Monday, November 14, 2011

Comment on our book reviews


  1. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
    by Amy Chua
    reviewed by Amy Chua
    Comments on the review by Timothy B.

    Although I haven’t read the Chua’s book, I did watch an interview of her, read articles about the book, and followed some of the reactions to it. Not only did her book get a lot of attention in the U.S., it received perhaps even more attention in China as well as here in Taiwan.

    Based on my experience in teaching Chinese and Taiwanese students for a total of over twenty years, I would first hasten to dispel a stereotype, held by some, that most Chinese mothers push their kids to succeed anywhere near to the extent that Chua does. This is certainly not the case. However, among the Chinese who choose to accept the cultural, linguistic, and economic challenges inevitably associated with immigration, there indeed may be a higher percentage that has personalities that can be categorized as driven. If they weren’t driven, they probably wouldn’t make it in their adopted homeland. By way of example, I have a Taiwan-American friend who, incidentally, went to high school with Amy Chua in the Bay area. This friend’s father graduated from university in Taiwan several decades ago when such an opportunity and accomplishment were rare. He later made a trip to San Francisco, procured a house and arranged everything in advance for his family. My friend was seven years old and could only speak the Taiwanese dialect when his father brought his family to San Francisco. In spite of the language disadvantage, he still earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from U.C. Berkeley, a master’s from U.C. Santa Barbara, went to work for HP, later started and then sold his own tech business, and now does mission work with his Malaysian-Chinese wife, a Wellesley College alum. Not surprisingly, to tactfully paraphrase him, he thinks a lot of Americans are easily and unreasonably inclined towards complaining about how tough life is.

    By contrast, in my experience, many ordinary Taiwanese parents seem to be at a loss when it comes to basic child-rearing. Part of the problem may stem from the fact Taiwan’s rapid transformation from a predominately agrarian society in the 1940’s (when the Nationalist Army fled the mainland at the end of the Communist revolution) into a largely urban industrialized society by the 1980’s. (By comparison, mainland China has only begun to undergo the throes of such change.) Yet many rural customs continue to prevail in Taiwan - even in the cities - among which is delegating the care of young children to largely illiterate or semi-literate grandparents who have little understanding of how prepare and train children for meeting the challenges of modern society. And because many young mothers did not grow up with mothering models suitable for a modern urban environment, they easily become frustrated over even the most basic of childrearing challenges.

    Amy Chua comes from a cultural background in which many draw a very sharp contrast between those who are educated, cultured, and successful as opposed to those who are not. For many immigrants from poor countries, education is their ticket out of a world of poverty, ignorance, and low social standing. Chua’s shortsightedness, in my opinion, lies mainly with her failure to recognize that there were more choices available to her than simply her draconian method, on the one extreme, and typical American mediocrity on the other. As a trained Montessori teacher who has witnessed first-hand children simultaneously learning successfully AND happily, I believe that it’s important to give children some space to uncover their own God-given uniqueness, including their unique areas of interest, and also to make learning an awe-inspiring process of discovery whenever possible. Finally, as Sheri San Cherico has alluded to, goals and success need to be evaluated and defined by an eternal and Godly standard. Failure to do so will only result in the failure to discover the Meaning of Life Himself.

    1. Ooops! That was supposed to be "Reviewed by Sheri San Cherico" Hope someone can fix that!
      Timothy B.