The Common Good

Why Asian Parents Are the Best and Worst

It's amazing what one article can do, but one thing that's clear is Amy Chua is going to sell some books. Cha-ching.

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Recently, The Wall Street Journal published a very long excerpt from Amy Chua's book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. WSJ entitled the piece, "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior."

  • Have you read the article?
  • What did you think?
  • Agree? Disagree?

Here's an excerpt of the excerpt that was supposedly cut and pasted for the sake of piecing together the juiciest parts. And, it is juicy indeed:

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it's like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I've done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

  • attend a sleepover
  • have a playdate
  • be in a school play
  • complain about not being in a school play
  • watch TV or play computer games
  • choose their own extracurricular activities
  • get any grade less than an A
  • not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
  • play any instrument other than the piano or violin
  • not play the piano or violin.

I'm using the term "Chinese mother" loosely. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise. I'm also using the term "Western parents" loosely. Western parents come in all varieties.

You should read the entire piece. It's quite interesting and provocative.

The question is simple:

  • Are Asian parents indeed superior than other parents?
  • Or rather, is there a "superior" way to re-frame that question?

Here is a list of my thoughts and reactions:

1. Stereotypes are always bad.

Even if there might be an element of truth in stereotypes, in the long run, they suffocate personal identity and freedom. You might feel tempted to stereotype all Asian parents as the kind described by Amy Chua. Please try to resist.

2. Yes, Asian parents are "superior."

Of course this is true. Parents that invest, love, encourage, push, empower

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