Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014

Umbrella Revolution Wall 2014
Admiralty, Umbrella Revolution 2014

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Responses to Amy Chua's book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Some interesting responses to the book by Amy Chua--haven't read it, so will comment only on excerpts, but some of her responses and parenting seem...well, how should I best put it?

Rather immature.

I'm not sure if throwing back artwork at your kid because you think it is below par, or not allowing them to pee until they mastered some aspect of piano is particularly reasonable or a mature reaction to a child's behavior or performance. We get frustrated parenting, but there might be more reasonable ways of behaving that would better serve everyone.

Grow up, Amy, is all I say. People can rant, but in essence, to me she sounds impatient, and immature.

I'm sure her kids will and are ballbusting and successful. So it depends what you want from your kids and how you see the world. Is your priority to make them economically successful and have them achieve social status? Then her methods might not be so bad.

Will it yield children who are good spouses, community oriented, or who might meander down another more unique path in life? Nah. Not necessarily. Depends. Maybe if they meet other ballbusting types who tow the social line of good behavior. Yeah, then it can work out. But let's be frank--Margaret Mead is not born of this stuff, neither actually is someone like Baryshinkov, or hey, let's name him--Einstein. (That said, how many children actually become those types of figures? Not many...) Actually, what is yielded from Chua's method, I hate to say it, but let's be frank--is a kind of bourgeois mediocrity within a certain socioeconomic group. Good schools. Good extracurrics, the right holidays and camps, the right understanding of good wine and an opera. But this does not necessarily yield the kid that stands up for the weaker ones, the person who stands by the environment, votes for his community, and has the guts to do the right thing, simply to do the right thing.

I witnessed this as a teacher at a top prep school. The kids who are often all around types and succeed at it all--are not necessarily the ones with the pearls of truth or difference in them. Those kids, they have their ways of viewing life, nurturing their souls and difference, and perhaps, strangely enough, have the guts to actually bomb and FAIL at something in life, in order to put their energies elsewhere where they can succeed, or simply do something or experiment in another way. You cannot drill compassion or sensitivity or nuance. It comes with patience and time and an understanding of forgiveness, mistakes, and weaknesses. And as for originality--yes, you have to master something to ultimately become a master at an original art or in a field, but you have to have the courage to realize your weakness in other areas to flower in another direction.

I think that kids can be held to a standard of accountability, and I do think that a lot of academic achievement is down to sheer willpower and/or guidance, and yes, it's true, a certain amount of genetics. Sheer persistence and practice can go far and there is nothing wrong with encouraging that or fostering it. As an extreme you might say, is it better to practice piano for two hours, or to watch TV for two hours. That seems like a no-brainer to me, but everyone's different. I can't stand TV. I'd rather have the 2 hour practice...but two hours of piano is a lot to me, actually, I was of the 20 minute or 30 minute shot at violin practice myself, but then, I never played Carnegie Hall and my vibrato sucked. And oh, I have perfect pitch, so probably I wasted my talent, but uhm...I'm yeah, I'd try to maybe compromise--how's about 1 hour? And uhm..No TV.

People have a wide range of priorities, that's all I can say...and yeah, I'm probably the antithesis of Tiger Mother.

Lamb Mother?
Possom Mother?
Javelina Mother?

Hmmmm...can't think of an animal, really. This all seems so silly...

I'm a No TV, No Candy, No Sleep Train, breastfed for 2.5 years, My-Child-Has-Never-Eaten-McDonald's, send-my-kid-to-Cantonese school, play-Mozart and let-him-wear-pink-and-have-long-hair kind of mother, and not sure what that qualifies as, but am not concerned...

What do I really want? I want him to become a tolerant, compassionate, and curious individual who thinks and behaves generously and independently...and with a good sense of humor.

That's about it...Carnegie Hall? I don't think it'll happen. Ivy League school? Who knows. Wall Street lawyer? God, what a nightmare. I hope yeah, I just hope my kid doesn't turn out like Amy Chua...

and also this from the NY Times

Amy Chua Is a Wimp

Sometime early last week, a large slice of educated America decided that Amy Chua is a menace to society. Chua, as you probably know, is the Yale professor who has written a bracing critique of what she considers the weak, cuddling American parenting style.

Chua didn’t let her own girls go out on play dates or sleepovers. She didn’t let them watch TV or play video games or take part in garbage activities like crafts. Once, one of her daughters came in second to a Korean kid in a math competition, so Chua made the girl do 2,000 math problems a night until she regained her supremacy. Once, her daughters gave her birthday cards of insufficient quality. Chua rejected them and demanded new cards. Once, she threatened to burn all of one of her daughter’s stuffed animals unless she played a piece of music perfectly.

As a result, Chua’s daughters get straight As and have won a series of musical competitions.

In her book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” Chua delivers a broadside against American parenting even as she mocks herself for her own extreme “Chinese” style. She says American parents lack authority and produce entitled children who aren’t forced to live up to their abilities.

The furious denunciations began flooding my in-box a week ago. Chua plays into America’s fear of national decline. Here’s a Chinese parent working really hard (and, by the way, there are a billion more of her) and her kids are going to crush ours. Furthermore (and this Chua doesn’t appreciate), she is not really rebelling against American-style parenting; she is the logical extension of the prevailing elite practices. She does everything over-pressuring upper-middle-class parents are doing. She’s just hard core.

Her critics echoed the familiar themes. Her kids can’t possibly be happy or truly creative. They’ll grow up skilled and compliant but without the audacity to be great. She’s destroying their love for music. There’s a reason Asian-American women between the ages of 15 and 24 have such high suicide rates.

I have the opposite problem with Chua. I believe she’s coddling her children. She’s protecting them from the most intellectually demanding activities because she doesn’t understand what’s cognitively difficult and what isn’t.

Practicing a piece of music for four hours requires focused attention, but it is nowhere near as cognitively demanding as a sleepover with 14-year-old girls. Managing status rivalries, negotiating group dynamics, understanding social norms, navigating the distinction between self and group — these and other social tests impose cognitive demands that blow away any intense tutoring session or a class at Yale.

Yet mastering these arduous skills is at the very essence of achievement. Most people work in groups. We do this because groups are much more efficient at solving problems than individuals (swimmers are often motivated to have their best times as part of relay teams, not in individual events). Moreover, the performance of a group does not correlate well with the average I.Q. of the group or even with the I.Q.’s of the smartest members.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon have found that groups have a high collective intelligence when members of a group are good at reading each others’ emotions — when they take turns speaking, when the inputs from each member are managed fluidly, when they detect each others’ inclinations and strengths.

Participating in a well-functioning group is really hard. It requires the ability to trust people outside your kinship circle, read intonations and moods, understand how the psychological pieces each person brings to the room can and cannot fit together.

This skill set is not taught formally, but it is imparted through arduous experiences. These are exactly the kinds of difficult experiences Chua shelters her children from by making them rush home to hit the homework table.

Chua would do better to see the classroom as a cognitive break from the truly arduous tests of childhood. Where do they learn how to manage people? Where do they learn to construct and manipulate metaphors? Where do they learn to perceive details of a scene the way a hunter reads a landscape? Where do they learn how to detect their own shortcomings? Where do they learn how to put themselves in others’ minds and anticipate others’ reactions?

These and a million other skills are imparted by the informal maturity process and are not developed if formal learning monopolizes a child’s time.

So I’m not against the way Chua pushes her daughters. And I loved her book as a courageous and thought-provoking read. It’s also more supple than her critics let on. I just wish she wasn’t so soft and indulgent. I wish she recognized that in some important ways the school cafeteria is more intellectually demanding than the library. And I hope her daughters grow up to write their own books, and maybe learn the skills to better anticipate how theirs will be received.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Where is Keohi?

Lucifer has entered...Terrible Threes in full swing...

Monday, January 3, 2011

January 2011 Happy New Year!

Seize the day, that's about all I can say, after hearing about various illnesses, recent deaths--and there have been quite a few...

And then too, there is this: live simply.