[Chua] Tiger Moms

This is a response to Amy Chua’s article “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” in the Wall Street Journal. Posts on this topic are tagged as [Chua].

I came across this article two weeks ago late at night (via Vienna Teng’s Twitter feed, actually), and it gave me two emotions: horror and fear. Horror, that people are raised this way when they don’t need to be, and fear, that Chua is not far from right on several points.

This is going to be a long, meandering response, almost guaranteed to spark controversy. At least eight of my friends posted the article as well and two wrote their own personal responses. Because of that, I’m going to try to break this up into different pieces, which I’ll post one at a time. (If you have a point that’s more relevant to a later part, please save it until I post that part!)

  1. “Superior” in which I argue semantics but not the deeper point of the article.
  2. “Not Being the No. 1 Student” in which I discuss grades and graded evaluations.
  3. “Garbage” in which I discuss language and self-esteem.
  4. “Villager Number 6” in which I advocate extracurriculars.
  5. “Nothing is fun until you’re good at it” in which I confront my fears.

I may not actually get through all of these, given my busy schedule, but I’m going to try. This is really an article that has been passed around a LOT among my friends, because many of us either grew up in this sort of environment or know someone who did. (Thankfully I’m in the latter category.)

By the way, none of these are about the term “Chinese mothers”. Chua is using a stereotype (one that is based in fact), but she does make an aside that this sort of “Tiger Mom” (not my term) is found in many ethnicities, and also that not all Chinese or Chinese-American mothers are necessarily like this. (And let’s not even bring in Taiwan vs. China, or “tiger fathers”.) So no comments about ethnicity, nationality, gender, or even the origin of this parenting style…while all of these may be relevant to some degree, it’s not what I’m interested in, and I selfishly want to keep any discussion to one I can participate in. Independent of all that, what’s up with this method of parenting?

(It’s worth noting that Chua posted a response a week later that tempered somewhat the shocking nature of the original headline and article. But one of my friends went to her talk at Berkeley and seemed to get the same sort of horrified feeling as I did.)

I’m a little worried that some people are going to think I’m not taking this seriously enough, since I haven’t experienced it firsthand. Please don’t; wait for me to get through all five pieces, and I’ll try to remember to get angry. Like I said, horror. I just tend to analyze things very logically at first, so this whole thing is sort of an introspective attempt at finding out why I am so horrified.