Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Amy Chua – A Lesson in…

So it is well known that if you want to sell a book, get attention for a blog or an article, then you do or say something controversial. Some do this intentionally, others by mistake (we often call the latter – politicians). Hey, I even blogged about one yesterday.

Now Amy Chua is a Yale law professor, having studied at an impressive number of other Ivy League schools. We can assume she is smart. She is also from the Bay Area, so there is no problem with her credibility.

We can also assume that when she published her book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” which essentially states that Chinese mothers are better than American mothers, then she knew that she just might strike a cord with a large and rather proud section of the population. In case you think I jest, read this – the title is “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.” Need I say more?

Now given that 70% of those who buy books are women and many of those possibly mothers, you can’t help but be impressed that her book sits atop most bestselling lists.

I haven’t read the book, but I hope it is as entertaining as the arguments and accusations that are flying around the Internet and even in those more serious newspapers.

I suspect there is a lot more behind how and why Chinese mothers (and fathers) bring up their children that is a reflection of their society. A friend of mine is US born and married to a Chinese woman. They have raised a daughter who, from what he tells me, is an example of achievement and excellence. You can read his responses at his blog: I Look China.

Without making any claim to having knowledge on the subject, I suspect we are a product of our society and our religion. My parents molded me with a hybrid of English/Jewish. I therefore eat chips – that’s freedom fries here -with a fork and am losing a battle to get my boys not to use their fingers. However, since I was also raised by Jewish parents, at least I still have the guilt up my sleeve.

Actually, I believe Amy Chua is married to a Jewish man, so her kids have challenges of their own. Two parents who are Ivy League professors and lawyers to boot, one Jewish, the other Chinese American – well I ain’t rooting for the Chinese or American moms.

I’m rooting for the kids. ——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

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10 thoughts on “Amy Chua – A Lesson in…

  1. To be the master of oneself and one’s passions, to understand the rightness of one’s moral law and to obey it out of a sense of inward affinity to what’s good and natural; to practice virtue as its own reward, freely; to view one’s sense of duty serenely and make it one with one’s will and desires; and to stand firm in the face of hardship or even annihilation, without bending to coercion from tyrants or losing oneself in any frenzied mob — this is the ideal of discipline that cuts against the grain of the Chinese method, which, despite the good intentions of many of its practitioners, must be recognized for what it is: i.e., the relic of an authoritarian and collectivistic, however stable, culture and a tool for the perpetuation of the same. The mettle to confront mortal danger, eagerly if principle requires it and always with composure, does not come from yielding in childhood to threats of starvation, corporeal punishment, sequestration of property, and the like. On the contrary, someone who values freedom and deserves it tries to teach himself and his child to be indifferent to such debasing stimuli; whereas a child raised to respond to them — and their lowest common denominator is always brute force — grows up to be a cowardly, obedient serf of his parents, elders, and dictators. The only form of discipline he learns is that of endurance, which is also the main virtue he is expected to practice throughout his life as the subject of an absolute external authority that can’t be argued or reasoned with. But said serf might learn to play “The Little White Donkey” at the age of seven, and that’s worth something, right?

  2. I’m rooting for the “future” of the children so they end up in jobs that will support them and their future families and that takes a good education any way you cut it. Can’t get that watching several hours of TV a day and several more hours playing video games or social networking on the Internet.

    After all, eventually all children grow up and must work unless they plan to become homeless.

    • So how do you respond to the high suicide report of young Chinese women?
      With respect,

      • The suicide rate is high throughout all of Asia–not just China.

        Yet, drug use and teen pregnancy rates are lower.

        The suicide rate in Asia is part of the culture and I doubt if Tiger Mother’s are responsible.

        Asians set the bar far higher than most Westerners and when that high goal is not achieved, some take their lives.

        It’s complicated and has to do with the Asian/Chinese concept of “face”.

        I have a story to tell about that but I’ll do that over at iLook China.

        In Asian culture, failure is not acceptable. In the West, failure is okay so more fail and many do not work as hard to succeed, which explains why US students compare so badly with students in countries like China and Singapore.

        What is more important, survival of the culture/nation for centuries or a child urged to follow his or her dreams and have fun?

        Don’t forget that China has the longest, continuous civilization on the earth. I suspect Tiger Mothers and the Asian work ethic have something to do with that.

        How old is the oldest Western civilization today? China’s is more than three thousand years old. The US is a bit over 200 years and the self-esteem method of parenting has only been around about five decades.

        To an Asian, if the parent works three jobs as a janitor, a sewer worker, and someone that digs ditches, he or she will feel that they are a success when the child finishes college and has a better job and doesn’t have to work as hard as the parent did.

        Success to many Asians that were not successful in life, is to have successful children and the parents wear that badge of honor proudly and make sure the world knows what they achieved.

        Most American parents could care less how their children turn out.

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  4. I disagree with KGJ’s comment. Without a strong sense of self-discipline, we end up with anarchy and chaos, street gangs, daily shootings, high rate of crime and violence and this describes America today. That isn’t freedom–living in fear with a one in four chance of being a victim of crime and violence is not freedom. The US Constitution and Bill of Rights was written to protect the citizens of the US from the government not other people who were allowed to grow up as if they were a wild animal.

    Raising kids using Tough Love as Amy Chua does WILL NOT create an obedient drone but a person that has learned to control him or herself. If you believe the Chinese or Asian (because almost all Asian mothers are the same), method of child rearing raised people that will not fight back, you are wrong.

    China has a long history or rebellions—very violent ones—because in China the children are also raised to expect certain things back from the leaders and if the leaders do not live up to their half of the Confucian bargain, the people will rise up and remove the leaders and it has happened to every totalitarian dynasty in China’s history. The Chinese call it the Mandate of Heaven. IF Chinese Communist Party doesn’t deliver a better quality of life to the people, the people will remove them from power through violent rebellion. As long as the Party delivers, the people will allow them to continue to rule over China.

    For an example of why the soft raise yourself my son and daughter method doesn’t work, my mother, for the most part, raised me and my brother using the soft Western approach. The result, I grew up without much discipline. I defied my parents as my older brother did before me and he had no discipline until he died at 64 a broken man, an illiterate, an alcoholic, a three pack a day cigarette smoker, a man that spent fifteen years of his life in jail. If we had had a Tough Love mother that would not have happened.

    However, at 19, I joined the US Marines, which saved my life from turning out like my brothers, and the US Marines did what my mother didn’t—literally pounded the discipline in me, which served me after the Marines to go to college and earn more than one degree and live a life more rewarding than that of my brother.
    The discipline I learned in the Marines has not made me a drone. In fact, what I learned in the Marines taught me to question everything our government does.

    KGY, the results of what you believe to be the correct way of child rearing has resulted in the US having the largest prison population on the planet. No other country comes close. China, with the second largest prison population and five times the number of total population compared to the United States has less than half the number or people in prison.

    The reason for that is simple—tough love, Amy Chua style or even 75% of her style of parenting, instilled discipline in the children.

    When children are born, they are wild animals. They are not civilized. It is up to the parents and society to tame them so they may exist in life without damaging others.

    What Amy Chua’s Wall Street Journal essay and her memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, does for future American parents is give them a choice of the failed pump up the self-esteem soft American approach to raising children or the tough love Asian approach. This is a good thing. Now, the Politically Correct Storm Troops that have bullied Americans for decades to raise his or her children only one way, the self esteem method, have been challenged by a parenting style that survived for more than two thousand years and is the main reason China’s civilization has outlasted every other civilization on the planet.

    I’ve been to China often, I’ve studied China, I know many Chinese, and they are not obedient drones because they were raised by tough mothers.

    • I’m curious of what you make of David Brooks’ article in the NY TImes – Amy Chua is a Wimp” (apart for the title which is what got many like myself to read!

      • I wrote a response to Brooks’ “Wimp” opinion and posted it on my Blog.

        I titled that post:

        “The Real Wimps are Revealed in the Amy Chua, Tiger Mother Debate”

        And Amy Chua was not the “real” wimp.

        If you are curious to read my response to the “real wimp”, here’s the link:


        By the way, Amy Chua’s first book was a New York Times bestseller and it had nothing to do with Tiger Mothers. Her husband is also a best selling author.

        “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” is Chua’s third book. I’m reading it now and am half way through
        Everyone that plans to be a mother should read this book so they have a choice instead of the only parenting model that is promoted in America by Political Correctness, which is the self-esteem infalting soft appraoch to parenting that is the real criminal in this debate.

        It’s too late for me but I can wish that when I was young my parents were even 25% as tough as Chua is. My life may have been a different story then with less anguish and suffering. I may have made better choices in my life.

  5. Pingback: Amy Chua’s Supporters Rally « Left Coast Voices

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