Sunday, January 23, 2011

All this Tiger Momma hubbub

Evidence that I do not actually live in a cultural bubble is that I know about this Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother hubbub.  I haven't read the book yet, although I'd like to.  I've read the Time article about the book, as well as various things from the AP.  She and her publisher should be delighted with all the stink going down.  Even from here I can hear angels printing money.

So what do I make of it all, being ignorant and all of what the book really says?

Well, first, I know I am only about 10% Tiger Mother.  If push comes to shove, my kids know who the boss is and just how miserable I can make their lives if they opt to take it that far.  I can even envision the day when I remove everything from N's room just to remind her that she has nothing without me.....until she has a decent job and makes her own money.  (I might do this with the boys, too, but somehow I expect most of my battles to happen with my girl.)

I have been known to turn into a little hellcat when N has been disrespectful, and I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing.  It has shown her that I'm not a doormat to be walked on.  That I'm not gonna take shit off her just because she is my kid.  That I won't tolerate her showing her ass.  (I only mention N because G has yet to show that particular brand of "sassiness" that his sister was terribly great at beginning at age 3.)
At this point, I haven't had to wage war over grades, and I don't know how much I actually will.  As a former teacher in the public schools, I saw just how absolutely worthless grades were.  I taught sixth graders who couldn't read and got Ds and moved along to 7th grade, and I still am surprised that 1.) they even got to middle school and 2.) their parents never picked up on the fact that their kid couldn't read a lick.  Of course, I assume here that the parents could read beyond a 4th grade level.  I taught students who were smarter than me and got As, but that grade didn't even remotely capture just how talented they were.

Both D and I have master's degrees---mine in education; his in computer engineering, and I hope my kids will follow suit, perhaps even pursuing a Ph.D or an M.D.  But if they are, for whatever reason, not college-track, I want them to go as far as they can and get as much education as they can in whatever field they choose.  As a parent, I want my kids to do what they enjoy and have talent in, but to the best of their ability and to the highest degree their hard work will allow them to go.  A blend of both Western and "Chinese" goals, perhaps?

Moderation in all things, and this goes for parenting.

What intrigues me the most about her book is the discussion it has begun about how each culture values education, or devalues it, as I'm afraid the US does.  We talk a good game, and that it all.  And I think what we think of education has a lot to do with how we parent our kids.  When I was a kid, my parents valued and trusted the authority of my teachers, and I don't think a vast majority of parents do this today. We want to blame teachers (or principals or school systems) for what they don't do, rather than looking at what we as parents are doing or not doing.

I remember being in a conference with a mother who's daughter was new to the school mid-year and within days of entering my class had begun showing disrespect.  The mother wanted to lambast me because I wasn't understanding their culture or her daughter.  Within a few short months of that conference, the girl was in numerous fights, gotten suspended and had failing grades.  A colleague of mine said something along the lines of, "You pegged that kid early on."  And while I totally recognize that poverty and lack of parental education play a roll in a child's education, that mother didn't call her own child to accountability.  And that is, in my opinion, a huge problem with our US educational system.  Parents and students not holding themselves accountable but laying all the effort, blame and responsibility on the feet of underpaid teachers and administrators.  Having been in the trenches, I know what an impossible job it is to do.


Mrs. Haid said...

I agree with most of what you said about our US education system and have had similar parent conferences. The district in which I last taught was a strange blend of rural and suburban. It was clear that the philosophy of the town was one word: CODDLE. Those kids were so inept and so disrespectful. I think that experience has made me more of a Tiger Mom as a result. I currently teach in an ESL program for Korean parents (and sometimes I tutor their kids). I see full-on tiger parents there. I am learning from them as to what other culture's expectations are of kids. My parents did not require us to check out X books at the library per week, but we did, somehow. My parents also didn't hover like these parents hover. I think I'll be closer to the 60% Tiger Mom, whereas my own mom was right around at 10%. I can't help but think if she pushed harder, I might still play piano or perhaps have been valedictorian instead of runner up.

Kelsey said...

I think a lot of the media dust-up about this book has been unbalanced, making the woman's views a little more extreme than they ended up being in the end - that is what I took away from an extended NPR interview with her.

I think you're right, that we need a little of both. I'm with you in that I think there is too much blame and not enough accountability within individual families. I am definitely part Tiger Mother - at least when it comes to my children being respectful and I think I have a healthy fear of their lives being taken over by screens. I'm not as extreme as the book portrayal, but I get the impression that I am more strict than most.

I'm kind of interested to see how long the hub-bub over this book lasts.