Given that I have been tracking the culture wars I have occasionally discussed the front opened by the now-famous Tiger Mom, Yale professor Amy Chua.
In her book The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Chua explained how she had brought up her daughters. Her methods were traditional Confucian. They emphasized the importance of hard work, perseverance and self-discipline. They devalued fun, games, sleepovers and school plays in the interest of piano lessons and homework.
American parents were appalled. They had been told, by the great minds of developmental psychology, that children should be well-rounded. If children do not learn how to have a lot of fun will be stunted and neurotic, to say nothing of depressed and anxious. More than that, they will lack creativity and initiative. Evidently, developmental psychology was helping produce a nation of underachieving dilettantes.
By these standards, the Tiger Mom was obviously abusive. She was roundly denounced for so being in the press.
At a time when American students and even American millennials are seriously lagging their Asian counterparts by most measures of academic and intellectual achievement, you would have thought that American parents would have been seeking out new ideas. They were not.
As for Chua’s daughters, one is attending Harvard and the other just graduated. Chua’s oldest daughter, Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld did not just graduate. She complete ROTC and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U. S. Army. She seems first to be attending law school and has just started a tutoring business.
You can see why American parents believe that Tiger Moms are abusive.
As should have been expected, some parents, in America and Great Britain have seen the future and want to prepare their children for it. They know that their children will be competing against Asian peers who have a strong work ethic; thus, they want to instill the same in their children.
One should not be surprised that these parents are often the wealthiest and most able to provide their children with privileges. But, they reject the notion that their children should live off of their trust funds. They insist that their children be smart and capable, willing and able to compete in the world that is coming into being.
Preparing children to compete in a free market is not the same as preparing them to have fun. It is not the same as preparing them to live in a socialist paradise where their needs are taken care of by the government and they are free to enjoy a decadent leisure.
Thus, when a British leftist like George Monbiot, a radical environmentalist who seems to want us all to return to the state of nature, looks at parents who are like Tiger Moms, he is positively horrified at what he sees.
Writing in the Guardian, Monbiot happily offers a caricature of Tiger parents:
… parents who had already decided that their six-month-old son would go to Cambridge then Deutsche Bank, or whose two-year-old daughter “had a tutor for two afternoons a week (to keep on top of maths and literacy) as well as weekly phonics and reading classes, drama, piano, beginner French and swimming. They were considering adding Mandarin and Spanish. ‘The little girl was so exhausted and on edge she was terrified of opening her mouth.’”
In New York, playdate coaches charging $450 an hour train small children in the social skills that might help secure their admission to the most prestigious private schools. They are taught to hide traits that could suggest they’re on the autistic spectrum, which might reduce their chances of selection.
According to Monbiot, it is better to choose mediocrity over achievement. If you don’t you will be sacrificing their mental health. One must note that our school system has chosen to indoctrinate children in political correctness, while providing doses of empty praise because the regimen was supposed to improve their mental health.
Monbiot makes the case against achievement:
From infancy to employment, this is a life-denying, love-denying mindset, informed not by joy or contentment, but by an ambition that is both desperate and pointless, for it cannot compensate for what it displaces: childhood, family life, the joys of summer, meaningful and productive work, a sense of arrival, living in the moment. For the sake of this toxic culture, the economy is repurposed, the social contract is rewritten, the elite is released from tax, regulation and the other restraints imposed by democracy.
In the cause of self-advancement, we are urged to sacrifice our leisure, our pleasures and our time with partners and children, to climb over the bodies of our rivals and to set ourselves against the common interests of humankind. And then? We discover that we have achieved no greater satisfaction than that with which we began.
Obviously, this is a caricature and a calumny. Monbiot wants England to become a third world backwater, where people live off the land and revel in the beauty of nature. He insists that when a child works hard at school he is sacrificing his family life and the joys of summer. Because, don’t you know, the worst thing you can have is ambition. God help us if you want to excel and are willing to compete to do so.
Unfortunately, Monbiot has written a paean to bad parenting.
By all indications, the Anglo-Saxon world is not exactly chock-a-block with Tiger Moms. The type of rigorous training that Monbiot decries is limited to a precious few children. Call them the children of the 1%.
Thus, when Monbiot offers statistics proving the Tiger Mom parenting—my term, not his—is producing an epidemic of mental illness, he is playing fast and loose with the numbers. You cannot take a regimen that is being tried out on a privileged few and refute it by using statistics that reflect the entirely of the population, including, in large measure, children who have been taught that competition is bad but that empty praise is good.