If you've been wondering what that recent rumbling has been in newspapers and blogs recently, it's the enormous response to Amy Chua's article "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior" that's registered a 9.0 on the Blogospheric Richter scale. And boy, people are plenty pissed.
In the opening segment of the piece, she highlights the following as things her kids "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.
She qualifies her points by adding that "Chinese mother" extends to other nationalities following the same doctrine including, strangely enough, the Irish. I was dozily readily this pre-caffeine on a Saturday morning and my initial response was "that's freaking awesome", and moved onto some car review or new restaurant or something.
Naturally, these days you can't say this kind of stuff without getting a response, and - wow - what a response - 4,000 WSJ.com comments, and 100,000 Facebook comments, largely reacting as if she'd burnt down a kitten sanctuary. And not just any old sanctuary - a sanctuary for blind kittens started by Martin Luther King and funded by the Steve Jobs Kitten Fund.
But wait, what the...
The way I initially read the article was fairly tongue in cheek, highlighting the difference between people who are disciplined with their offspring and those that embrace the spirit of individuality and let their kids muddle around at school and not excel in anything. Proponents of the classic Western approach consider the former tantamount to child abuse (while pouring shampoo into the eyes of aforementioned kittens), while "Group A" thinks "Group B" are a bunch of lazy parents.
I'm not Chinese, as you might have guessed, and don't have a Chinese mother (as far as I'm aware of) but Amy Chau's strict approach was more in keeping with my own parents' beliefs - namely that education was supremely important and screwing around was a waste of time. I came to quite enjoy the academic side of school and invented endless excuses to avoid sports, school plays or anything musically inclined. Thank God.
Talking to one of my best friends, who's a secondary school teacher, it sounds like the average child could use a little more parental direction. He spends his days confiscating iPhones and then being bitched out by pissed parents, having grades altered by by the Principal to keep the jocks in football teams, being threatened with physical abuse by 15 year-olds, and getting irate calls from Mommy and Daddy when little Johnny gets 20% in the test he didn't study for. (No kidding, the 20% score was in a multiple choice test where there were only 4 options, which is statistically worse that a monkey with a dartboard.) He's literally on the point of giving up.
Part of the inflammatory reaction to Amy Chau's article is the racial element, sure, but I suspect it's also a defense from the anti-parenting parents who think their kids should be given everything in return for nothing. I don't know how true it is to say that Chinese mothers are like Ms Chau, but maybe my mother was Chinese after all.
Bonus review material! I received this definition of 'political correctness' from a friend this morning, which seems appropriate in this debate:
"Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a piece of shit by the clean end."
The article puts forward a very strong view on behalf of Chinese/Chinese-American mothers who hold their children to rigorous and demanding standards even if that requires using abusive language as "motivation"