Given the frenzy that has erupted around Amy Chua’s new book: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, it seems only too fitting that one of her children would want to have a say in the matter.
This morning the New York Post published an open letter by Chua’s daughter, Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, that offers some much-needed perspective about Confucian child-rearing practices. Link here.
The proof of the effectiveness of Chua’s method lies in the results, and, if I may say so, her daughter Sophia does not sound like an automaton whose social skills and creativity have been stunted.
It seems that just about everyone has some kind of grievance with Chua. After all, we live in a culture of grievance. If you take the book as an opportunity to use those critical skills you learned in your Ivy League college, you will find much that is wrong in her approach.
You can even become a master at the art of the cheap shot, expressing with glee your discovery that if her daughters could only play the piano or violin, then, Chinese orchestras would not have any bassoon players.
A nation that counts that as a brilliant insight has some serious work to do.
Among those who have been more sensible, Nicholas Kristof explained that the children who do best in international achievement tests invariably come from Confucian cultures, cultures that value Tiger Moms.
And he also adds that many the children who are brought up under this kind of strict discipline do not very much like it. They would prefer to be free to exercise their creative impulses, much as American high school students do.
Again, how much weight should a parent give to the choices of a fourteen year old? And how well are our American high school students being prepared to take their place in the world?
This morning David Brooks was trying to be witty when he explained that Chua would have set even more rigorous standards for her children if she had allowed them to learn how to socialize.
How, pray tell, does Brooks know that they do not know how socialize? Chua’s daughter’s letter does not give me the impression of a young woman who does not have friends, does not know how to play, and does not know how to get along with people.
Keep in mind that the young Americans who have luxuriated in the advanced socializing called “play dates” grow up to become college students who literally do not know how to date. They hookup instead.
Perhaps, Brooks would prefer that children be out exercising their creativity in the world of social media. Yet, as Eric Felton reports this morning, Sherry Turkle’s new book: Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, paints rather a more dispiriting view of the social lives of American teenagers. Link here.
In his words: “Teens may embrace the peculiar sociability that the wireless computer makes possible, Ms. Turkle says, but they do so with unease and ambivalence. To put it in theater terms, they are ‘on‘ all the time, expected to respond immediately to every text, every IM, every scribble on their Facebook walls. There is no escape from the pestering, nudging, hectoring, chattering demands of being connected. Many high-schoolers are more exhausted than exhilarated by their virtual lives. ‘I can't imagine doing this when I get older,’ says one student about the hours he devotes to meeting the demands of his online social life. ‘How long do I have to continue doing this?’"
Before we get more caught up in criticizing Chua, we should think more critically about the social media mania that her daughters seem to have missed.