Resolved: Chinese Mothers are Superior in Rearing Ivy-Destined Children

The media and commenters have been ablaze with commentary on the already infamous “Chinese Mothers are Superior” essay published in the Wall Street Journal this past weekend.

The essay’s author Amy Chua, Harvard grad and a professor at Yale Law School, offers a bleak view of Asian parenting featuring calling her children garbage and denying them sleepovers. Really no sleepovers?! These “Chinese” mothers should note that sleepovers are an effective way to train their children to function properly while being sleep deprived – it really comes in handy in high school and college.

The most startling phrase from the essay is this nugget of information,

Chinese parents believe that they know what is best for their children and therefore override all of their children’s own desires and preferences. That’s why Chinese daughters can’t have boyfriends in high school and why Chinese kids can’t go to sleepaway camp. It’s also why no Chinese kid would ever dare say to their mother, “I got a part in the school play! I’m Villager Number Six. I’ll have to stay after school for rehearsal every day from 3:00 to 7:00, and I’ll also need a ride on weekends.” God help any Chinese kid who tried that one.

After our tipster wrote “future Ivy League parent,” in the header of the email with the web link, IvyGate decided to throw our hat into the analysis of  this essay.

Is this the best parenting model in raising Ivy-destined children?

Chua seems to suggest that her method is the most effective way to prepare children for success.

Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, 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.

To answer this, IvyGate was about to ask our parenting expert, but then remembered that we’re only IvyGate and thus do not have experts on any subject (hey we’re still college students) – we also thought if we created  fake experts like the Daily Show people would get confused.

As a result, we’re going back to our extemp days using snippets from other works, appeals to reason, and satire to explore this question. However unlike extemp, this presentation is bereft of the exaggerated hand motions needed to make our case,  so please just try to imagine them.

We make our case after the jump…

NO, this is not the perfect recipe for preparing your children for Ivy League admissions. Although again we are not experts, the only way to win the admissions crap-shoot is hard work, luck, and being yourself in the interview and essays.

This “Eastern” approach is not the only way to get into the Ivy League, and it may actually present problems to the children later in life.

1. What about passion and personal ambition?

As a Washington Post blog acknowledges,

It’s often difficult to distinguish between the things that people dedicate themselves to because they have a natural enthusiasm for them and the ones they do because they happen to be good at them. Dr. Chua theorizes a virtuous cycle — force your child to do something until he or she becomes good at it, and then allow the delight in mastery to handle the rest. Force your child to be good at math, and he’ll love math. Force your child to be good at music, and he’ll love music.

This is all very well, but it isn’t conducive to sparks. You know what I mean. The spark the moment Bill Gates got his hands on a computer, or James Cameron slipped behind a video camera, or Paul McCartney heard his first strains of Rock ‘n Roll. How much you value the spark may vary. Are hundreds of lawyers and doctors worth one Picasso?

Apparently college admissions counselors care about this spark too.  According to the Ultimate College Acceptance Systembook by Danny Ruderman, admissions counselors might ask themselves this question – “What is he interested in? Is there passion there?”

I don’t think “I was forced to do be perfect at X, Y, and Z” will go over too well with admissions.

2.  Colleges want a representative student body. Yes, even Villager Number Six.

One of the most over-used admissions phrase is that “we are recreating last year’s class.” Another jewel countless college representatives have used is:  “If we wanted to create a student body with perfect SATS or math wizzes, we would. However, that would be boring and we want a diverse student body.”

Yes, colleges also want your Western-raised kids who are slightly more “mediocre” on their math scores, but could fill spaces in their famed drama department or give their sports team a winning season. However, your child might have to endure being called a “dumb jock” for the next four years. 

Once we are admitted – whether we are math whizzes or the creative-type - we all eventually get the same degree in the end and equally make our families proud.

3. Coercion may lead to rebellion and other problems once a child ships off to college.

Gothamist combed through the 1000+ comments on the WSJ web version of the essay and Twitter for their commentary. What it reveals is that many do not regard their childhood fondly:

Sample: “As a Chinese daughter and a mother of two boys, I’ve given this a lot of thought over the years. Unfortunately, when parents consistently put performance over feelings, kids grow up not valuing how they feel. Overtime, this denial of emotions harden into other painful problems. Depression haunts so many of the Chinese families I know. If success at the price of happiness is the goal, then ‘Chinese mothers’ have it right. Otherwise, I’d venture to say it’s woefully shortsighted.” Indeed, one of Chua’s children tells a friend, “I don’t really have time for anything fun, because I’m Chinese.” And a criticism is that the book ends when one child is 15—what about the rest of this kid’s life? Twitter is offering reaction like: “The brouhaha over Amy Chua and her Superior Chinese Mom essay does prove 1 thing: Chinese moms’ gift for overgeneralizing + overreacting” (via) and “Parents like Amy Chua are the reason why Asian-Americans like me are in therapy” (via) and “Hey, thanks for being a borderline pyscho stereotype in order to justify your shitty parenting, Amy Chua” (via).

In the end, a New York Times blog offers the best conclusion on how one should prepare a child for the Ivy League:

1. The latest parenting trend in the United States is potentially Chinese in origin while the latest parenting trend in China is potentially Western.

2. The reason parents on both sides of the globe are searching for new ways is because there really is no one ideal way.

3. If neither path is foolproof, then we should feel free to choose what feels best for us, rather than what is “best.”

Each method has its own benefits and flaws – neither type of mother is superior and Ivy League students are a product of both methods.

Is Chua’s method of parenting similar to how you were raised? Do you think it is effective? Leave your thoughts below in the comments.

  • Reason

    Let me explain why this is horrible parenting advice.

    American society doesn’t value violin or piano playing. When elite colleges select applicants, they value sports-playing and group activities such as being in a school play more highly than solitary activities such as playing the piano, because the group activities are believed to be more indicative of leadership potential. Also, those sleepovers and playdates are extremely important for learning the social skills needed to get ahead in corporate America where schmoozing is more important for getting promoted than creating real value.

    The Chinese parenting style will no doubt produce workers who are good value creators, and their corporate employers will love them, and they will be paid far less money than the value they create, the excess value being transferred to white people who got into better colleges because their curricula vitae had more leadership and sports activities, and with those more prestigious educational credentials they got into higher paying value transference career tracks like investment banking and upper level management, and now enjoy the value created by those Chinese cubicle employees who are doing the real work and the real value creation.

    Americans parents understand that self-esteem is more important than actual results, because if you are convinced that you are great, you will fool most people, and therefore receive more credit for your work and be more likely to be promoted. Self-esteem is important for value transference activities, which are the highest paying activities. Especially for sales; sales requires super-high self-esteem. The low self-esteem Chinese will make great low-paid value-creating engineers and the whites with high self esteem will make more money selling the stuff that the Chinese engineers design.

    This parenting method is also the cause of Asian men being disproportionately unsuccessful with women – they haven’t been trained for social dominance and irrational confidence. Smart Asians pick this up eventually, but Asian men overall are disadvantaged by not being trained to play social dominance games to an American standard. For women, of course, looks matter more than charisma, which is why Asian women are not disadvantaged.

    All that being said, Chinese parenting probably prevents average and below-average IQ Chinese from becoming complete screw ups.

    • BB

      guess I’m not the only Ivy Leaguer to read Half Sigma.

  • Harvard ’14

    Loving the extemp shout-out. I fight a daily struggle to avoid vapid three-point follow-ups in my arguments.

  • West Coast

    The Chinese Mother parenting technique does, however, virtually guarantee your child admittance to UCLA.

    • Brown is safety!

      UCLA? UCLA for losers!
      you go to UCBerkeley!

  • Caveatbettor

    So William Hung is not the sexy archetype everyone was hoping for.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=568116300 Peter Sterne

    Time for Cross-examination, Constance!

    First off, I’d like to congratulate you on a great speech and on making it this far in the tournament. If you don’t mind, though, I have a couple of questions for you.

    While Chua’s approach may not be the best approach to getting into an Ivy League school (or any elite Western school), might it still be the best approach for kids? The Ivy League and most American parents might value that creative “spark” but isn’t it possible that it’s a myth, and kids really do learn to love what they spend the most time with?

    On a related note, I hope you’ll consider judging at the Columbia speech and debate invitational next weekend.

  • Princeton ’14

    Oh extemp… don’t forget the AGD! Perhaps a nice extended metaphor throughout your speech would work?

  • Anonymous

    If you are convinced you’re tall, you fool most people, and therefore receive more credit for their work and be more likely to be promoted. Self-esteem is important for value transfer activities, which are the most lucrative.

    Motorcycle Accessories

  • Anonymous

    Race tracks, such as investment banking and management level, and now enjoy the value created by Chinese workers who make the real cell work and creating real value.

    Canada Pharmacy

  • Jadeluckclub

    Why You Shouldn’t Identify as Asian When Applying to College or Grad School
    http://jadeluckclub.com/why-you-shouldnt-identify-as-asian-when-applying-to-college/

  • Andre M. Smith

    I checked Asian. I had heard it was harder to apply as an Asian, so as a point of pride, I had to say I was Asian. http://jadeluckclub.com/true-picture-asian-americans/

    In almost every list, pride (Latin, superbia), or hubris (Greek), is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins, and the source of the others. It is identified as a desire to be more important or attractive than others, failing to acknowledge the good work of others, and excessive love of self (especially holding self out of proper position toward God). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_deadly_sins#Pride

    1) Tiger Sophia, you may have checked Asian which does have a “tax,” however you also got big bonus points for being a legacy many times over. The upshot is that you had help getting in unlike these Asian Americans below who live at the poverty line and don’t have Ivy League parents with deep pockets.
    2) By checking Asian when, actually, you are of mixed race, you have taken a spot away from those who don’t have the benefit of applying to a less competitive race slot. Thanks to you, someone who[se] life could be completely changed did not get a spot. http://jadeluckclub.com/true-picture-asian-americans/
    For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. Matthew 25:29

    Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, the daughter of a mother of mixed Asian ethnicity of no known religious involvement and a secular — whatever that means — American Jewish father has, ostensibly been raised as a Jewess in an atheistic family positing itself as . . . ? When she applied for admission to Harvard she descended into a pride of Asianness to avail herself of an ethnic quota advantage.

    This duplicitous young woman is, indeed, her mother’s daughter! http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=230907266920263&set=o.134679449938486&type=1&theater__________________________

    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 TrombonistThe Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.