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.