Asian Am Authors: Adult Lit, Asian in America

Tiger Mom Amy Chua: Is She in a Race to Nowhere? (or I.Q. without Emotional Intelligence = Tweaky)

Amy Chua Tiger Mom parenting failure emotional intelligence IQ I.Q. JadeLuckClub Jade Luck Club Pragmatic Mom PragmaticMom http://JadeLuckClub.com Celebrating Asian American Creativity Education Matters

Amy Chua Tiger Mom parenting failure emotional intelligence IQ I.Q. JadeLuckClub Jade Luck Club Pragmatic Mom PragmaticMom http://JadeLuckClub.com Celebrating Asian American Creativity Education MattersI had posted on my parenting blog, PragmaticMom: Education Matters, about A Race to Nowhere and on my reaction to Amy Chua/TigerMom/Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior, when I realized that these two hot buttons are actually very similar. Amy Chua’s extreme parenting style, a.k.a. Tiger Mom, is a result of her own lack of emotional intelligence and self actualization; deficiencies that are products of a parenting style that stresses obedience, perfection and hard work without being able to make choices, learn from mistakes, or figure out who you are vis á vis relationships with friends. But what is perplexing and disturbing to me is that she would want to replicate this parenting style for her own children. I mean, really, is there not an iota of rebellion in her?! That is strange, right?!

When I discussed Tiger Mom parenting with my mom friends including Capability:Mom, we all were shocked that Amy Chua would NOT realize she’d get a strong and negative reaction to her book (i.e. death threats). It seems as if she didn’t get any feedback from her mom friends to soften the harsh edges of her messages. That is also strange to me and would indicate that maybe she doesn’t have a Mom Friend network to bounce her ideas off of. Her inability to communicate the nuances of her message (i.e. I am NOT a psycho mom) is very telling about her own emotional intelligence. There is book smart and people smart. She’s just book smart.

In the excerpt below, I was also surprised to find that, in fact, a law career does not fill her heart with joy and that she seems to have gone on this career path for reasons that do not include passion, interest and self-fulfillment. And yet, she would dictate to her own children the pursuits they were to devote their childhood to, at least until one of her children had the backbone to rebel against her. The gene for rebellion appears to be recessive in her family DNA.

I guess my takeaway is to encourage self actualization. Yes, it’s true that Asian parents all want their children to be “resumé” impressive, but the path to career fulfillment is through self actualization, a process that requires trial and error, with emphasis on the error. But it is well worth it.

They say, after all, “if you love what you do you will never work a day in your life.” Amy Chua has been unhappily slogging since she was born. And that is a Race to Nowhere.

 

From New York Magazine

“If something seems unfair at school, just prove yourself by working twice as hard and being twice as good.”

In the book, Chua portrays her distaste for corporate law, which she practiced before going into academe. “My entire three years at the firm, I always felt like I was playacting, ridiculous in my suit,” she writes. This malaise extended even earlier, to her time as a student. “I didn’t care about the rights of criminals the way others did, and I froze whenever a professor called on me. I also wasn’t naturally skeptical and questioning; I just wanted to write down everything the professor said and memorize it.”

At the AASA gathering at Yale, Chua made the connection between her upbringing and her adult dissatisfaction. “My parents didn’t sit around talking about politics and philosophy at the dinner table,” she told the students. Even after she had escaped from corporate law and made it onto a law faculty, “I was kind of lost. I just didn’t feel the passion.” Eventually, she made a name for herself as the author of popular books about foreign policy and became an award-winning teacher. But it’s plain that she was no better prepared for legal scholarship than she had been for corporate law. “It took me a long, long time,” she said. “And I went through lots and lots of rejection.” She recalled her extended search for an academic post, in which she was “just not able to do a good interview, just not able to present myself well.”

In other words, Battle Hymn provides all the material needed to refute the very cultural polemic for which it was made to stand. Chua’s Chinese education had gotten her through an elite schooling, but it left her unprepared for the real world. She does not hide any of this. She had set out, she explained, to write a memoir that was “defiantly self-incriminating”—and the result was a messy jumble of conflicting impulses, part provocation, part self-critique. Western readers rode roughshod over this paradox and made of Chua a kind of Asian minstrel figure. But more than anything else, Battle Hymn is a very American project—one no traditional Chinese person would think to undertake. “Even if you hate the book,” Chua pointed out, “the one thing it is not is meek.”

“The loudest duck gets shot” is a Chinese proverb. “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down” is a Japanese one. Its Western correlative: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Chua had told her story and been hammered down. Yet here she was, fresh from her hammering, completely unbowed.

There is something salutary in that proud defiance. And though the debate she sparked about Asian-American life has been of questionable value, we will need more people with the same kind of defiance, willing to push themselves into the spotlight and to make some noise, to beat people up, to seduce women, to make mistakes, to become entrepreneurs, to stop doggedly pursuing official paper emblems attesting to their worthiness, to stop thinking those scraps of paper will secure anyone’s happiness, and to dare to be interesting.

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9 Responses to “Tiger Mom Amy Chua: Is She in a Race to Nowhere? (or I.Q. without Emotional Intelligence = Tweaky)”

  1. On July 7, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Erin

    responded with... #

    “lack of emotional intelligence and self actualization” – oh please. what an ignorant and judgmental comment. consider this: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/07/how-to-land-your-kid-in-therapy/8555/ consider, also, that the impulse to judge another’s parenting style is borne out of insecurity about your own: http://www.livescience.com/14774-judgmental-parent-insecurity.html?kw=FB_LiveScience Lack of emotional intelligence indeed.

    • On July 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm

      admin

      responded with... #

      To Erin,
      I think Amy Chua’s inability to gauge how readers would react to her book and her style of parenting shows a lack of emotional intelligence. While she tried to convey — that she was humbled by her youngest — was not the message that the rest of the world reacted to. In terms of lack of self actualization, please see quote below from Jeff Yang’s article:

      The book isn’t a how-to manual, as the Journal excerpt would have you believe — it’s a memoir. As such, you’ll see some truth in it, and you’ll also see glaring blind spots and a sometimes-woeful lack of self-examination. That truth, instead of making you hate Chua, will cause you to reflect on your own upbringing — and your own parenting style, good and bad. And I think this is especially important for Asian Americans who feel that they were parented Chua-style, and are bitter about it — that is to say, most of us.”

      I posted two more posts on her here if you are interested: http://www.pragmaticmom.com/?p=15335.

      Thank you for your comment. I appreciate you giving your point of view and I agree that my post is judgemental but then, controversy is good, right? And I think that it’s great that you stick up for her.

    • On July 7, 2011 at 6:20 pm

      admin

      responded with... #

      To Erin,
      Here’s another interesting quote from Amy Chua: “Ironically, I intended Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother to be a funny, almost zany, self-satirizing book (my models were David Sedaris’ Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), and to be embarrassingly honest, I was hoping the book would be noted for its literary merits. TOTAL FAIL! ”

      To me, the inability to communicate to her audience — that this is satire people not a manifesto — is an indication of her emotional IQ.

      Mia

      • On July 24, 2011 at 5:11 pm

        This

        responded with... #

        But the criticism she receives is largely from people who read only the WSJ article and not the actual book. Chua’s message comes across exactly as she intended in the book. A reader would have to lack emotional intelligence to read the book in it’s entirety and still have any doubt that the piece is a work of satire instead of a manual. The WSJ article was written by a journalist attempting to incite controversy – that is, after all, how one gets more views for one’s article.

        • On July 28, 2011 at 10:34 pm

          admin

          responded with... #

          To This,
          Chua’s book came off as a “humble brag” according to Shuflies.blogspot.com. I would say that her message, if intended to be a humble brag, did not resound well with her reader.

          “Humblebrags can be any length. Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” was one very long humblebrag. The memoir’s subtitle should have a few words appended: “This is a story about a mother, two daughters, and two dogs. This was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones. But instead, it’s about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how I was humbled by a thirteen-year-old… but my kids still turned out better than yours anyway.” 

  2. On March 22, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    André M. Smith

    responded with... #

    Some words penned in response to the thoughts of a student writing elsewhere . . .

    I would not normally lock horns and try to best a junior in high school; I’m hoping you do not read my words here as such, for they are meant for you only as a provocation to further thought to your ideas well-presented.

    You’ve written that you “used to get frustrated when I had to practice violin and I really didn’t want to . . .” Do I read correctly that you no longer “get frustrated?” If so, that’s a remarkable advancement. As a musician myself I want to ask you, Why do you practice violin and not another instrument of your choosing less frustrating, for examples, flute, harpsichord, tuba, or tabla. There is a vast – and I do mean vast! – repertoire for each of those, and many other, instruments that could challenge you unendingly for the remainder of your life. Instead of spending hours at your chosen instrument (whichever it may be) in the drudgery of isolated practice, why not spend more of your time in practice with music ensembles of various kinds. This can yield a discipline and advancement of a uniquely different kind. If you are studying formally with a violin teacher I’m quite sure he will confirm the well-founded idea that, as a performer, playing an instrument is one kind of challenge but playing an instrument WITH PEOPLE is significantly more so. A musician in isolation is a musician limited. And herein lays one, only one, of the transparent contradictions of the way Professor Chua has taught her two daughters to approach their instruments; opportunistically solely for unartistic purposes.

    A fundamental flaw in the approach to music of Amy Chua – an amusical hack with no known talent for an art of any kind! – is that she has decided it’s perfectly acceptable to pervert one of the greater of the fine arts for use in ulterior purposes. In the example of the Chua family, so-so slogging through masterpieces of music was used to impress others when applying for admission to university. (Would Professor Chua dare to advocate this openly with religion, physics, good grammar, or issues of national interest?) The whole idea that her elder daughter, Sophia, played a debut recital in Carnegie Hall is an early example of the pervasive blight of résumé bloat on which social climbers like Amy Chua have advanced themselves; a blight to which the Chua daughters were introduced early by two parents who know well how to tweak the system to gain unearned personal advantage.

    Carnegie Hall, http://www.carnegiehall.org/history/, includes three auditoria in its building: Stern Auditorium http://www.carnegiehall.org/information/stern-auditorium-perelman-stage/, Zankel Hall http://www.gotickets.com/venues/ny/zankel_hall_at_carnegie_hall.php, and Weill Recital Hall http://www.carnegiehall.org/Information/Weill-Recital-Hall/. It was in Weill that Sophia performed as only one among a cattle-call string of young pianists that day. Do you doubt what I write here? Compare the architectural design,
    http://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/RV-AB160_chau_i_G_20110107132345.jpg, behind Sophia with that of the architectural design at the rear of the stage in http://www.carnegiehall.org/information/stern-auditorium-perelman-stage/. Having been a performer, myself, in both Stern and Weill over many years you have my assurance that Sophia performed her piece in Weill. Debut recital in Carnegie Hall! Indeed!

    You have written about your parents that they are “less extreme than Chua I’ll admit, but a lot of her memoir is satire and exaggeration.” Don’t be deceived by quick-change artist Professor Chua. She has spent more than one year trying to convince readers of her text that she is some kind of nouveau belles-lettrist who did no more than exercise a writer’s license to engage her readers. In truth she meant what she wrote until her hypocritical posturing as an authentic Chinese mother — born in Illinois to a Filipino father, neither speaks Chinese nor writes Chinese script — came back to haunt her with a ferocity that caused this self-styled Tiger Mother to recoil into improvised doublespeak. Amy Chua is a complete fake!

    All young musicians should be given only two music instrument choices to pursue in life, Violin or Piano. All else is useless waste. Any adult giving such advice is one woefully ill-informed. As a bass trombonist, my instrument has been my first class ticket from person-to-person, school-to-school, city-to-city, studio-to-studio, and stage-to-stage. With the kinds of preparations the Chua daughters were given will they ever perform, as I have, with Richard Tucker, Birgit Nilsson, Roberta Peters, Herbert von Karajan, Leopold Stokowski, and the two-thirds of The New York Philharmonic who were my schoolmates for five years in Juilliard? Forget it!

    Mercifully, I was never besieged with a Tiger Mother or Tiger Anything to motivate me. Yes, I too sometimes was bored with scales and chords. Yes, sometimes my imagined future seemed an unattainable fantasy. Yes, I did sometimes fall flat on my face in public performance (as did my teachers before me and also their teachers before them). Life went on and continues to do so.

    You’ve written that “At this point (as a Junior in high school) about 35% of the pressure to do well comes from my parents and the other 65% is complete self-motivation.” From the subtlety of your writing I suspect you’re cutting yourself short with that 65%. You appear to be much more highly motivated than your objective perspective about yourself can show you at this early time.

    The violin? I advise you to seriously reëvaluate what you believe is your relationship to any instrument of your choice; if, indeed, the violin has been your choice and not that of someone else. If the violin has been your choice, stay with it through all the coming stormy weather of doubt and seeming incompetence. If it is not, drop it in preference to another more to your liking and its fitness for your physicality. (If it’s the tuba, tell your parents that someone other than I recommended it!)

    Good Luck!

    Cordially,
    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. On March 22, 2012 at 11:40 pm

    André M. Smith

    responded with... #

    Continuing to follow the saga of what may be one of the more outrageous examples – and there are similar examples aplenty! – of the child abuses of Amy Chua, I think it timely and prudent to provide a healthy, humane counterpoint by way of a much different kind of example of adult guidance to a young stranger. To wit:

    ADVICE TO A YOUNG PERSON INTERESTED IN A CAREER IN THE LAW

    In May 1954, M. Paul Claussen, Jr, a 12-year-old boy living in Alexandria, Virginia, sent a letter to Mr Justice Felix Frankfurter in which he wrote that he was interested in “going into the law as a career” and requested advice as to “some ways to start preparing myself while still in junior high school.” This is the reply he received:

    My Dear Paul:
    No one can be a truly competent lawyer unless he is a cultivated man. If I were you I would forget about any technical preparation for the law. The best way to prepare for the law is to be a well-read person. Thus alone can one acquire the capacity to use the English language on paper and in speech and with the habits of clear thinking which only a truly liberal education can give. No less important for a lawyer is the cultivation of the imaginative faculties by reading poetry, seeing great paintings, in the original or in easily available reproductions, and listening to great music. Stock your mind with the deposit of much good reading, and widen and deepen your feelings by experiencing vicariously as much as possible the wonderful mysteries of the universe, and forget about your future career.
    With good wishes,
    Sincerely yours,
    [signed] Felix Frankfurter

    From THE LAW AS LITERATURE, ed. by Ephraim London, Simon and Schuster, 1960.
    __________________

    I knew that a Paul Claussen had been a major figure (1972-2007) in the Office of the Historian of The United States Department of State in Washington, with an abiding interest in The Great Seal of The United States. http://diplomacy.state.gov/documents/organization/101044.pdf
    An obituary of Dr Claussen is on page 47 in http://2001-2009.state.gov/documents/organization/86414.pdf
    and http://www.thefreelibrary.com/M.+Paul+Claussen,+history‘s+friend%3A+office+of+the+historian+suffers+a…-a0167843232

    So, wishing to determine whether or not the elder Claussen was, indeed, the boy writing to Justice Frankfurter in 1954 I wrote to his former colleague at State. The reply received today follows.

    —– Original Message —–
    From: PA History Mailbox
    To: ‘Andre M. Smith’
    Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 10:11 AM
    Subject: RE: Chris Morrison

    Dear Mr. Smith,

    Copied below is the response I received from one of Paul Claussen’s long-time colleagues here in the Office of the Historian.

    Yes it is. The young Paul wanted to be a lawyer and so decided to write Felix Frankfurter and ask for his advice. Frankfurter evidently was taken with his letter and wrote back at length…Frankfurter of course kept a copy and the text of the letter has been published in collections of Frankfurter’s writings.

    Please contact us of you have any additional questions.

    Best regards,
    Chris

    Christopher A. Morrison, Ph.D.
    Historian, Policy Studies Division
    U.S. Department of State
    Office of the Historian (PA/HO)
    _________________________________

    Dr Claussen did follow the advice of Justice Frankfurter. And he came out of that advice none the worse for it. The world is much bigger, richer, more tolerant, and more laden with opportunities than the blinkered view of Amy Chua would have her daughters and fellow fear-laden mothers without Ivy League tenure believe.

    For a very well-balanced alternative to the mania – and it is nothing less – to which the many Chuas of the world subscribe, read the refreshingly informed reports on http://orient.bowdoin.edu/orient/article.php?date=2009-12-04&section=3&id=2, http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/09/28/china, and http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/10/16/liberalarts
    ________________________

    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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