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Cross-cultural upbringing
I read this sort of amazing article on the WSJ yesterday. Not amazing in the good kind of way like leftover pizza, but amazing in the mouth-open way.

The article is about parenting. It was written by Amy Chua, a parent, specifically a "chinese parent." 

It is titled: Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior. 

The article basically follows that formula exactly. It is a racially charged treatise on why a "traditional" Chinese upbringing is superior to a "traditional" western upbringing. The degree of cultural generalization employed by Ms. Chua is strikingly horrifying. Particularly for a woman with a biography that is hardly culturally homogenous. She was born and raised in America and is married to a white dude. And yet she can speak for all Chinese parents?

A few of the more ridiculous quotes:

What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it

Chinese parents can get away with things that Western parents can't. Once when I was young—maybe more than once—when I was extremely disrespectful to my mother, my father angrily called me "garbage" in our native Hokkien dialect. It worked really well. I felt terrible and deeply ashamed of what I had done. But it didn't damage my self-esteem or anything like that. I knew exactly how highly he thought of me. I didn't actually think I was worthless or feel like a piece of garbage.

The fact is that Chinese parents can do things that would seem unimaginable—even legally actionable—to Westerners. Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, "Hey fatty—lose some weight." By contrast, Western parents have to tiptoe around the issue, talking in terms of "health" and never ever mentioning the f-word, and their kids still end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self-image

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it's like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I've done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• attend a sleepover

• have a playdate

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

• watch TV or play computer games

• choose their own extracurricular activities

• get any grade less than an A

• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

• play any instrument other than the piano or violin

• not play the piano or violin.

There is also an anecdote about how Ms. Chua coerced her 7 year old daughter all through the night until she perfected a challenging piano piece. Coercion utilized: not allowing her to go to the bathroom, not giving her dinner or lunch, insults. But don't worry, it worked out eventually and the little tyke learned. 

I rolled up my sleeves and went back to Lulu. I used every weapon and tactic I could think of. We worked right through dinner into the night, and I wouldn't let Lulu get up, not for water, not even to go to the bathroom. The house became a war zone, and I lost my voice yelling, but still there seemed to be only negative progress, and even I began to have doubts.

Then, out of the blue, Lulu did it. Her hands suddenly came together—her right and left hands each doing their own imperturbable thing—just like that.

Lulu realized it the same time I did. I held my breath. She tried it tentatively again. Then she played it more confidently and faster, and still the rhythm held. A moment later, she was beaming.

See? A happy ending. 

What's amazing about this article is the unbelievable degree of self-righteousness on the part of Ms. Chua. How positive she is that her mode of parenting is superior to any other. How positive she is that she speaks on behalf of Chinese parents everywhere. How her understanding of success if entirely quantifiable. A successful child is one who is better than others. One who excels at skills which can be excelled at. One who gets straight A's, awards, high-paying jobs, and first chair in the school's orchestra. The virtues she values are militaristic. Diligence, practice, determination, precision, dependence. Nothing about love, happiness, independence.

My problem with this article is not that she promotes an alternative model of parenting reflective of prominent and active cultural differences, but that she purports hers to be superior to any other. 

I think we kind of take it for granted that when foreign families amalgamate into our country they should always adhere to social norms for family construction. That's hardly ever the case and it shouldn't be. It's great that different cultural experiences can co-exist in the same apartment building, but how do we dialogue between conflicting cultural norms? This case I think is particularly interesting because it is such a universally hot-topic, our children. 

The full article is here:
I find this racist, not the poster, the orgin if the article.
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Latest Post: January 25, 2011 at 2:46 PM
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