Tiger Mothers vs most Americans

WASHINGTON — Okay, I’ll admit it: I, too, was annoyed by the pushy Chinese-American mother who bragged, in a Jan. 8 Wall Street Journal essay, about rearing child prodigies. It took me a few hours of fuming to remember the many parents I know who’ve pushed their children to superior academic performance without resorting to Amy Chua’s harsh techniques.

Indeed, most of my upper-middle-class peers — black, white and brown — are parents obsessed with their children’s achievement. They provide ballet lessons, violin lessons, math camps, drama camps, SAT tutorials, foreign language classes, summers abroad — all in pursuit of a spot at an exclusive college and a path to a well-paid profession.

Still, Chua, a Yale University law professor, could not have picked a more opportune moment to publish her parenting memoir, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” Declaring most American parents deficient, she picked at the scab of upper-middle-class anxieties at a moment when Americans fear their nation is in decline and will soon be outworked and outmaneuvered by a rising tide of well-educated Chinese.

Yet, those upper-middle-class parents need not worry. They are already passing on to their children the traits to ensure their future affluence.

The absurdity of this heated debate is that it has little or nothing to do with the majority of American parents, who don’t have the resources to engage in the hyper-vigilant, time-consuming and obsessive “child farming” of which Chua speaks. Unfortunately, their children will be left behind as income inequality increases and educational attainment drives the divide between the haves and the have-nots.

Americans still believe their country provides equal opportunities for all, that anybody can rise to great heights as long as he works hard and plays by the rules. Our belief in the egalitarian nature of our democracy is so great that more than half of Americans identify themselves as middle-class, including 40 percent of those with incomes below $20,000 a year, according to a 2008 poll by the Pew Center.

But, mythology aside, countless studies have shown that social mobility in the United States is not what we believe it to be. While most parents still want their children to have brighter futures they then did, research has shown that children in modern America have difficulty rising above the economic station of their parents.

Well-educated and affluent parents — both Chua and her most vociferous critics — are able to provide any number of advantages, including more expansive vocabularies, a fondness for books and high- quality childcare. The child builds on those advantages over time, helping him their children to levels of academic achievement with which children from less-affluent homes cannot compete.

Make no mistake: I’m not just talking about the poorest children. I’m also talking about that vast swath of what I’d call middle-middle-America, a hardworking but less-educated segment of plumbers, police officers and factory workers who can’t afford fancy tutorial services for their kids. They don’t have time to supervise hours and hours of piano practice. They don’t feel confident interrogating a teacher about his classroom technique.

Can’t their children still attend college? Certainly. Many of them will at least enroll in college — starting along the path that best assures a comfortable future in a global economy. But only half the students who enroll end up with a four-year degree; those with less money and less rigorous high school preparation are more likely to drop out.

Unless we can summon the will to help more of those students attain two- to four-year college degrees, we will lose the great middle class that has been central to our beliefs in American exceptionalism. It’s those kids — not Chua’s daughters — who deserve our attention.

100 comments Add your comment

Kamchak

January 21st, 2011
3:24 pm

Unfortunately, their children will be left behind as income inequality increases and educational attainment drives the divide between the haves and the have-nots.

WEALTH ENVY!

Just thought I’d get that out of the way early.

Kamchak

January 21st, 2011
3:28 pm

Oh, and a dedication to Grief—FIRST!

Mike K.

January 21st, 2011
3:39 pm

“Unless we can summon the will to help more of those students attain two- to four-year college degrees, we will lose the great middle class that has been central to our beliefs in American exceptionalism. It’s those kids — not Chua’s daughters — who deserve our attention.”

Based on the WSJ piece, I’m not a fan of Chua’s parenting techniques; it sounds like she completely disregarded the importance of social interactions and most of the arts. I’ve known a lot of Chinese people who received that kind of education and, while it may result above-average intelligence, it tends to discourage the sort of innovative thinkinkg that results in actual brilliance.

Which brings me to my criticism of Cynthia’s parting thought. Without touching on the class warfare aspect of the comment, I disagree that we, as a society, should focus on marginally improving the education we provide to average students. The vast majority of people make little use of their education beyond basic reading and arithmetic skills – the education they receive is already adequate. The focus should be on identifying prodigies (I’m using that term loosely) and providing them with the best education possible, since they are the ones who can actually use it.

StJ

January 21st, 2011
3:54 pm

So does this make you an [Auburn] Tiger Mother?

The problem with many “middle class” (and lower class) kids is that many of the parents don’t get involved in their kid’s education at all, and view the school as a free babysitting service. (Ask a teacher.) Although I don’t believe in taking it to the “trophy child” extreme, parents do need to get more involved with their children’s education, whatever social status they are. But, in many cases that won’t happen, based on past performance.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

January 21st, 2011
4:00 pm

Good afternoon all. We are the anti-Chinese mother exception. The son whom we pushed into all the activities, and who starred in his every endeavor, will never be a significant contributor to the world, unless he tries out for American Idol. And the son whom we left to his own devises will be a Navy admiral in another 15 years. (Although in all fairness we left him alone then because we knew he was smarter than we were anyway and we did not want to hold him back.)

jconservative

January 21st, 2011
4:41 pm

This issue is also spilling over into the National Defense arena. Think of the broad definition of defense of the nation, not just guns and bullets, but the national competitiveness.

We do have a problem. 40% of PhD’s granted by American universities are earned by non US citizens, aliens in other words. And they are taking that American PhD back to their home country to compete against the US.

There is no way to spin this fact. If education is important, the US is sliding toward the Third World.

JF McNamara

January 21st, 2011
4:43 pm

The advantages the rich have will ensure them the mediocrity of the middle class, and that is a great advantage. Greatness, however, is still within the individual. You can’t teach it or parent it. It just is.

In America, no matter how tough the circumstance, the best and brightest always rise to the top. That’s the ideal we strive for. Its not a comfortable middle class existence. Its being the next Bill Gates.

ctucker

January 21st, 2011
4:44 pm

jconservative@4:41, I agree with you completely, but most Americans seem not to understand how much better our educational system — for all kids — needs to be

Dan Blather

January 21st, 2011
4:56 pm

Interesting points, jconservative. I’ve long wondered about the possible impact of the dearth of American citizens at the highest levels (PhD) of education and training. Money likely has a lot to do with the answer. The expense of advanced education, paticularly at private universities, puts a lot of pressure on highly trained people to enter the private workforce ASAP, as opposed to making a career out of academia and research. I can’t tell you how many threads and posts I’ve seen online from kids asking “will a degree from an Ivy League school guarantee a job in finance?” They rarely ask about innovation, research or new discoveries.

Recent Grad

January 21st, 2011
4:58 pm

It’s not what you know but who you know. Case in point: George W. Bush. And while I’m on cliche’s let me say, “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” No truer words were ever spoken. Say goodby to the middle class, a quaint 20th century concept. Back to the gilded age and down with labor laws. Yayy!

TGT

January 21st, 2011
5:10 pm

Much of the struggle of the “middle class” is directly linked to the breakdown of the traditional (biblical) family. Among other things, many families struggle financially because there is only one parent. Of course for decades liberalism has been complicit in aiding the breakdown of the traditional family. (Not to mention being complicit in the slaughter of millions of children in the womb–such a wonderful attitude towards family and children!) How ironic it is to have liberals dumbstruck at the consequences of their own foolish ideology.

More to come.

EJ Moosa

January 21st, 2011
5:23 pm

I look forward to the day where education is mentioned second and personal responsibility first.

How long are we going to keep looking for others to provide the solution to our problems?

Take hands on responsibility for your children. And if you cannot provide all the advantages to your children that Tucker claims that the rich have while the poor do not, then perhaps you should be having fewer children.

The resources available to this generation of parents and children are more than any other generation of parents have had in this country.

So stop making excuses, and start expecting outcomes that are different than what parents have been willing to accept. Take responsibility.

And when we have seen that happen, their will be more than enough people willing to help with the costs of education.

willbrad

January 21st, 2011
5:25 pm

EJ Moosa @ 5:23

Well Said.

Michael

January 21st, 2011
5:28 pm

The things that we need to change are our priorities and what is important to us. We need to think of ourselves less as ‘consumers’ or ‘taxpayers’ and more as citizens. What’s more important, the latest smart phone, or whether our children will have a better opportunity to succeed? Right now, it’s the smart phone, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

January 21st, 2011
5:31 pm

Most college degrees aren’t worth the paper they are printed on, just sayin…

Unless you can find a job being an environmental terrorist or professional America hater, that is.

Kamchak

January 21st, 2011
5:31 pm

I look forward to the day where education is mentioned second and personal responsibility first.

I look forward to the day when the very people whinging the most about personal responsibility actually live by that example rather than just spout off at the mouth using Randian platitudes.

AviB

January 21st, 2011
5:41 pm

One needn’t be in an upper middle class or wealthy position to spend the time or effort to secure a better future for their children. I am the product of a Russian “tiger” mother who worked 50 hours a week but STILL had time to make me practice the violin. My parents STILL don’t have cell phones but they found the money for tutorials and SAT preparation. My mother doesn’t speak English well (even after 32 years in this country) but she STILL found the confidence to interrogate my teachers.

If you want better for your kids, you find a way, BOTTOM LINE. And if someone can’t find the time, money, or confidence, they should find some time to look at their own choices rather than assign blame to those who find a way.

EJ Moosa

January 21st, 2011
5:45 pm

Kamchak,

There was the concept of personal responsibilities long before Rand came along.

The people who abhor the concept of personal responsibility are the very same ones that demand more of everyone else’s earnings for their own benefit.

Coincidence? No.

Keep up the good fight!

January 21st, 2011
5:47 pm

Personal responsibility — the continued demand of a party of victimhood.

Kamchak

January 21st, 2011
5:50 pm

The people who abhor the concept of personal responsibility are the very same ones that demand more of everyone else’s earnings for their own benefit.

AKA supply-siders.

Coincidence? No.

No.

Karl Childers

January 21st, 2011
6:04 pm

TGT @ 4:56 – Well said. Why, just the other day Cynthia was suggesting that three-year-olds should go to school. I’ll say it again, the state is not a viable substitute for family.

kayaker 71

January 21st, 2011
6:32 pm

The Amy Chuas have a place in any society but the real desire to excel rests with the children themselves. Parents can encourage, cajole, berate…… but the bottom line rests with how much a child wants to rise to the top. My youngest daughter is a bartender in Auburn, AL with an MBA. Law school was supposed to be in the plan but what happened? We can only carry these kids so far. The rest is up to them. But after you invest gazillions of dollars in their education, you have a right to some expectation of what your dollars have paid for. My oldest daughter has a masters degree in special education and owns and runs a lavender farm in Oregon. Go figure.

james

January 21st, 2011
7:08 pm

I found little tiger mom to be rather cute but full of herself and another by product of “look at me” in today’s media. I would put the young men and women in the n fulton high schools against any tiger moms kids. Parenting is putting the long term interest of the child ahead of the short term desires to be loved back.

barking frog

January 21st, 2011
7:19 pm

Men on the moon, designers and producers of the
United Nations, Saviors of the world from Hitler and
Stalin and various other self styled movers and shakers.
Creators of a money and communications that
moves international commerce. Split the atom and
harnessed it for mankind. Split a continent in two
and gave it to the world. Yeh, tiger moms did all that.

arnold

January 21st, 2011
7:29 pm

You still need parental involvement to help your child become a decent student. We can, and have attempted substitutes. However, nothing truly takes the place of a parent. An involved parent.

Scout

January 21st, 2011
7:55 pm

Cynthia:

This is very, very narrow minded of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and certainly an afront to every other religion in the world but I think this is in the long-term what is best for oui children.

What do you think ?

1966 Speech

“The acceptable year of the Lord is that year when EVERY knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess the NAME OF JESUS. And everywhere men will cry out, “Hallelujah, hallelujah! The kingdom of this WORLD has become the kingdom of our LORD and His Christ, and He shall reign FOREVER and ever. Hallelujah, hallelujah!

Tami S.

January 21st, 2011
8:05 pm

YAWN! Another Chinese superstar.

Scout

January 21st, 2011
8:17 pm

Cynthia:

He said this in the same speech !

Scout

January 21st, 2011
8:19 pm

“The acceptable year of the Lord is that year when WOMEN will start using the telephone for constructive purposes and not to spread malicious gossip and false rumors on their neighbors.

The acceptable year of the Lord is that year when we will send to Congress and to state houses of our nation MEN who will do justly, who will love mercy, and who will walk humbly with their God.”

Hummmm ………… those are kind of sexist.

Scout

January 21st, 2011
10:08 pm

Cynthia:

Ah ……………….. the comments are kind of dead here.

TGT

January 21st, 2011
10:12 pm

Plainly put, the best predictor of a school’s performance is family performance — qualities of the families from which the students come. Subsequent research suggests that about 90 percent of the differences among the proficiency of schools can be explained by five factors: days absent from school, hours spent watching television, pages read for homework, the quantity and quality of reading matter in the home — and the presence of two parents in the home.

…The best predictor of SAT scores is family income, which generally correlates with family structure — two parents in the home. Family structure is pertinent to the 9/91 factor — between their births and their 19th birthdays, children spend 9 percent of their time in school and 91 percent elsewhere. For many children, elsewhere is not an intact family.

Again, amazingly ironic (and quite sad). The ONE thing in this world that best serves children and is the greatest predictor of success for them and most libs want to destroy it.

Kamchak

January 21st, 2011
10:23 pm

…and most libs want to destroy it.

Drama queen much?

Ponder

January 21st, 2011
10:38 pm

“Okay, I’ll admit it: I, too, was annoyed by the pushy Chinese-American mother …”

Evidence the disaster school systems of Clayton and Fulton County, the generational government dependents who continue to demand and expect their entitlements (at my expense), the Memphis school’s teen pregnancy disaster, Gregory Favors (yet another thug) cold-blooded Trooper LeCroy, and so on and so on…

Perhaps your ANNOYANCE should be directed at correcting this demographic sector of our society!!!

Black Conservative

January 21st, 2011
10:41 pm

Who’s salary would you rather have: a 4.0 gpa violinist from MIT or that of an average Major League Baseball player?

Black Conservative

January 21st, 2011
10:44 pm

TGT – shhhhhshshhsh, you’re are airing out the dirty laundry!!!!

Black Conservative

January 21st, 2011
10:49 pm

CT – I need a good opinion from you on Rev. Berdice King stepping down from leading the SCLC. I need you to take the national lead on this, not the NYT. Got it? Yes, I am a member of New Birth!

Scout

January 21st, 2011
10:50 pm

“Art project leads to arrest for UGA student”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“A month-long investigation has led to animal cruelty charges against a University of Georgia senior who killed several mice for an art project, the Red and Black reports.

UGA police issued an arrest warrant Thursday for Mark Huie Starling, who allegedly destroyed the mice last November. Starling had informed his instructor of his intentions and was told not to do it, according to UGA police chief Jimmy Williamson.

“He basically took a 2×4 and squashed each one of them,” Williamson told UGA’s student newspaper.”

O.K. Let’s see here:

Killing little mice not o.k.

Killing millions of unborn children is o.k.

God help us …………… we have no excuse.

Scout

January 21st, 2011
10:52 pm

Hummm ……………………… The plot thickens :

Headline (WND): “Rush Limbaugh opened his top-rated program today asking why Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie appears to have no support from the White House in his publicized quest to resolve the growing doubt about Barack Obama’s eligibility for the Oval Office.

“Where’s Obama? Where’s the White House? Is this guy flying alone? Neil Abercrombie on his own on this? So much of this is difficult to fathom, to believe,” the king of talk radio said.

Limbaugh noted WND’s story Wednesday that has led to established media such as the Daily Mail of London declaring in a headline: “Hawaii governor claims record of Obama’s birth ‘exists in archives’ but cannot produce the vital document.”

Abercrombie said in a Honolulu Star-Advertiser interview published Tuesday that he wanted to resolve the issue because he feared it would jeopardize Obama’s re-election in 2012.

“But he’s done the exact opposite now,” Limbaugh said. “How many of us could get away with saying, ‘Yeah there’s a little notation somewhere there in the archives, but we can’t find the birth certificate.’”

Kamchak

January 21st, 2011
10:56 pm

Birthers—-geez. :roll:

Reality

January 21st, 2011
10:57 pm

Sidebar CT, but when are you finally going to realize Obozo does not walk on water???

Here are Obama’s thoughts on the debt limit in 2006, when he voted against increasing the ceiling:

The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.

Scout

January 21st, 2011
11:13 pm

kammy:

We’ll see ………… there’s something rotten in Denmark ………… :o

Black Conservative

January 21st, 2011
11:17 pm

Reality – White males who call themselve “Convervitives” (see the Westmoreland cannot site the Ten Commandments and the number of “family first” Repubs who have been divorsed), spent 8 years dragging this country’s financial foundation into a ditch, and the best you can come up with is “Obozo.” Quite sophmoric of you. What if your “W” and Repub leadership had taken action on Pres. Obama’s words? We probably would not have experienced the financial problems our government now faces. You are typical….learn to add some value.

Kamchak

January 21st, 2011
11:20 pm

Again, amazingly ironic (and quite sad).

What I find amazingly ironic (and quite sad) is that fact that you would quote George Will about the break down of the family structure. The same George Will that cheated on his wife leaving her to raise their Down syndrome child.

Tommy Maddox

January 21st, 2011
11:34 pm

However their methods are [which I believe to be barbaric at times], they do create exceptional, yet emotionless, doers of whatever they are ordered to do.

Around here, getting your child into school, karate, drum & bugle corps, gymnastics, dance, soccer, choir, Little League, etc. makes you wonder whether you want to raise a prodigy or a well rounded i.e. not secluded child.

You want your girl or boy to exceed, but you don’t want to raise a child to win to be a Bundessiegerprufung candidate.

Scout

January 22nd, 2011
12:56 am

Black Conservative ;

Ah …………………………… nevermind.

obamalinsky

January 22nd, 2011
2:07 am

First step: ditch the teacher’s unions.

Jack

January 22nd, 2011
5:56 am

Parents can find time to help their children with basic studies such as math and reading. A child can do very well without hours of piano practice.

BlahBlahBlah

January 22nd, 2011
7:09 am

Throw more money at the problem. That always works!

Joel Edge

January 22nd, 2011
7:49 am

Nice article. Education has to be better. Do it for the kids. Not a direct appeal to pour more money down the rat. Slick.

Joel Edge

January 22nd, 2011
8:02 am

Should have been- rathole.