Sunday, January 30, 2011
Having a Problem with the "Tiger Mother" Debate
Yale University professor Amy Chua stirred up a lot of controversy in the last month with her January 8 article in the Wall Street Journal under the headline "Chinese Mothers Are Superior," an excerpt of her new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.
Chua berates American mothers for a lackadaisical attitude toward their children's levels of achievement, in contrast to Chinese mothers, who harshly (by American standards) harangue their children into meeting standards of perfection in academics and musical performance. Because of the time and energy that the Chinese tiger mother invests in keeping her child marching to the dictates of competition and achievement, Chinese children are getting into the best colleges and universities and far outstripping their American competitors in the field of classical music. Western mothers, wimps that they are, want their children to have fun and they reap the reward: children who cannot compete with Chinese children. I suppose a subtext is that the United States will soon be eclipsed by the expansive People's Republic of China.
Since the article appeared, there have been answers forthcoming from various quarters praising American ways as superior in fostering creativity, among other arguments.
I'd like to address the underlying assumption of the debate that I have read in the secular press: the major goal of child rearing is the high achievement of the child in society and the world.
To me raising a child involves a sacred trust to raise children who become good people. The questions that nag me are not Will my child win the next piano competition? Will my child get an 800 on the SAT? Will my child get into an Ivy League college? or even Will my child be happy?
What worries me is Will my child be a force for good in the world? Will my child have the courage to stand up for the truth under pressure? Will my child have charity and serve and give to others less fortunate? Will my child raise children who are good? Will my child be willing to sacrifice for others? Will my child keep their faith? Will my child be a beacon of hope to those in despair? Will my child have the character--an old-fashioned word--to do what is right under pressure? Will my child have the courage to stand up to evil? Will my child always love God?
These are the questions we never stop worrying about not only for our children, but for ourselves.
I assume that if my child knows and fights for the goodness within them, they will know that they are required to do their best in whatever vocation they choose, since they will understand that one's life is a precious gift not to be wasted--another problem that is posed constantly throughout one's life.