Tiger Mother: Why is it so controversial?

by Kristy Kim

Asian failure = A-
“Don’t worry about exam too much Kristy! I know that for you Asians, the
worst grade is A-”
This is what my friend said to me last semester. Of course, this is NOT true.

I think that the big controversy over tiger mom is not just about the Amy
Chua’s book ‘Battle hymn of the tiger mother’. First of all, endless controversy
about her book and article represents white American parents’ huge anxiety about
seeing their children fall behind academically. Asian parenting style focused on child
education has come into the spotlight within several years. For example, two years
ago, President Obama praised Korean Education System. “Our children – listen to
this – our children spend over a month less in school than children in South Korea
every year,” he told a gathering at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “That’s
no way to prepare them for a 21st-century economy.”

2010 international test scores made people all over the world be interested
in the Asian education system. According to Reading, Math and Science scores, it
is obvious that Asian students do well in school in general. (Shanghai tops the latest
tests. Also, Shanghai, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore ranks within top 5 in
all three subjects). The U.S. is traditionally ranked against other OECD countries. On
an absolute basis, students from 24 of 34 OECD countries had higher scores than
U.S. students, and the Education Department said 17 were better on a statistically
significant basis. For example, 15-year-olds in the United States had an average
score of 487 in math on a 1,000-point scale. In contrast, Shanghai students scored
600, Singapore, 562; South Korea, Hong Kong, 555; Finland, 541.

These series of news, combined to the intensive coverage of news
about China’s fast economic growth, attract huge public attention. Although it
is hard to conclude that the higher scores are really the result of parenting style,

many educational experts started to show interest in aspects of the Asian parenting
style which focuses on children’s academic performance. In particular, American

parents who have believed in liberal and lenient western parenting style
started to have doubts. They feel threatened by the prospect of Asian students
getting ahead under the supervision of their super supportive parents.

Amy Chua has been criticized a lot after the Wall Street Journal published an
excerpt of her book with the title ‘Why Chinese mothers are superior?’. Critics in the

Asian American community say that Amy Chua uses overgeneralizations and unfair
stereotypes. They argue that “Amy Chua is giving us a bad name. She is making us
look like we are all harsh dragon moms”.

However, at a San Francisco book event on January, she made it clear that
her book is not a parenting guide book. She says “This book is a memoir. I never
intended to say my style is superior”. The book is meant to show the strengths as
well as the weaknesses of her parenting style. She says she believes it also
captures an aspect of the Asian immigrant reality, because she talked to many
immigrants families and she realized that they have important points in common
when it comes to parenting styles.

Most of my friends in Berkeley say “Amy Chua is wrong, my mom is anything
but a tiger mom, but I ended up in Berkeley”. However, in my opinion, Amy Chua
has good reasons to raise her children in strict way. She says “I was raised by
extremely strict but also extremely loving Chinese immigrants. Looking back on my
childhood, my parents’ high expectation was the greatest gift to me”

A mistake she says she made was to be overconfident in her parenting style.
The strict parenting style which came from her parents didn’t work for her own
children. She struggled when her second daughter started hating her and their
relationship became disastrous. At this moment of her crisis she decided to write a
book and finished it just in 2 months.

Readers were shocked when they came to the passage which describes Amy
Chua prohibiting her children getting grades lower than an A, TV, playdates and
sleepovers, and warning her pianist child that “if the next time’s not perfect, I’m going
to take all your stuffed animals and burn them”. Some accused Amy Chua of being
heartless and a lunatic, but some started to think “maybe she is right”. They love her
or love to hate her.

In truth, tiger mothers have existed for a long time. Why is it so controversial
right now? Here is my answer: these past few years, Asian students’ academic
achievements drew global attention toward Asian students and the Asian
educational system. Just then, people found Amy Chua’s book which describes strict
Chinese parenting style in detail. Here is my advice for parents who are worrying
about their children getting behind because they never have been pushing their
children as much as Amy did: When it comes to the parenting style, there is no right
answer, the most important thing is understanding your children first before deciding
which parenting style to stick to.

5 thoughts on “Tiger Mother: Why is it so controversial?

  1. Why is the art of music required to endure the ill-informed antics of such inartistic imbeciles as Amy Chua? Her lust for fame as an old-fashioned stage mother of either a famous violinist (yet another mechanical Sarah Chang?) or a famous pianist (yet another mechanical Lang Lang?) shines through what she perceives as devotion to the cultivation of the cultural sensitivities of her two unfortunate daughters.

    Daughter Lulu at age 7 is unable to play compound rhythms from Jacques Ibert with both hands coordinated? Leonard Bernstein couldn’t conduct this at age 50! And he isn’t the only musician of achievement with this-or-that shortcoming. We all have our closets with doors that are not always fully opened.

    And why all this Chinese obsession unthinkingly dumped on violin and piano? What do the parents with such insistence know of violin and piano repertoire? Further, what do they know of the great body of literature for flute? For French horn? For organ? For trumpet? Usually, nothing!

    For pressure-driven (not professionally-driven!) parents like Amy Chua their children, with few exceptions, will remain little more than mechanical sidebars to the core of classical music as it’s practiced by musicians with a humanistic foundation.

    Professor Chua better be socking away a hefty psychoreserve fund in preparation for the care and feeding of her two little lambs once it becomes clear to them both just how empty and ill-defined with pseudo-thorough grounding their emphasis has been on so-called achievement.

    Read more about this widespread, continuing problem in Forbidden Childhood (N.Y., 1957) by Ruth Slenczynska.
    ________________________

    André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
    Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy)
    Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University)
    Formerly Bass Trombonist
    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
    Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
    The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

  2. I believe some useful purpose will be served by offering here, what the lawyers might like to call, but will seldom welcome, a healthy second opinion; a collective opinion that will demonstrate in abbreviated form the absolute folly of any attempt to teach music to children in the manner advocated by Amy Chua and her supporters.

    These titles, with a few accompanying comments, should be read only as an introduction to a vast, interesting subject. There is one observation one can make about them all, and many more on this same subject, if needed to prove the point: Their attempt at an inherent humane understanding. I shall let the individual writers speak for themselves. To wit:

    C. C. Liu [fellow at the Centre of Asian Studies, The University of Hong Kong]: A Critical History of New Music in China, Columbia University Press, 2010.
    By the end of the nineteenth century, Chinese culture had fallen into a stasis, and intellectuals began to go abroad for new ideas. What emerged was an exciting musical genre that C. C. Liu terms “new music. With no direct ties to traditional Chinese music, “new music” reflects the compositional techniques and musical idioms of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European styles. Liu traces the genesis and development of “new music” throughout the twentieth century, deftly examining the social and political forces that shaped “new music” and its uses by political activists and the government. http://cup.columbia.edu/book/978-962-996-360-6/a-critical-history-of-new-music-in-china
    ___________________

    Brahmstedt’s China travels bring recognition: TTU [Tennessee Technical University] trumpet professor “Outstanding foreigner.” http://www.tntech.edu/pressreleases/brahmstedts-china-travels-bring-recognition-ttu-trumpet-professor-qoutstanding-foreignerq/
    ___________________

    Music Education in China: A look at primary school music education in China reveals numerous recent developments in general music, band and string programs, and private lessons. Music Educators Journal May 1997 83:28-52, doi:10.2307/3399021. Full Text (PDF)
    ___________________

    Howard Brahmstedt and Patricia Brahmstedt: Music education in China. Music Educators Journal 83(6):28-30, 52. May 1997.
    ___________________

    Joseph Kahn and Daniel J. Wakin: Classical music looks toward China with hope. The New York Time, 3 April 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/03/arts/music/03class1.htm?pagewanted=all
    ___________________

    Ho Wai-Ching: A comparative study of music education in Shanghai and Taipei: Westernization and nationalization. A Journal of Comparative and International Education 34:2, 2004.
    ___________________

    Yuri Ishii and Mari Shiobara: Teachers’ role in the transition and transmission of culture. Journal of Education for Teaching 34(4):245-9, November 2008.
    There are some common trends, which indicate that certain values are now shared among music education policies of many Asian countries. These are an emphasis on the purpose of education as the development of children’s total human quality rather than mere transmission of skills and knowledge by rote learning, the encouragement of a learner-centered approach, the introduction of authentic assessment, the integration of existing subjects, and the assertion of cultural specificity.
    ___________________

    Chee-Hoo Lim: An historical perspective on the Chinese Americans in American music education. Research in Music Education May 2009 vol. 27 no. 2 27-37.
    ___________________

    Howard Brahmstedt: Trumpet playing in China. P. 29. International Trumpet Guild Journal, February 1993.
    ___________________

    Richard Curt Kraus: Pianos and politics in China. Middle-class ambitions and the struggle over Western music. Oxford University Press. New York, 1989.
    ___________________

    From Shanghai Conservatory to Temple University
    Yiyue Zhang holds both Bachelors and Masters in Music Education from Shanghai Conservatory of Music in China. Currently, she is pursuing a Master’s degree in Music Education at Temple University. Ms. Zhang is from a family of music. She first learned Chinese classic dance from her father at the age of 3. She then started to learn accordion at the age of 5 and piano at the age of 6. During the close to 20 years of piano training and education, she has also been learning saxophone, cello, vocal music and percussion instrument of Chinese ethnic nationalities. In addition to piano solo, Ms. Zhang has rich experiences as a piano accompanist for vocal and chorus performances. When she served as the accompanist for the female choir of Shanghai Conservatory in 2006, they participated in the Fourth World Chorus Competition and won the gold medal for female choir, silver medal for contemporary music and another silver medal for theological music. Before came the United States, Ms. Zhang taught general music at Shanghai Hongqiao Middle School and Shanghai North Fujian Rd. Primary School as her internship in 2006. From 2006 to 2008, she taught piano and music class in Shanghai Tong-de-meng Kindergarten while held Chinese Teacher Qualification Certificate. Ms. Zhang is currently the piano accompanist of Chinese Musical Voices located at Cherry Hill, NJ as well as the assistant conductor of Guanghua Chorus located at Blue Bell, PA. While holding Early Childhood Music Master Certification (Level 1) from The Gordon Institute for Music Learning, she is also actively engaged in the educational and cultural activities with the networks of local Chinese schools in the Philadelphia area. http://www.temple.edu/boyer/music/programs/musiced/MusicEducationGraduateAssistants.htm
    ___________________

    Li Ying-ling: Essential study on the function of children’s music education.
    Music education is beneficial in the comprehensive development of children’s healthy personality, helpful to enlighten the children’s creative thinking, helpful to educate the regulation senses of children, helpful to develop the children’s language and good emotion. It has certain social effect and realistic meaning for the growth of children. Every teacher should pay attention to the functional character of children music education, consciously meet the demands for music education of the children nowadays, strengthen the socialization function of music education, promote socialization proceeding of children. Music Department of Kunming University. Journal of Kunming University 2:2009.
    ___________________

    André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
    Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy)
    Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University)
    Formerly Bass Trombonist
    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
    Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
    The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

  3. Professor Chua is a woefully ill-informed parent, one ignorant of just what is happening in some parts of education in America. Fully confident in her presumed success as a writer with an editorial staff at Penguin shadow boxing for her and unapologetically wearing her signature plastic smile for public appearances, the Lawyer Chua is trying to persuade and convince; on both counts controversially, but with enough negative reactions to cause her subsequently to attempt a dilution of the intensity in her initial self-congratulatory tirade by latterly asserting that her writing is merely one person’s experiences of some trying times in motherhood. To gain working points among the Old-Boy network, the prime lubricant of Yale, Professor Chua initially claimed that she is a Tiger Mom as Chinese maternal type; Fierce! When that showpiece veneer didn’t sit well with mothers who are the real thing, i.e., mothers from China, this faux cat altered the validity of her claim to violence by stating that she is a Tiger Mom because she was born in 1962, a Year of the Tiger. That a tenured Professor of Yale can – must? – openly justify her self-classification with superstitious underpinning should provide anyone what is needed to draw a conclusion about the level of intellect afoot in Yale Law School. Professor? Indeed!

    Any of Chua’s public statements of the purposes of her work evolve to fit the tenor of the evolving criticisms directed at it. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/10/amy-chua-tiger-mom-book-one-year-later_n_1197066.html It has passed, in her own words, from (1) practical handbook for parenting to (2) tongue-in-cheek (whatever that’s supposed to mean), to (3) memoir, (4) satire, (5) parody, (6) “a coming of age book for parents” (7) “the book is about a journey”; and who knows what else as she makes the rounds of the book circuit trying to snare yet more unsuspecting purchasers into her net. That she can, without blushing, class a single work with such a range causes me to wonder what kind of grade she got at Harvard for her command of the English language. She’s Trollope (the author), Pope (the author), The Wicked Witch in Hansel und Gretel and Gullible’s Travels all penned together into one oversized Pamper. Anyone who can’t read the monetary cynicism driving the kaleidoscope of this whole Tiger Mom scam and its spurious, unproven claimed insights into parenting, with variant latter-day reflections by the author herself, deserves to have paid full retail price for this book.

    “What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it.” http://bettymingliu.com/2011/01/parents-like-amy-chua-are-the-reason-why-asian-americans-like-me-are-in-therapy/
    Stamp collecting, fishing, lazing about on a summer day, science club, Brownie Scouting, baseball, birthday parties, church annual picnic, kite flying, visiting relatives, kissing, jumping rope, student council, insect classification . . . Away with this woman! “Fun” must be one of the more overused, misunderstood words in the American lexicon. Chinese parent = The Model Minority? In China?

    “I’m happy to be the one hated.” http://bettymingliu.com/2011/01/parents-like-amy-chua-are-the-reason-why-asian-americans-like-me-are-in-therapy/

    “If I could push a magic button and choose either happiness or success for my children, I’d choose happiness in a second. http://amychua.com/

    That’s it perfectly stated in Tigerese: Either / Or; not both. Amy Chua is a chameleonic con artist. PT. Barnum certainly was right, one “. . . born every minute!”
    ___________________

    André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
    Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy)
    Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University)
    Formerly Bass Trombonist
    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
    Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
    The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

  4. Amy Chua has never lived in China. Her understanding of its culture, that is, the culture as it’s truly lived by the indigenous people in their dailyness, then must be that of the tourist. Here perhaps is one view of a China she may or may not have seen.

    http://bbs.tiexue.net/post_5057209_1.html [Each of the four pictures can be enlarged for clearer viewings.] In what likely is Nanning, the capitol of Guang Xi region, the boy was caught stealing money to pursue his addiction in Internet gaming. (This is a common problem in China, especially among adolescent boys. http://playnoevil.com/serendipity/index.php?/archives/1076-China-continues-focus-on-Internet-Addiction-Reading-the-Tea-Leaves.html) As punishment his father has publicly stripped off the boy’s clothes, lathered him with some unstated brown caking (which I shall discretely hope is mere mud), bound his hands behind his back, and then pulled him on his back and buttocks by one foot for disgrace through a very-public area of the city.

    On contemporary corporal punishment in China:

    A third of them [child respondents] said corporal punishment negatively affected their personalities, causing them to become introverted and depressed.

    Legal experts cited by the paper said China should ban corporal punishment in its marriage laws to protect children from physical and psychological harm and to protect the rights of minors.

    They blamed the common occurrence of corporal punishment in China on the traditional belief that children were a part of their parents, not individuals. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2004-12/07/content_397964.htm

    The routine beatings allegedly given to child gymnasts in China are no different to the corporal punishment that was once part of daily life in English public schools, according to the head of the Olympic movement.

    Mr Rogge said he believed that if physical punishment is being used to train young athletes in China, then it is likely to be confined to sports such as gymnastics and swimming, where the age of competitors is much younger than in the other Olympic sports. What is not known is how widespread the practice is. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/1504716/Chinas-abuse-of-its-athletes-is-no-different-to-Britains-public-schools-says-Olympics-chief.html

    “It was a pretty disturbing experience. I was really shocked by some of what was going on. I know it is gymnastics and that sport has to start its athletes young, but I have to say I was really shocked. I think it’s a brutal programme. They said this is what they needed to do to make them hard.

    “I do think those kids are being abused. The relationship between coach and child and parent and child is very different here. But I think it goes beyond the pale. It goes beyond what is normal behaviour. It was really chilling.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/2368416/Olympics-Pinsent-upset-at-Chinese-abuse.html

    Anyone who thinks the Chinese are a race of genteel pacifists who, collectively, design their lives to awaken every morning wiser than they went to bed the night before is a candidate for some serious awakening of his own. As a whole person Amy Chua is a type; she is not an aberration.

    Now, for one question I have not seen asked anywhere. . . Does Professor Chua play a music instrument? If so, let’s hear some of it. If not, from what sources has she gathered her standards about music technique and style and how they might be taught to a very young child who has shown no particular affinity for any instrument? Can she play any music from what she has demanded from either of her two daughters? Can she play simultaneously triptlets in the left hand and duolets in the right? Can she perform, even modestly, http://www.alfred.com/samplepages/00-16734_01~02.pdf, the composition she has demanded her post-toddler daughter play with assurance?

    There can be no doubt that Professor Chua likes violence, so long as it’s not directed at her, the core definition of a bully. She has said recently that there are parts of the world in which some of her parenting techniques might be considered child abuse. I do wish she could be persuaded to name (1) which some of those parts of the world are, (2) just which parenting techniques she is referring to, and (3) why she believes those same techinques should not be defined as child abuse in her home state of Connecticut.

    How did such a reprehensible woman obtain a position so high up on the feeding chain with so little prior experience in law education?

    HUSBAND, faculty of Yale Law School since 1990 : Jed Rubenfeld
    WIFE, faculty of Yale Law School since 2001 : Amy Chua

    As the lawyers may put it, Let the evidence speak for itself. The Tiger Mom has made it on her own claws.

    One last question: Who prevents Professor Chua from sitting on a toilet or eating a meal when, at any given moment, she is vexed beyond her capacity to complete an academic assignment or any other professional obligation within the proper time allocated for its completion?
    _______________

    André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
    Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy)
    Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University)
    Formerly Bass Trombonist
    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
    Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
    The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

  5. I divide my year annually between New York and Shanghai. One of my common visitations in the latter city is to the area in and around The Shanghai Conservatory of Music. About four years back the school built a large new building on Fenyang Lu. Along the street side is a lower level with a string of music stores stocked with new instruments. In four of those stores I counted, literally, one trumpet, one horn, one trombone, no tuba, two flutes, one clarinet, one oboe, no bassoon, a handful of strings (but no string bass), and two-hundred pianos! The single trombone (my instrument) looked and felt like it had been made in an industrial arts school as a class project. I asked one of the clerks how many trombone students were
    then enrolled in the Conservatory. “Five,” he replied. I told him it would be impossible for any serious student of that instrument to plan advancement playing such useless metal and asked what brand of instruments are taught upstairs. All the trombones were imported by the school, only as needed, from Yamaha in Japan. But, why the sea of pianos?

    Most parents do not want their children spending, i.e., wasting, their time on any instrument for which a student can not enter a contest and win prizes. Prizes mean medals and certificates, which Mommy and Daddy can display as their own achievements by extension. It is the major conservatories in China (Shanghai, Beijing, Shenyang, and Wuhan) which are responsible for continuing to nurture this false status, while, visually at least, giving the external impression that China is a major cultural locus of Western classical music. Anyone who has heard the wind sections of a major symphony orchestra in China will hear just how major the cultural locus is in China for those instruments. Naïve morons; school and parent alike!

    For the serious student having neither interest nor ability to become a graduate of Harvard Medical School, this phony sequence of contest successes may lead to Juilliard in New York or Curtis in Philadelphia. “If a clown like Lang Lang can make it, then so can my little angel. Who is, of course, the most adept keyboard wizard to blossom since Lawrence Welk or Rachmaninoff.” Stage mothers: Away with them!

    All of this clap-trap nonsense has no relationship whatsoever to two very important issues: music or Asian American. It is, with the rarest of exceptions, largely Oriental in the homeland. Atavistic immigrants from those eastern cultures or those descended directly therefrom – like the ever-psychobashing Kommandant Amy Chua – have some untested, sentimental notion that music opens doors and ensures careers in whatever direction the unmusical music student chooses; which the student is free to choose, so long as it isn’t music. (Try to figure out that one. “You are free to study physics or mathematics, so long as you don’t attempt to make a career of them.”)

    For the past forty years during my own studies in medicine and music in New York I have been wedded to and worked closely with and around nurses, physicians, surgeons, and medical technicians active in all the standard disciplines. Those persons have come from all modern regions of the world. And, yes, some of my coworkers have come from the beloved Harvard Medical School. But, I can write with authority, the number of those professional persons who have had any direct contact at any times in their lives with piano or violin is insignificantly small.

    No one has ever wasted time typing me as a wimp. Nevertheless, with an Amy Chua of my own only thinly masking a contempt while ostensibly trying to encourage me before the age of ten by classing me as “garbage, “lazy,” “useless,” and a host of other niceties (a savage, a juvenile delinquent, boring, common, low, completely ordinary, a barbarian) all the while forbidding me to sit on a toilet until I can play triplets in one hand against duolets in the other mechanistically en duo with a metronome might have (likely would have) set me up both for advanced training to climb The Texas Tower and chronic constipation.
    ___________________________

    André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
    Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy)
    Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University)
    Formerly Bass Trombonist
    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
    Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
    The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

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