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The Rise of the Panther Mom

Move over Tiger Mom…or at least scoot over a tad. There is a new ferocious feline matriarch on the prowl, and her name is “Panther Mom.”

And, as her name suggests, she is Black.

I was visiting Mom Five Times a few days ago when she finally looked up from her incessantly buzzing smart phone.

“Girl, I’m about to go Tiger Mom this year,” she said in a tone that was far darker than her usual cadence.

Realizing that this was the first year that Nadjah would be earning letter grades, I shared her somberness.

“Yeah, I feel you.”

I myself was gearing up for a rigorous remedial reading and math program to place the girls into. The stakes these days are far too high, and my girls were going to have to be among the best – if not the best of the best – to compete in today’s market place.  Statistics say that because they were born Black and female, they have thicker and higher barriers facing them than the average American. My plan is to educate them into undeniable brilliance, so that they can scale and hover over those barriers like little brown cosmonauts. This is the charter for the Panther Moms.

In my mind I saw my girls repetitiously and studiously reciting their multiplication tables, dutifully informing me of the Latin and Greek roots for ‘x’ word; possibly doing some algebra before the end of Kindergarten and first grade. I mentally salivated over those thoughts, until  I heard tell of the (funny/ironic) tragedy that this type of radicalism can ensue as a result of an overzealous mom’s quest for scholastic perfection.

My friend has 5 kids. The older two are now in 5th and 4th grades. The eldest of the two is and has always been scholastically inclined, and works very hard to achieve excellence. The second merely does what is required to get by. By virtue of the fact that the eldest is the “first fruit”, she is held to a higher standard than her siblings, and has proven that she exceed expectations – unfortunately to her demise. One afternoon, she came bounding into her house, happily proclaiming that she got a 95% on a test.

“A 95%?” said her mom disbelievingly. “How did you get a 95%? What did you get wrong? Oh, I see. You should have done blah blah blah. Next time do blah blah instead!”

A little while later, the child had a quiz in class and missed two questions. So fearful of the tongue lashing she would receive, but even more concerned about disappointing her mother, she snuck into parent’s room and left her mom the following note:

Dear Mommy,

Today we had a quiz in science class. I got one of the answers wrong and I didn’t see the other, so I got that one wrong too. I didn’t want to tell you, because I knew you wouldn’t be happy. I promise not to get any more questions wrong!


The note was decorated with a heart and a sad face.

My friend said that if someone had shot her in her left leg she couldn’t have felt worse. I chortled at the absurdity of it all, until I paused and realized that that could be ME in three years.

But what are we supposed to do? We’re stuck in an educational system that was once the envy of the world and are now watching former developing nations like South Korea outperform us year after year. Last night, President Obama laid out a jobs plan, but I have to tell you if I were in the hiring business, there are only a select crop of ‘native’ Americans that I’d be inclined to hire. We have a serious dearth of intellect, innovation and elementary instruction, and we can’t expect success in the future if we carry on this way. We have a serious lack of American grown skills, because we value ‘individuality’ so much in this country that English teachers – for example – are ACTUALLY allowing their students to spell words as they hear them or ‘think’ they should be spelled. Thus ‘phlegm’ becomes ‘flem’.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at this fool I found on YouTube. You may think she is an anomaly, but keep your ears open and you will find that there is a majority of intellectual midgets, just like this one, rising.

America has got to do better, and stop being solely concerned about hurting our kids’ feelings. Their feelings are going to be more hurt when they can’t find a job (and there are currently plenty of them out there) because employers have to shell out H1 visas to get foreigners to do engineering and data analysis. We have to get our kids’ priorities refocused, starting with our own. A study came out that said  a whopping 70% of all college football players are Management majors. Many of them don’t start out on the ‘M’ train, but the sport leaves little time for labs and/or courses of study involving lengthy projects. Many of these kids start their four years believing that they will graduate with an engineering or physics degree, but leave instead with shattered NFL dreams and a copious degree suited for the no longer copious positions of CSR/Account Manager. Even those jobs have been outsourced.

If I have to turn Panther Mom to keep my babies from this future, then so be it. I’ll just have to temper my roar with an appropriate purr. And I’ll shoot MY OWN left leg before one of my kids makes an online video without first possessing the ability to properly pronounce “bondage”!

This article has 4 comments

  1. David S.

    I once remember in G.I.S. when we were taking a physics exam and the question were incredibly difficult. My brain was overheating. At one point I looked up, and saw Mr. Kyei (the physics teacher) standing outside the classroom looking in the window. When he saw me look up and saw the anguished expression on my face, he burst out laughing. I got a 23 on that test. The highest score on that test was 56. If our teachers at G.I.S. were worried about hurting our feelings with low test scores and big red Xs, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I remember one time getting back a test paper where I completely screwed up the solution to a problem, and the teacher wrote “Well Dodged!” under my answer.

    But that’s also why I don’t feel it’s helpful to go postal on a kid because they got a 95% and not 100% on a test. Certainly make them redo the questions they got wrong, and if they get something like a 60% or something, break out the cane, but blasting them over a 95% is just going to give them the impression that they are not allowed to make mistakes, and making mistakes is an important part of getting an education. But what do I know? They say the people who always seem to think they know the most about parenting are people with no kids.

  2. Malaka

    Okay, I am sitting here laughing because I remember Mr. Kyei, even though I only endured one year of physics and chemistry. (I only took biology because we HAD to take a science with our arts, and because Mr. Djandu was amusing with his smug “i-dont-carism”.)

    Gimme a quick sec me while I cackle. *Well Dodged!* Ahhahhaaaa! Ajeish!! Whew. I feel better.

    But yeah, going nuts because a kid got a 95% is a little extreme. I probably wouldn’t have the gall, because I generally hovered around an 80 myself – no matter the course. It would smack of hypocrisy and my father would happily out me by telling my kids that their mother constantly came close to “kpeeing last” in school.

    I personally think teachers should be re-given the liberty to write snide comments (like “well dodged!” *snicker!!!*) on their students’ papers. These days, doing so is nothing short of begging for a civil suit for emotional distress; or some similar nonsense.

  3. Mia H

    Good points made in this one.

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