In Defense of the Tiger Mom

amy chuaAmy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, has a new book coming out on February 4th. If Americans didn’t like Tiger Mother, they are REALLY going to hate her latest offering The Triple Package: Why Groups Rise and Fall in America.

The book, which claims that certain ethnicities are superior to others because of the peculiar cultural norms, was co-written with her Jewish husband Jed Rubenfield. Incidentally, Jews are more predisposed to success, according to the book.

Look, let me go ahead and put it out there: I ain’t mad at Tiger Mom. I bought and read her first book and while I didn’t necessarily ‘love it’, I saw the value in some of the things she said and implemented them in my own child rearing practices. Americans need to learn to be less sensitive, and adopt the practice of separating wheat from chaff. The truth is, while her methods are a bit extreme, there is nothing that Amy Chua said that isn’t true.

I have already told you all that Na is failing math. She doesn’t grip certain basic concepts which are going to serve her when it’s time to do long division and eventually, quadratic equations. The average mother I know, and I’m talking about right here in Roswell, would turn and shift the blame on their child’s failure on the teacher’s presumed “inability to teach”. While it’s true that I don’t believe that my child’s teacher is the most helpful (and she isn’t) I can’t FORCE the woman to assist my child. There are two people with bachelor degrees in our home, and a Douche Bag with a light skinned ‘finance’ willing to pay for her to go to tutoring. She that’s what she did on this winter break: went to tutoring and worked on her multiplication tables with her grandmother and me. She didn’t go roller skating, she didn’t play outside all day (it was too cold), and we cut down TV and PC time drastically. And really, that was all Amy Chua was saying. If you want to get your kids to a certain level of success, you’re going to have to take away certain pleasures and make them work for it.

America’s education standards have long been a hot button issue. While we are focused on teacher pay and how much recess time our kids have, we are lagging far behind the industrial world. The numbers prove it out, year after year. Every little girl thinks they are going to grow up and become a pop star, and every other American boy believes he’s going to be a rapper, a major league athlete of the CEO of some major conglomerate. What’s worse is that many parents of these talentless kids hard-sell them on these pipe dreams. However, the majority of the thinking populations knows that little Amanda and DJ are either going to become an account manager, or an analyst, or some obscure title like that. And that’s if they’re lucky enough to have put in the work in the classroom or lecture hall. Just go to any street in California to see what a boulevard of broken dreams looks like.

Fareed Zakaria, host of GPS on CNN had a show on December 15 about the problem with U.S. education. On the panel were Joel Klein, Wendy Kopp, Tom Friedman and Mustafa Akyol, all experts in different areas of education. They talked about the rise of China and India, and other ideas and figures that have been thrown around for years that anyone who watches cable news is well acquainted with. But then one of them said something I’d never heard before…something that struck a chord deep within me.

“American parents like to talk about how stressed their kids are – but let me tell you, there is nothing quite as stressful as having to report to your Chinese boss whose accent you can’t understand.”

Well, dag.

In The Triple Package, Chua claims that Jews, Indians, Chinese, Iranians, Lebanese-Americans, Nigerians, Cuban exiles and Mormons all have innate qualities that make them more prone to success in life. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but when you look at the world’s most successful people (where success means astronomical earning potential, innovation and musical aptitude), these groups do dominate. I haven’t read the book yet, so I don’t know what factors she will attribute their success to, but I believe it stems from a mother who badgers you until you do your best – and more importantly, have achieved the best.

I hope I never forget the story one of my best friend’s husband told us at their wedding reception. He’s Nigerian, she’s Ghanaian. In his speech, he acknowledged his mother, who demanded excellence from all her sons. When he was a freshman in university, she insisted that he go out and seek work – even though they were wealthy enough to pay for his entire course.

“Work builds character,” he said. “And one day, I did it! I found a job! I came home and excitedly told my mum about my good fortune.”

“And what job did you get?” she asked.

“A street sweeper!” he replied. The woman was livid.

“Oya! You said what? A street sweeper? Go and resign TODAY and go and look for a proper job!”

We all broke into laughter and applause, but there is a very poignant lesson in that tale. I’m certain it means something different to each one of us reading it.

I’m neither Nigerian nor Chinese, but I personally believe Amy Chua has some good advice concerning achievement , even if her delivery sucks. How about you? Do you fall in any of these ethnic groups? Would you say she’s spot on, or is she just the ‘racist, trolling cow’ the internet has dismissed her as? Discuss! ↓

  • I haven’t read any of Chua’s books although I have certainly heard of her but I do think whoever said “American parents like to talk about how stressed their kids are – but let me tell you, there is nothing quite as stressful as having to report to your Chinese boss whose accent you can’t understand.” is the racist clown.

    • I have no response. I’m too busy laughing!

    • Okay. I’ve devised a better response. What the clown said may have sounded “racist”, but you and I have been in a similar situation with a certain maths teacher whom we could NOT understand. It hindered our learning curve for an entire term, by which point we had failed maths so miserably it set us back almost a year! It was stressful for me, and daggonit, I KNOW it was stressful for you.

  • Michelle

    I have not read the book either but I’m inclined to agree. I heard on some morning talk show that one of the traits she mentions is a superiority complex combined with insecurity. Certainly rings true when I consider some of the cultural groups mentioned (our west african neighbors *ahem*)

  • I’d like to read her books. She sounds interesting. Still laughing at the Chinese Boss quip. Perhaps he should have asked how stressed your kids will be when they are still living in your house at 43.

  • David S.

    To be honest I can’t speak from a position of knowledge about Amy Chua because everything I know about the woman’s views comes from reading your blog posts. So if I go by your decpiction, of her, then I have to stand by my previous impression. The woman is either a charlatan or nuts. I do agree that many American parents do not place a high enough emphasis on academics. (No I didn’t say education, I said academics.) The average American parent thinks it’s more important to attend their kid’s dance recital and go to every single football game, than help their kid excel in algebra, trignometry and economics. But I don’t think a mindless shift to the other extreme is the answer. It seems to me like Chua’s mantra is: “Let me find the most extreme things I can do in the name of encouraging my kids to excel and do them because though they might not be the absolute best things I can do for my children, they will make for a controversial book that will sell many copies and make me rich.” I’ve commented before on the tactics my own parents used to try to get me to excel. One thing my Dad always said to me as a teenager was: Your grades may not be the only important thing in your life right now, but you need to understand that they are the MOST important thing in your life right now. I understand what Amy Chua is trying to accomplish, but I think her tactics are counterproductive.

  • Ekuba

    I’m not convinced by Amy Chua’s ‘theory’. If these ethnicities are so superior, how come they have crappy countries (sorry lol) & why are ALL their citizens migrating to the US at the least chance? I, for one, would never like to live in NIgeria, Iran, India, Lebanon or China & considering how their citizens are moving to other countries in droves (remember when Amy’s ‘countrymen’ were kicked out of Ghana recently? lol) neither would they! Also notice how because she’s Chinese, she left out the Japanese who arguably, achieved way more than China in the 20th century. Hmmm

    • Their countries suck, no doubt about it. But I think – and I won’t know for sure until I read the book – she is talking about their success in America specifically. Surely if Nigeria had the social and governmental structures in place to ensure success, the country would boast far more millionaires per capita than it already does.

      There is just no denying the get up and get it spirit of a motivated Nigerian. It’s like “Get Rich” on crack.

  • To eat an egg, it’s got to be cracked first.
    There is struggle and hard work before success.
    The more glamorous you want to look, the harder the work you’ll have to put in. The earlier the better; you skip the fundamentals, you’ll return to them and the timing will therefore not be yours. This is harder. Much more difficult.