widespread, continuing problem in Forbidden Childhood (N.Y., 1957) by Ruth Slenczynska.
______________________

André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy)
Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University)
Formerly Bass Trombonist
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

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My Dear Medusa:You... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2012 11:50 PM | Posted, in reply to Medusa's comment, by Andre M. Smith: | Reply

My Dear Medusa:

Your well-worn - worn out? - canard about music being closely related to mathematics and any subsequent skill a music student has being enhanced by a concomitant developing skill in the field of mathematics may have some confirmation in laboratory studies but it is wholely erroneous in the practical art of music performance by musicians. Most musicians of my acquaintance for more than sixty years have had no developed skills in mathematics beyond the four rudiments of arithmatic. And mathematics has only a tangential place in the understanding of music constructions involved in harmony, counterpoint, orchestration, and the performance of a music instrument. All this with the mathematical underpinnings of the physics of music notwithstanding. Physicists rarely are musicians / Musicians are rarely physicists.

Thus I have spoken.

André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy)
Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University)
Formerly Bass Trombonist
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

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I must agree with the sugge... (Below threshold)

February 14, 2012 12:26 AM | Posted, in reply to ///'s comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I must agree with the suggestion that a higher quality level of student population can not help but play to the advantage of all students in that population.

For more than the past four decades a great number of my classmates at Juilliard during the 1960s have had significant careers in stage performance with names that would be easily recognized by many readers of this web site. Many members of The New York Philharmonic for the past hundred or so years have been faculty of Juilliard. And a large number of musicians in The Philharmonic are my former schoolmates graduated from Juilliard.

Whenever young musicians seek my advice on which school I might recommend they attend I consistently tell them to avoid any school in which they would be among the better students. Go for an association with the top; learn from them DAILY as fellow students.
____________________

André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy)
Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University)
Formerly Bass Trombonist
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

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when will parents let go---... (Below threshold)

February 14, 2012 3:17 AM | Posted by katy: | Reply

when will parents let go---specifically, that they have to mold their kids, instill values in their kids, make something of their kids? all they have to do is love and support them and not fuck them up too badly. i can't understand where the idea comes from that makes parents think they have to somehow put something into their child (that is not already there) to make them OK. is it all just ego? is it an excuse to dismiss the pain they felt as children at the hands of their own parents that they are now denying by passing it on to their kids? (like alice miller might say). is it the simple fact they don't feel OK on the inside to assume that anybody else can simply be OK enough on the inside? even innocent babies? also, why is amy chua not ashamed to show her face in public? she doesn't appear to be very maternal.

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One thing I never understoo... (Below threshold)

March 28, 2012 3:50 AM | Posted by Rathergood: | Reply

One thing I never understood:

What's the thing about puttin certain parental behaviour into a racial skin; superior chinese-mothering seems to be a concept, is it?

Personally, I usually see strict parenting and soft parenting and everything from between. This case seems to be strict (and include hopes for skillfull offsprings, respectfully).

I've not read the book, but I've extracted from this, that the author wants to describe the typical parenting ideology of mothers that have themself been brought up in a "very typical chinese family".

Of course it's not the 1st nor the 100th time I hear comments about chinese parenting compared to our finnish version; descriptions of endless strive to make kids "perform" in virtually anything: choose a hoppy or a trade = "play a game and play it with top scores" = ultimate goal of life.

SO, What at least I am left here with is a image of racial concepts and provocation of main population. Probably also result by advertising and other parties than just the author...

anyone get similar wibes?

(Yours truly, background: Finnish - culture under strong western/american influences, speaking good mandarin / fiancee and half of friends chinese or chinese descent)

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...Of course when talking a... (Below threshold)

March 28, 2012 3:54 AM | Posted by Rathergood: | Reply

...Of course when talking about "Author" = Amy Chuan

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Ol' Possum has fallen into ... (Below threshold)

April 1, 2012 10:46 AM | Posted, in reply to possum's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Ol' Possum has fallen into the layman's trap of "Music as fun" after an advanced level of skill mastery is achieved following years (?) of hard work. The preparation of music and its performance is rarely less than a daily excruciating ordeal pursued from one or another necessity. This may be the musician’s form of the comedian’s “Comedy is serious business.”

I’m supposing it will never be possible to wholly expunge this idea of music as some form of entertainment for its executant. This is especially true of classical music, which is hidebound by so much self-restraint as a cautionary precursor to assist a performer in his avoidance of his own personal intrusion upon the musical scheme of a composer.

Professor Any Chua is, as usual, far off the mark in her own observations about any relationship of achievement to so-called fun. What she has written on the subject, “What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it.” http://bettymingliu.com/2011/01/parents-like-amy-chua-are-the-reason-why-asian-americans-like-me-are-in-therapy/ provoked my reply. “Stamp collecting, fishing, lazing about on a summer day, science club, Brownie Scouting, baseball, birthday parties, church annual picnic, kite flying, visiting relatives, kissing, jumping rope, student council, insect classification . . . Away with this woman! “Fun” must be one of the more overused, misunderstood words in the American lexicon.” http://zhaolearning.com/2011/01/15/you-must-be-joking-professor-chua-an-open-letter-to-the-chinese-tiger-mom/

Performing for an appreciative, critical auditor is an essential element among the reasons musicians must – not choose to! – perform. It will be in the better interest of that informed auditor if he can make the adjustment in his understanding of just how much different from that of the performer is his relationship to what he is hearing.
______________________

André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy)
Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University)
Formerly Bass Trombonist
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

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There is a recurring theme ... (Below threshold)

April 8, 2012 12:09 AM | Posted by André M. Smith: | Reply

There is a recurring theme without solid core that continues to recycle on the question of Amy Chua and her style as a mother. J.G. (unfortunately anonymous, as are most of the endorsements of Professor Chua) has written

I think it's easy to take cheap shots at Chua, but it's hard to argue that the average American child needs less discipline, less direction or less respect for others.

It might seem amusing to mock her (her "cushy job" and "hottie husband"), but harder to actually consider the points being made in a non-defensive way, without trying to paint yourself as the "cool mom" who prefers three martini playdates?

p.s. It seems ironic that an Asian-American female who went to Williams (fulfilling a fantasy of Chinese parents everywhere) would paint her parents as laissez-faire and herself as moderately motivated.
Posted by: J.G. | January 18, 2011 at 02:31 PM http://thecareerist.typepad.com/thecareerist/2011/01/chinese-moms.html

I, for one, have no interest whatsoever in her “cushy job” and “hottie husband.” Nor do I have any objection to her having become a millionaire from the sales of her book and that she will be well on her way to becoming a multimillionare once the planned translations of it into thirteen of the world’s languages have been completed. My uncompromising objections to Professor Chua are two-fold: her abuses of young children pursued to further her own narcissistic urgencies and her deep commitment of abuse of the art of music – of which she seemingly has no knowledge whatsoever – for reasons having nothing to do with that art. My shots at her are far from what J.G. calls “cheap shots.” They do in fact go to the heart of the problems with her that remain my chief concerns.
J.G. and most of his fellow travelers in their tepid defenses of Professor Chua continue to focus on her inherited emphasis of the sorry state of public education in The United States. What else is new?

As with most of the ringing endorsements of Amy Chua, those from J.G. are clearly from a mind not wholly engaged. He has written ” it's hard to argue that the average American child needs less discipline, less direction or less respect for others. In his tangled syntax I’m quite sure he means – at least I’m hoping he means – it's hard to argue that the average American child does not need more discipline, more direction or more respect for others.

J.G. has written further, “p.s. It seems ironic that an Asian-American female who went to Williams (fulfilling a fantasy of Chinese parents everywhere) . . . “ Again, but this time TWO thoughts from nowhere! What has Williams College to do with Amy Chua (Harvard, A.B. ’84)? And since when has Williams even been on the “fantasy” palate “of Chinese parents everywhere?”

Professor Chua usually receives the quality of defense she deserves.
____________________________

André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy)
Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University)
Formerly Bass Trombonist
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

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Read through both articles ... (Below threshold)

January 5, 2013 9:39 AM | Posted by Samantha: | Reply

Read through both articles and both were interesting. Still, I understand where Amy Chua is coming from and I agree with what she is doing. I'm in therapy right now and many of the skills that she is teaching her children are the things that I'm learning. Very simple things like having a work ethic which means that how 'smart' you are isn't a factor of success but how hard you work and how much effort and time you put into a skill. Regardless of how you look at it, we don't live in a bubble. I'm sure an employer will choose a Harvard educated student over XYZ University regardless of whether the information taught at the schools is similar. The author is a psychiatrist in the top 5% of his field. I would like how he mentions that he was waitlisted with bad grades. I would really like to read his story. How did he go from obtaining very poor grades in high school to getting in the top 5% of his field? He had to change his work ethic. Also, there is nothing wrong with being highly skilled. I'm sure the author knows that as a highly skilled professional, he is accepted by his peers, makes a good amount of money and as a result has a comfortable life. that's the way the world works. I grew up low SES, and made my way through college. It wasn't easy especially since I was a minority. I lacked confidence because I didn't feel skilled. Learning how to play the violin or piano teaches children the value of the discipline and the pleasure of accomplishment. Should she sell her story as a Chinese mother? Why not, if she were to say that she is an affluent American people wouldn't buy the story, they would be appalled by it. I don't agree with the name calling in the home but I agree with her methods. Parents have to be the bad guys sometimes. They are not their children's friends. I admire the fact that she took the time to sit with her children and help with homework or go for tutoring instead of resisting help. Some parents would rather come home and go right to sleep rather than endure the pain of sitting and helping their struggling child through homework that the parent can easily do for them. The purpose of her story is to remind us of how the world works and how to play the game. I'm second generation and my parents throughout my college career reminded me that I'm doing this for my children to have a better life. She is doing what she has to do to make sure that this happens whether she is a lawyer or owner of a dry cleaners.

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What fantastically empty an... (Below threshold)

July 4, 2013 11:33 PM | Posted by Falcon: | Reply

What fantastically empty and characterless people Amy Chau has brought into this world. Bravo, bravo, and may we all follow her footsteps.

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"I'm not saying Chua isn't ... (Below threshold)

July 5, 2013 12:09 AM | Posted by Organic Yogi On EBT Card: | Reply

"I'm not saying Chua isn't right in her techniques. I am saying that what Chua is advocating is ultimately pointless because it is for a meaningless endeavor. The piano isn't for itself, it's for the "right" college, and for 99% of America the precise college you went to is as irrelevant as the beer you used to lose your virginity. Was it Bud Light or Stella Artois? "

Yeah but that's just it Doc. Chua wasn't children who would lose their virginity while drunk. She was raising cultured kids. She was "culturating" them. Why? Because she has a cultured background (Asian).

"Americans" do not have any culture. So your typical American will probably lose their virginity while drunk.

Reporter to Gandhi: What do you think about Western Civilization?

Gandhi: I think it would be a good idea.

(Quite frankly I can't wait til the East and South Asians out number the rest of us here. I grew up STARVING for culture and had to fly to the other side of the world to get it. I'd love for the cultured to finally civilize us.)

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There is something to be sa... (Below threshold)

July 5, 2013 12:35 PM | Posted, in reply to Jessica Kinnevan's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

There is something to be said for pushing academics and pushing for high achievement. I'd be the first to say a singluar focus on achievement isn't going to make for happy healthy adults, but I think it is possible to go too far the other way, which is unfortunately where most American Kitten Mothers end up pushing their kids.

What I mean is that in most American homes, not only is High Achievement not expected, almost no achievement is expected. If the kid is "passing" that's good enough. He can spend most of his free time on Xbox and goofing off and watching TV. At the same time, the same kids get everything they want for nothing. Not even "save your allowance until you can afford the latest Beyonce CD -- they beg, they get. All of this ends up giving kids a distorted view of the outside world, while simultaneously making sure that they don't even have the skills to get the skills. I've seen kids who literally cannot figure out what to do without a boss or a teacher standing over them and telling them what to do. They don't see a problem with being at the back of the pack -- there's no drive to be excellent at anything. And beyond all of that, they have no concept of delayed gratification, which is one of the major determining factors of future success. A kid who'd rather play Call of Duty than study for a major test that will determine his future grade is a kid who will not be successful, or at least never reach that high level of success.

While it's true that money and success don't necessarily translate to future happiness, they help quite a bit. Self-discipline is also quite helpful in finding happiness because if you decide you want to go into an arts field, you're going to struggle for years before people are beating down your door. If you like to make things, that takes attention to detail, perserverence and commitment to excellence. In other words, a kid who isn't ever taught how to be good at something never learns to be good at anything and therefore can never experience success. And a person who fails at everything he tries because he doesn't know to get good will be miserable, and probably poorer than he needs to be.

You do need a balance between "practice for the ivy league 24-7" and "eh, whatever, let him play COD. He's only a kid once, and I don't want him to resent me for making him do homework."

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Anonymous, the thing is thi... (Below threshold)

July 5, 2013 5:42 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Anonymous, the thing is this - American parents are more concerned that their children become "popular" and have a "social life" and are acting on the "teen dating scene" than they are concerned that their children learn discipline, focus, academic excellence.

Like Doc said above, "for 99% of America the precise college you went to is as irrelevant as the beer you used to lose your virginity. Was it Bud Light or Stella Artois?"

That's American "culture" for you. Classy, ain't it?

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