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01/19/2011

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thwalker

I kind of wish I had had that kind of upbringing. Deep down I often feel like a failure versus what I'm capable of doing. No job, degree, award, or piece of creative output seems to make a difference. But at the very least I have some compassion for my own humanity, and I realize that no one seems to think I'm a failure but the person sitting in my chair.

Ophelia

My problem with that style of parenting/focus is that it's heavily invested upon status. Grades, AP Scores, papers published, etc. are all ways to jockey for respect and position. I can't speak to your personal experiences, but generally such parenting styles don't build a respect for empathy or how to apply one's knowledge in the aid of others, but instead focus upon ways that one's "education" can be measured compared to one's peers. It's fundamentally capitalist: you have to be superior to survive.

In many countries, that's true. In America, it's not. We have the wealth, the privilege to be able to make the lives of all our citizens better without turning them against each other. But value-system's like Chua's don't envision or prepare for that world. They focus upon a certain type of intelligence/education that will guarantee monetary return, the same as someone investing in a good portfolio on the stock market. And I just don't think that creates people who can be satisfied without being "the best" or people who value helping others more than they value their own statuses.

Jane

Ophelia, that is a really interesting and important point. I do think there are dangers in being too status-focused, and I remember thinking how awful and ridiculous it was that kids in my school did stuff like compare SAT scores (like that matters in life!) and so on. Your comment also reminds me of David Brooks' response to Amy Chua: that she wasn't tough *enough*, because learning to negotiate the social world of school and friendships, building and working on a team, etc are skills that are more difficult than memorizing a violin passage. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/18/opinion/18brooks.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

I think there is merit in that as well.

I don't think my education was perfect by any means and it was certainly old-fashioned, in a sense. But my school also tried very hard to balance academic achievement with self-motivation and an awareness of privilege and the importance of civic engagement, volunteerism, and giving back. Several of my classmates went on to found or work in civic positions or in conservation and other nonprofits. So to some extent, it worked (although I'm sure the parental influence had a lot to do with that!)

I agree with you absolutely that the Tiger Mother education style devoid of empathy or engagement with others is a rather alarming prospect.

Brinstar

Apparently the excerpt in WSJ was taken out of context, and her book is about her journey in terms of changes in her parenting style (for example, that parenting style did not work well for her other daughter, and Chua adapted). My mother was not as strict as Chua, but there are certainly some parallels I see in terms of attitudes. And unfortunately some of my mother's techniques and approaches and attitudes were damaging to our relationship, to the point that I felt that I needed to cut all ties with her in order to keep myself mentally and emotionally healthy. So there are downsides to a very strict parenting style, but there are a lot of variables.

greggman

Yes, what Brinstar said, apparently this was all taken out of context. The book is about how she started with the Tiger Mother method until her daughter massively rebelled in her early teens to the point Mrs Chua realized the Tiger Mother method, or at least her version of it, wasn't working.

To some extent I come at it from the other side. My parents didn't push me at all. They knew nothing about college, didn't seem to care if I went or not. Of course they loved me and supported my hobby by buying me a computer but college was just not part of their world so the idea that I should strive to be the best and try to get into the best colleges just never came up. When I see my friends that did have parents that did push them I'm a little jealous. I kind of wish I had gone to Harvard, MIT, Caltech, Berkeley, Stanford etc. Of course I'm sure I'm filtering only to my the friends and people I look up to and ignoring the ones I don't.

Meili's Runescape Blog

I had a similar upbringing. To this day I still remember all the times when I would bring home an awesome test paper with like 96% correct (always the highest in the class and probably the entire grade level) and my Mom would always say "why didn't you get 100 per cent?"

I understand that the excerpt was taken out of context but it doesn't change the fact that many parents do feel that its their right to always push their children to make everything perfect... but nobody is perfect.

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