This lady would definitely NOT approve of my version of homeschool these days.  If she saw the boys spending hours making a Chinese warlord forte on Saturday, she would cringe.  Shouldn’t I use that time to have them practice the piano, which we skipped three times last week?  Or how about some reading?  Neither of the boys read for more than an hour last week, in TOTAL.  I am in many ways one of the lazy, indulgent Western parents she describes her Wall Street Journal piece this weekend.

Many of you have probably already seen the article; it’s making it’s way around rapidly. But in case you haven’t, go read it now.  I can’t possibly do it justice.

Are you back?  Great.

I can’t stop thinking about this article.  As I read it through the first time, I kept wondering if it was some kind of joke.  Who writes things like this:

Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn’t get them, the Chinese parent assumes it’s because the child didn’t work hard enough. That’s why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child.

I guess Yale law school professors do.

I could go through her piece line by line and write rebuttals to much of it.  Or I could cite several of my adult friends who were raised by Chinese mothers and who would all say that this parenting style has some significant drawbacks.  I’m sure the internet is full of this kind of critique.

My strongest argument against her logic, though, is that I wonder what the purpose of all of this Chinese parenting is.  Pushing children toward academic and musical greatness for what?  What’s the ultimate good for which she is striving?  By not answering that question, the piece, and by extension the parenting style she advocates, rings a bit hollow.

But I don’t really want to use the post for critique.  The truth is I like the article. Something about her approach speaks to me, even as it describes a parenting style that doesn’t resemble my own.  She seems like a healthy corrective (or at least a corrective) to a lot of crazy parenting that takes place in our culture (and my living room). I like her critique of our parenting culture, even if her response is what you might call intense (if you were trying not to be mean).

The way I see it, Amy Chua might be the only person who would like my post on perfection. Most readers had big reservations about that post.  It was reposted on another website, and one reader responded with:

While your heart might be in the right place, your logic is inherenttly flawed. You seem to think there’s a ‘perfect’ solution or answer for everything, There isn’t. You’re actually encouraging greater rigidity in your child. He’ll never get anything truely creative accomplished because there’s no such thing as a ‘perfect’ essay or artwork. And you’re allowing your discomfort over his own high standards to affect you. Get over yourself, and let him be a kid, who’s still learning about things. Only severe narcissists think perfection is possible.

Sheesh.  That was kind of harsh.  You might even call it shaming. But if Ms. Chua is right, I just might start writing some superior posts any day now.

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  • Wendy

    I think Amy Chua explains her parenting goals in the last sentence of her article, "the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they're capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away." In other words, she is striving to teach her children a disciplined work ethic that can "transfer" to a wide variety of circumstances. Although her teaching methods are far from what would traditionally be considered "constructivism" or "experiential learning," her strategies provide her children "hands-on" experiences of the relation between hard work and success. Her children gain a deep understanding of the benefits of disciplined practice and the rewards of dedication and persistence.

    Although many university professors strive to make things easier for their students, Catherine Snow, a professor at the Harvard Graduates School of Education, thinks that's the wrong approach. Snow's teaching philosophy goes something like this: Teachers work to much. Students work to little. You learn by doing the hard work. To improve student learning and understanding, students need to work more. Chua's parenting style provides ample opportunity for her children to do the hard work and enjoy its educational benefits.

    I can't say that I agree with all of Chua's parenting practices, but, in many ways, I could have benefitted by experiencing a more rigorous and disciplined work environment in childhood.

  • Courtney

    I thought the piece was a joke at first too — it's such an extreme version of Chinese mothering and I doubt that many would be capable of doing that. Now I'm just confused about what to think… But it's definitely interesting, to say the least!