David Brooks, an Op-Ed Columnist for the New York Times, wrote an interesting opinion piece titled Amy Chua is a Wimp.
Brooks was wrong of course, and one of the comments to his opinion left by Leon Breaux shows why
Brooks was wrong just as most American parents are also wrong in the way they raise children to have an inflated and false sense of self-esteem.
Amy Chua as a Tiger Mother may be an example of the other extreme but her children will be much better prepared to survive in the world than children that grew up learning social survival skills in lieu of a real education.
I taught in the US public schools for thirty years, so I agree with Leon Breaux and have copied his comment below with the above link to the New York Times so readers may read what Brooks has to say as flawed as his self-centered, biased opinion is.
I suspect Brooks is just defending his own parenting methods. It’s difficult for most people to admit they are wrong.
In fact, Leon Breaux suggests, “It’s the middle way between the two that’s going to do the trick,” which is the method my wife and I used to raise our daughter who has great social skills but also earned straight A’s in public school to graduate last year with a 4.65 GPA, and she was accepted to Stanford.
My wife and I are proud to say we are Middle Way Tiger Parents who did not support the soft self-esteem inflated method of parenting that has been so popular in the US for far too long.
Leon Breaux’s comment to the New York Times Op-Ed piece
January 18th, 2011
I’ve taught for quite a few years at the high school and junior high level in three states in the US and in three Asian countries, including China.
This piece frankly strikes me as an insight into what is wrong with education today in the US. Here’s an intelligent, accomplished man comparing structured intellectual activity and training to socializing and proclaiming socializing the winner.
My question is this: If you don’t know anything, what good is your socializing?
Most Asian parents push their children hard. They want them to succeed and they do it the best way they know how. I haven’t read Professor Chua’s book, but from what I’ve read of it, she takes an ironic tone concerning her own harsh methods. At any rate, just because she pushed her extreme of discipline too far, does not mean her point concerning American parenting’s lack of discipline is any less valid.
There is a middle way between these two extremes.
American students and parents are self-absorbed. Americans in general are so self-absorbed they find it difficult to understand anything outside their own immediate interests. No, this is not normal. Ironic, isn’t it that the type of thinking Mr. Brooks advises is supposed to increase social ability but in fact seems to only create that ability among those narrowly defined as your status peers.
Not that Mr. Brook’s fundamental point isn’t correct. The best predictor for primate brain size is the size of the species’ social group. The larger the group, the larger the brain. Obviously, the demands of knowing the thoughts and actions of other similarly equipped creatures as yourself in competitive situations are staggering. But that’s not the point. Close as we may be, we are not, actually, primates in social groups. We have fallen from that state of grace, so to speak. We are now compelled to make our own choices, and the wrong choices may mean our demise. We must master objective knowledge because that is the world in which we have put ourselves.
The true nature of objective education, where facts are facts and knowledge actually has some meaning and use in its own right, that destroyer of prejudice and racism and class and many other potentially harmful divisions between us, has largely been left behind. No one’s looking much outside themselves in the US. So while these socially adroit students may be quite good at doing whatever they do with each other in terms of their interactions, which probably isn’t anything too impressive in a larger sense, my original point remains: they don’t know anything.
Knowing something takes learning. Learning is generally hard work. Children often don’t want to do it. Trying to brush this away as something inconsequential and not as important as socialization or achievement of status is a great recipe for stagnation or worse.
You know, Americans admire Asian educational systems, but Asians admire American. And Western women want to look tanned, and do all sorts of things including cancerous tanning beds and lying in the sun to achieve it, while Asian women see extreme whiteness as the best shade and use all sorts of treatments, including cancerous creams, to achieve whiteness and wouldn’t be caught dead lying in the sun.
Point is, forget about Asian and Western. They’re different, hot dog. Question is, what’s best for educating our young people, worldwide. Clearly, a steady diet of day care without the pursuit of actual, objective knowledge isn’t the best route. Clearly, isolation into enforced study isn’t the best either. It’s the middle way between the two that’s going to do the trick.
I haven’t read Professor Chua’s book, but I’ll hazard a guess that’s where she comes out in the end.
A note from this Blog’s host: If you believe that Chinese Tiger Mothers are churning out robotic drones that have no social skills, you are wrong.
Unlike many idealistic Americans today with the fixation that everyone has to be equal even if we have to create government entitlement programs while working overtime to boost self-esteem in children raising generations of selfish narcissists, in China people have no choice but to compete to get into colleges and/or start private businesses.
The losers get little or no help from the government.
Even government owned industries in China were required in the 1980s to become profitable or go out of business and many did.
The losers just work harder for less to survive or don’t work at all and become homeless or turn to the family for a place to live and food to eat.
However, do not expect that nonworker to stay out of work for long. The rest of the family will put immense pressure on him or her to get out there and do anything to earn money even if it is pennies a day. Doing nothing is unacceptable.
If China’s government does provide financial support, it is usually barely enough to eat a simple diet. Since most Chinese work very hard for what little they earn, most wouldn’t condone the type of entitlement programs that exist in America that allows millions to not work or improve him or herself.
In China, meritocracy is the rule and has been for more than two thousand years. If you cannot measure up, you are a failure. It’s that simple.
However, the Chinese also have a system that requires social skills to build networks of trust between individuals, businessmen and families and it is called Guanxi. To be included in one of those social groups is not easy. To achieve Guanxi means earning the trust of others and not just being cute in a social setting.
What most Americans are missing in this debate is the fact that the Confucian, Taoist culture that developed and survived in China created a regional super power that lasted for more than two thousand years while the social self-esteem soft parenting approach popular in America to raise children was launched in the 1960s about six decades ago and has resulted in more than 14 trillion dollars in debt, a very divisive militant political atmosphere and economic crimes that have created global suffering for tens of millions of hard working people with 64 trillion dollars lost.
In fact, Chinese students in Shanghai ranked number one of 65 nations in the 2009 international PISA test, which doesn’t test the ability to memorize facts but tests the ability to work cooperatively with others to solve problems.
US students placed 23rd in that test. So much for learning social skills the soft American way. Self-esteemism, which pressured teachers to inflate grades while dumbing down the textbooks to make learning less of a challenge for children, has been a dismal failure.
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