First of all, Amy Chua is a professor at Yale Law School and author of a number of books. Her daughters are already accomplished musicians. By all accounts, her family epitomizes an American dream come true.
Her article, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” in the WSJ has already elicited 2700+ comments, probably a new record for the paper. Let’s just say, there are many more upset American moms today than there were just two days ago. Here, a Boston Herald mom writes:
Chua’s premise: “Western” moms — her euphemism — are permissive and raising a nation of losers. Chinese-American mothers are strict and produce intellectual rock stars.
Most of the reactions in the U.S. have been against Chua’s views. She obviously timed the article in light of the recent PISA report ranking Shanghai top in the world to publicize her new book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” which, by the way, was released today. It appears the article as a caricature probably doesn’t fully represent the book, according to this review at the San Francisco Chronicle.
There are numerous counters to Chua’s methods as a parent. Here is one from Chinese American writer, Cynthia Liu (with a PhD in literature and creative writing from U.C. Berkeley), “Amy Chua’s Book on ‘Model Minority’ Parenting, a Tempest in a Green-Tea Pot?” (Actually, she has links to quite a few thought-provoking facts. For example, Chinese Americans with similar qualifications and work experience make substantially less than their White counter-parts.)
Some of the counters are rather extreme. I suppose this author is not used to Chua’s tone or something; “Amy Chua, America’s new breed of racist.” This author writes, “After reading this piece by super mama grizzly Amy Chua, I wasn’t sure if I should congratulate her for raising two accomplished daughters or help the poor girls escape through a bedroom window.”
Going back to the WSJ article comments, it is clear there is a divide between proponents of Chua’s methods and the detractors. Many agree with her on the importance of high expectations. Most Chinese Americans think Chua’s methods are too extreme and not representative of the average “Chinese mom.”
I guess I can personally attest to that. I grew up with a fair mixture of video games, organized sports, and math (yes, on the weekends too). I only wished I got into reading more when I was younger. On the whole, I think I agree with Chua more than I disagree. Our world is becoming more specialized. “Well rounded” is an important attribute, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with being successful and “geeky.” I am not sure how much room there is for “success” to be had for simply being “well-rounded” in the future.
There are many claiming that Asian suicide rate is high in America. Chua’s methods cause suicides, the argument goes. But, according to the National Institute of Health, American Indian, Alaska Natives, and Non-Hispanic Whites are actually much higher:
American Indian and Alaska Natives — 14.3 per 100,000
Non-Hispanic Whites — 13.5 per 100,000
Hispanics — 6.0 per 100,000
Non-Hispanic Blacks — 5.1 per 100,000
Asian and Pacific Islanders — 6.2 per 100,000
My favorite take on Chua’s article comes from novelist, journalist, and China expert, Dori Jones Yang.
I think Amy Chua is brilliant!
She’s the Yale Law School professor who wrote a book, excerpted in the Wall Street Journal weekend edition, about the superiority of Chinese parenting. Among her alleged rules: mandatory violin and piano lessons, no sleepovers, no playdates, no computer games, no grade less than an A. She claims to have called her daughter “garbage” when the child was extremely disrespectful, a comment which she implies was a good motivator.
I don’t know Amy Chua, but I am almost certain she is exaggerating. She’s pulling our leg about stereotypes about Chinese parenting, and the fact that her two daughters posed with her, playing the violin and piano, says to me that they too have a sense of humor.
Look at the grins on their faces! If Chua had written a careful, nuanced analysis of Chinese and American parenting styles, she wouldn’t have received half the publicity. I hope she sells lots of books!
As the wife of a Chinese American and the parent of a now-grown child, I have some experience with this style of parenting. Sometimes it goes badly awry, and the child rebels, majoring in — gasp! — art. (Every Chinese American parent’s nightmare.) Sometimes it results in a lifelong drive to succeed in a highly challenging field. And sometimes the child takes advantage of the opportunities of a great education and then goes on to pursue personal dreams.
I too think Chua is exaggerating. After researching into this article more, I can understand most of the reactions in the U.S. have been negative or extremely negative. Those exaggerated “draconian” views about Chinese moms have resonated with many Americans about China herself, as is often portrayed in the American media. My mom and my Chinese friends mothers are no way like what Chua described. Chua is likely not that either, especially on Yang’s or the San Francisco Chronicle reviewer’s accounts.
For my American friends, I simply encourage them to visit China to see what the other “Chinese mom” is like there; she is absolutely not “draconian” either.