Are Jewish Mothers Losing to The Chinese*?

hdr_chinese_mother


The Wall Street Journal published an essay, titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” this past Shabbat. It was written by Amy Chua, a professor at Yale Law School and the author of a new book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” which will be published on the fortuitous day of 1/11/11.

The essay generated 1,200 online comments in 48 hours. I actually had two pre-publication copies of the book, and can tell you that Professor Chua’s points are that strict mothering raises outstanding children.

Her book tells how her children must only score “A”s in school, may not have sleepovers, playdates, or act in a school play. The must be the first in their class in all subjects except for gym and drama, and they may only play piano and violin. While other mother’s might think they are strict by making their children practice their instruments 30 minutes a day, Chua expects at least 2 hours from each of her daughters.

Chua, a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law, states that Chinese mothers understand that “nothing is fun until you are good at it.” Western parents, on the other hand, allow their children to give up when things get hard.

Chua with daughters. (Credit: E P OBrien for WSJ)

First in her high school class, Phi Beta Kappa at Harvard, and a clerk to a federal judge, Chua writes that Western parents are conflicted about pushing their children; unable to say their children are “lazy or “fat.” A Tiger Mother has no problem saying this bluntly and directly to her womb-fruit. Chua’s parents, who came to America from China in 1961, were horrified when they learned that as a child, in Girl Scouts, Chua was “wasting time” on community service projects. Chua once said to her own daughter, “If the next time’s not PERFECT, I’m going to take all your stuffed animals and burn them!”

AND WHAT ABOUT MODERN JEWISH MOTHERS?

The most popular parenting book this month is “The Blessing of a B Minus: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Resilient Teenagers” by Dr. Wendy Mogel. Mogel, a social-clinical psychologist tells parents to focus on empathy and to RESIST the urge to intervene or to rescue their children, and to allow kids to benefit from the learning opportunities that come from mistakes.

What? While all these other mothers are pushing their kids to A’s and the Ivy’s, Jewish kids are playing T-Ball, getting B-Minuses, drinking, staying out late, and probably shoplifting condoms. We are sunk. Who will be my future dentist and internist?** I Jest.**

Jewish style parenting book, in Korean

Oh… by the way… did I mention that Professor Chua’s husband is… you guessed it… Jewish. She is married to Professor Jeb Rubenfeld, who was raised not as strictly, but still made it to Princeton and Harvard Law, stretched his creative muscles at Julliard’s drama department for two years, had a clerkship, and is a professor of law at Yale.

* Yes, I am intimately aware that one can be both a Jewish and a Chinese mother, and the identities are not mutually exclusive.

** For the record. My dentist, physician, optician, and bagel baker in NYC are Chinese or Thai Americans; But my opthamologist, rabbi, congressman, and grocer are Jewish.


51 Comments

  1. Elise

    1/10/2011 at 7:41 pm

    I actually have left several messages about this article already. I read it in the WSJ this past weekend and was quite incensed and appalled.Quite frankly we, Jewish mothers, are not loosing out to the Chinese, because we expect our children to be well-rounded; they go to sleepovers, play sports and are allowed interest outside of school, unlike the Chinese children pictured in the article. Furthermore, what would this particular mother actually do if she had a child with a learning or developmental disability? Her ignorance knows no bounds and quite frankly any parent that would call their child garbage for getting a B is abusive and very disturbed. Sometimes a B is hard won and something to be very proud of. Her attitude does not bespeak well of Yale’s choice of educators at all.

    • froylein

      1/10/2011 at 11:17 pm

      Furthermore, what would this particular mother actually do if she had a child with a learning or developmental disability?

      Don’t know about her options in the US, but feel free to run a search engine search on “babies drowned in China”.

      That aside, I wonder what the mothers of those kids said that ended up offering me knock-off DVDs or handbags. ;)

  2. James

    1/10/2011 at 8:17 pm

    The article speaks of maths geniuses. Having strict parents who push you very hard at school cannot make you a maths genius. There are certain areas of study that people just cannot do well at, no matter how hard they try, if they are not intelligent enough. The article doesn’t go into intelligence once, because it’s implying that environment is the only variable that matters in education success.

    This blog post speaks of “Jewish” mothers. You’re implying the same thing as the article about Chinese mothers: that any kid can become a doctor if his parents push him hard enough. It’s not true. When you write about “Jewish mothers”, are you talking about Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Mizrachi mothers, or only Ashkenazi mothers?

    Ashkenazi is the Jewish group out of the three which has achieved so much. The number of Ashkenazim who have won Nobel prizes, who are scientists, who are on the Forbes 400 list, who are world Chess champions etc. seem to be too many for the total Ashkenazi population, i.e. percentage wise the number of above average Ashkenazim is greater than any other ethnic group. It’s because of intelligence differences between groups. Since IQ tests started to be given it has been noted that Ashkenazim score higher than the European white average. Ashkenazim have an average IQ of 112-115. This isn’t true for the Sephardim or Mizrachim though.

    Read the paper “The natural history of Ashkenazi intelligence” by Gregory Cochran et al. to find out what I’m talking about.
    en.wikipedia.o...

    East Asian groups also have high average IQs. Sure it’s not only genetic intelligence, environment (parenting, culture, etc.) plays a role.

    It’s true that East Asians and Ashkenazi Jews have high achievement-minded parenting techniques but that’s only because they already have a culture of success because of the high intelligence. If you want to talk about high Jewish and East Asian achievement you can’t only talk environment and completely discount genetic intelligence differences. Environment cannot possibly account for such high real world achievement or the IQ differences.

  3. themiddle

    1/11/2011 at 1:24 am

    “Environment cannot possibly account for such high real world achievement or the IQ differences”

    Wrong.

  4. froylein

    1/11/2011 at 9:49 am

    Forgot yesterday, but I’d like to throw in that Prof. Rubenfeld has written a highly entertaining crime novel which should especially appeal to NYers and people that are familiar with NYC.

  5. cheeliyahu

    1/11/2011 at 11:15 am

    based on the comments of many an enlightened westerner to the article, i suppose the she’china is a pleasant dorm room bong hit or a windy evangelical fart on sabbath sunday. oh, i get it. inflame mediocre american readership (not necessarily jewlicious’s) to expose its domestic hypocrisy. yurika!

    • froylein

      1/11/2011 at 1:59 pm

      Nah, it’s just about calling a smelly rose by its name. Neither guilting kids into something nor imposing threats or belittling kids are proper means of education, no matter how you bend it. What works to create an image for the public is not necessarily good, and the stereotype enforced pretty apparently clashes with both, the common Western idea of responsible and sustainable societies and the post-WW2 concept that children aren’t just “little adults” that belong to their parents but individuals with individual talents, needs, and interests.

  6. Rachel Brooks

    1/11/2011 at 5:27 pm

    I am a Jewish mother of two, and I found this article to be extremely offensive. You act as if there is some sort of racial competition going on, where the winner gets what, to be crowned the “master race”? There is nothing wrong with wanting our children to succeed academically, but when you frame it like this, in this ignorant racial context, I find it totally sickening. Basically you say I need to make my children succeed not for their own self fulfillment or to better contribute to society, but instead to simply beat all the Asian kids? I want my kids to do well for themselves, not for their “race”!

    A person who would get upset about another race outperforming theirs is the same type of person who would take joy in their race doing better than others, in other words, a racist. I think you need to take a good long look at what went on in the holocaust before you start spewing this racial rhetoric. Also, I found it a tad bit disturbing the way you took such joy out of the fact Mrs. Chua has a Jewish husband, as if that suddenly makes her children’s academic accomplishments acceptable. Or maybe you were taking some sort of machismo pride out of the fact a Jewish man was able to bag the best goy the Asian American community has to offer? I’m not sure which is worse.

    I’d expect this kind of article to be posted on some right wing white pride website, but for a so-called Jewish man who should absolutely KNOW BETTER, I am left totally speechless and disgusted. Congratulations, for the first time in my life someone has actually succeeded in making me feel ashamed to be Jewish, I just never thought it would be by a fellow Jew.

    • froylein

      1/11/2011 at 5:33 pm

      Larry compared two different works, each with a totally different take on parenting. He even added, “I jest”, for those unfamiliar with irony.

      You need not be ashamed of being a Jew. There’s more to be ashamed of in the “wrong assumptions spread in public”-department.

      • Rachel Brooks

        1/11/2011 at 6:05 pm

        Oh, “I jest”, that makes all the difference. Surely YOU jest? So I can write a racially charged article bemoaning the success of a particular ethnic group over my own, and as long as I throw a few half hearted disclaimers such as ‘I jest” in there, suddenly it is acceptable? I can understand taking a certain amount of pleasure in Jewish kids outperforming WASP kids, given how we have been persecuted by that particular group, but Asian kids never did a damn thing to us. I have seen too many articles similar to this one lately on Jewish websites where the author urges Jewish parents to take alarm in the growing academic achevements of other groups. Why even mince words, he might as well just refer to it as “the yellow menace”!

        I run a day care center from home, many of the little tikes are Asian. Their little faces are so cute. Following the logic of this article to its fully developed conclusion, I should be afriad of their potential academic sucess, be afriad they might “do better” than my Jewish children, and redouble my efforts to ensure my “superior” Jewish kids have their “superiority” verified by doing better in school than their Asian classmates.

        Perhaps you are a bit desensitized to it, but the racially charged underpinnings of this story are not imagined. You should visit a couple racist right wing websites, and I think you will be shocked how similar the articles there are to this one.

        • froylein

          1/11/2011 at 6:16 pm

          I’m not “desensitized to it”, I just understand written information better.

          Now save yourself the embarrassment of getting a detailed reply by me.

          • Rachel Brooks

            1/11/2011 at 6:30 pm

            Yes, please give your detailed written reply. Then every White Nationalist with a computer can copy/paste it back to you the next time you object to one of their racially charged articles.

    • themiddle

      1/11/2011 at 5:39 pm

      Rachel, you need some sunlight and birds chirping in your life. Get out more, it’ll be good for you and your sense of humor which appears to be on vacation.

    • ck

      1/11/2011 at 5:40 pm

      I totally understand Rachel. I’m kind of ashamed you’re a Jew too.

      Kidding! I think you kind of misunderstood a few basic things. Like the fact that Jews are NOT a race. And that we can be horrified by Tiger Mom’s uhm… parental drive and still not be racist.

      Talk about an over reaction…

  7. Rachel Brooks

    1/11/2011 at 6:15 pm

    Replace every instance of the word “Jew” or “Jewish” in this article with “white”, then replace every instance of the word “Chinese” or “Asian” with the word “Jewish and “Jew”. Then imagine you stumbled across this article on the Fox News website. Now be honest with yourself for just one second, is there any Jew in here who would not be at least partially offended?

    This article is racist, and any so-called Jew who claims otherwise needs to take a good long look at the definition of hypocrite in the dictionary.

    • ck

      1/11/2011 at 6:42 pm

      Dear, dear Rachel. You cannot compare Jews to whites or Jews to Asians. See, whites and Asians are a race. One cannot convert to “white.” That’s what makes racism so pernicious – the attribution of innate traits to a person based solely on congenital attributes like skin color. These attributes cannot be changed or altered, got it? I can never be black. But anyone who goes through a conversion can be Jewish.

      You’re comparing apples and oranges. Sorry. Ya know, Hitler thought Jews were a race. That’s only one of the things he was wrong about…

      • Rachel Brooks

        1/11/2011 at 7:01 pm

        I lean more towards Buddhism and spiritualism myself, while my parents were atheists. I guess it is very confusing for you how some Jews are of mixed ancestry after centuries of living outside Israel in places such as Europe. And to add to your confusion even more, the popular term for my ethnic group happens to share the same name as a popular religion practiced by a large portion of those from my ethnic group. It is all terribly confusing for someone such as yourself I know, but please do try to get it right as I find it a little disturbing when someone tells me I don’t exist.

        • froylein

          1/11/2011 at 7:18 pm

          Not confusing at all, it appears nonsensical that a self-identifying Jew would assume anti-Semitic propaganda of Judaism as a race to be true, let alone ignore Siddharta Gautama’s take on religions in general that cannot be merged with Jewish tenets of faith.

          • Rachel Brooks

            1/11/2011 at 7:37 pm

            My ancestors came from Israel. They spent a couple millennia making ends meet in Eastern Europe with a few notorious “bumps” along the way. Only my great great grandparents practiced the religion of Judaism. My parents and grandparents however were athiests. Just because they didn’t prescribe to any particular religion doesn’t mean their lineage was suddenly erased. I know there are a lot of Neo-Nazis out there who would love it if all it took to erase my people was a simple conversion.

  8. froylein

    1/11/2011 at 6:49 pm

    Well, Rachel, I’ll say it in the nutshell. You are clueless. You didn’t understand the post. You didn’t see that the initial stereotype was perpetuated, the second defied by two different authors Larry contrasted (who both, as I apparently need to add, are not Larry in any shape or form). I hope you pay more attention to the children you take care of (“tikes”, for all it matters, is an ambiguous term that can be way more easily misread than Larry’s post).

    Oh, BTW, I teach college kids of 23 different nationalities. Just because they may not fit stereotypes commonly associated with their nationalities doesn’t mean I cry “racism” if someone criticizes members of their very background that try to live up to the stereotype.
    Not everybody is a flat character as stereotypical people are called in literary analysis, but flat characters have been employed throughout the history of literature without meaning anything demeaning whatsoever.

    You’ve made assumptions about Larry and have made claims about him that cannot be based on the post in any way; rather on the predisposition with which you approached a critic of an educational approach you might find appealing but that not only I find appalling.
    You’ve tried to paint the post in a light that it doesn’t cast. Again, you did not understand vital elements of structure of the post.

    Sometimes the way in which text is perceived says more about the reader than the author.

    I’m agnostic so it doesn’t matter much to me, but if you profess to be Jewish, you should be aware you’ve committed a major sin.

    • Rachel Brooks

      1/11/2011 at 7:26 pm

      I volunteer my services for the ADL on occasion, as I used to be a research assistant. Sometimes I help by finding telling past qoutes from public figures. The ADL released a statement recently accurately describing Pat Buchanan as an anti-semite and a racist. The quotes they used from him to back up this claim are pretty much identical to those found in this article and others I’ve seen on jewlicious lately, just with the ethnicities interchanged.

      Feel free to put the blinders on and pretend we as a people are immune from committing any act of racism. Go ahead and ignore it when Joseph Lieberman bemoans the intolerant immigration policies of America, then in the same breath states Israel needs tougher immigration laws to preserve its Jewish racial identity and keep out practicing Jews from Africa who happen to be black. I on the other hand will continue to point out racism when I see it, whether it be by the skinhead down the steet from me, or by a writer who happens to share my Jewish ancestry and feels he is acting in my best interest.

      • froylein

        1/11/2011 at 7:53 pm

        Just that you are pointing out racism that is not in the post.

        I’m certainly not one to shy away from criticising my fellow contributors when I feel their sentiments clash with my convictions, but the only racist sentiments were made by James and you. You adhere to a concept of Judaism as a race that from its onset was meant to be anti-Semitic. You’ll be hard pressed to track your family as far back as you claim your lineage as no birth records in Europe whatsoever were required before the Council of Trent and even from then on, a large share of records did not survive.

  9. James

    1/11/2011 at 8:33 pm

    “Racial group” might not be the best word to describe Jews; the term “somewhat genetically distinct group” sounds fine to me though. Genetic studies have been done on Jews by Jews across Europe, Israel, the US and other places and they have all come to the conclusion that the wider “Jewish” group can be split up into three genetic subgroups: Ashkenazim, Mizrachim and Sephardim.

    Ethiopian Jews aren’t one of the subgroups though, as DNA studies have been done on them which have found out they are converts from Ethiopia.

    Ashkenazim, Mizrachim and Sephardim make up the Jewish national group-but that doesn’t mean converts and Ethiopians etc. aren’t included in the wider Jewish group-just like the different genetically similar groups in China make up the Chinese national group. The same same is for the Arab groups and the African groups.

    Anyway, again, the massive achievements of the Ashkenazim have been made because they have high average intelligence-which comes from genes-with culture playing a small role.

    Check out Gregory Cochran, Michael Hart and Steve Sailer to learn about human biodiversity (HBD).

  10. Tom Morrissey

    1/11/2011 at 11:43 pm

    The poor Ethiopians belong to that vast wasteland of racial ignorance that is Africa. ‘The weak and the failed shall go under: first maxim of our love of humanity.’

  11. froylein

    1/12/2011 at 11:06 am

    Tom, aren’t the Irish one of the lost tribes as well as Bukharian Jews?

    It’s time to bake something…

  12. Molly Boyle

    1/13/2011 at 12:11 am

    Rachel Brooks, I support what you are saying above. You are right. These guys here are insensitive jerks for the most part, too proud to be humble. This is what happens to some Jews who make it.

  13. Ephraim

    1/14/2011 at 1:51 am

    Somebody needs to get a sense of humor.

    Jesus.

    That being said, having read the article, in addition to being an insufferable, preening egotist, Chua sounds like one of those parents in Japan whose kid one day just up and decides to brain her in her sleep with a baseball bat.

    Balance is everything. There is no doubt that hard work, drive, and discipline can accomplish great things. Was it Edison who said that “success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration?” There is great truth in that. However, not allowing one’s child to take a bathroom break or have a glass of water until she gets the piano piece Just. Right. is child abuse.

    And I’ll bet she keeps her husband’s balls in a little jar in the back of the fridge.

    Anyway, since she married a non-Chinese, I doubt seriously that racism plays much of a role in her approach. She is just opposed to the way Western parents indulge their children and allow them to be, in her view, lazy. Although Chua appears to me to have taken it to a dangerous extreme, there is much to be said for discipline and commitment.

  14. Jon

    1/15/2011 at 1:14 pm

    Chua’s husband is Jewish for crying out loud.

    The Chinese are just doing what the Jews have taught their children for centuries: education and hard work pays off.

    Everything else about the book is hyperbolic parody designed to sell books. If you’re reading it literally to the T, you’re not too bright yourself.

    • themiddle

      1/15/2011 at 3:31 pm

      It’s pretty hard to contend that Larry isn’t bright. Sorry Jon.

    • larry

      1/16/2011 at 12:21 am

      Jon: My essay is a meant to be funny. No mother, Jewish or otherwise, is in a competetion, at least not publicly. The book is not a hyperbolic satire meant to sell books. It is a very honest story of her method of parenting. If you read the chapters on Lulu, her rebellion, and her Bat Mitvah, you see how her husband, yes, her Jewish husband who succeeded as much as she did without that method of parenting, coaxes Amy, privately, to change her ways. he criticizes her for praising only their older daughter in front of the younger. Even Amy’s parents, who were born in China and raised her, tell her that she is wrong and is doing a disservice to Lulu, and will suffer the consequences in the future.

      It is a great read, and I recommend it. At the same time, I recommend Wendy Mogel’s book. Hopefully I will post her reply to the book and the posting later this week

  15. Joel

    1/15/2011 at 6:22 pm

    “A lot of people,” writes Professor Amy Chua of Yale, in the Wall Street Journal,

    wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. 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.

    It’s hard to argue with success– one of her daughters is pictured playing piano at Carnegie Hall– and the kids seem at least ISO 400 happy. So is making them practice 3 hours a day, etc, so terrible?

    If you’re trying to figure out if her method works or if it is harmful some other way, you’re missing the real disease in her thinking. She’s not unique. the disease is powerful and prevalent, it is American, but a disease nonetheless. (No, this time it’s not narcissism.)

    I’ll explain what’s wrong with her thinking by asking you one simple question, and when I ask it you will know the answer immediately. Then, if you are a parent, in the very next instant your mind will rebel against this answer, it will defend itself against it– “well, no, it’s not so simple–” but I want to you to ignore this counterattack and focus on how readily, reflexively, instinctively you knew the answer to my question. Are you ready to test your soul? Here’s the question: what is the point of all this? Making the kids play violin, of being an A student, all the discipline, all of this? Why is she working her kids so hard? You know the answer: college.

    She is raising future college students.

    Oh, I know that these things will make them better people in the long run, but silently agree that her singular purpose is to get the kids into college. Afterwards she’ll want other things for them, sure, but for 18 years she has exactly one goal for them: early decision.

    Before you argue the merits of that goal, let’s ask ourselves why that is the pivot point in America? I don’t know any parents who are desperate to raise better parents or better spouses or even better software engineers, we don’t think like that. The few times someone thinks out of the box– “I want my kid to be a basketball star” “I want my kid to be a Senator” the parent is identified as an unrealistic nut. And while a stated goal might be to raise a future doctor, in truth that’s really only an abstract promise– the 18 year goal is explicitly college. You don’t teach your 6 year old to assess acute abdominal pain, do you? Nowhere to put that on an application. No, you teach him piano.

    I certainly am not saying forcing them to learn piano is bad, or bad for the kid, or that despite the disease that has infected you it won’t benefit the child– I’m not saying Chua isn’t right in her techniques. I am saying that what Chua is advocating is ultimately pointless because it is for a meaningless endeavor. The piano isn’t for itself, it’s for the “right” college, and for 99% of America the precise college you went to is as irrelevant as the beer you used to lose your virginity. Was it Bud Light or Stella Artois? Same bank account.

    I feel you resisting my thesis, but no moment in time at that moment seems as important as getting into college, both to the parents and the kids. No one anymore celebrates getting a job even though that really represents your future lifestyle, limitations, experiences, everything.

    You want your kid to go to a good college, of course I get it. But that monomania for college has to occur at the expense of something else. How much better/worse off are you that you went to your college and not your friend’s college? In this hypothetical you don’t play football.

    And is that average class at an Ivy really better than the average class at a state school? I’ve taught at both: no. NB that in my example both the state students and the Ivy students had the same teacher– me. I know there are differences between schools, I’m not naive, but most of those are social/political/sexual and not educational. An Ivy is “better” because its brand is better, like a car. No I don’t mean “hey, they all get you there” I mean that the engine of a Toyota and a Lexus is the same, the difference is the leather seats. You want to pay for brand, go ahead; but the people in the know aren’t fooled by your fancy car and windshield sticker and the people who aren’t in the know can only praise or envy you, but they’re in no position to help you attain your goals.

    Don’t think I’ve forgotten how important college is to a high school kid. I remember that despite terrible grades I was, inexplicably, put on the wait list to the University of Chicago. And all I could think was, “I’m going to be Phaedrus!” I didn’t give a damn about the education, I was hoping/believing that that college was going to define me, make me into someone I was not. I should have been drafted into an infantry battalion just for that.

    II.

    “Get back to the piano now,” I ordered.

    “You can’t make me.”

    “Oh yes, I can.”

    Back at the piano, Lulu made me pay. She punched, thrashed and kicked. She grabbed the music score and tore it to shreds. I taped the score back together and encased it in a plastic shield so that it could never be destroyed again. Then I hauled Lulu’s dollhouse to the car and told her I’d donate it to the Salvation Army piece by piece if she didn’t have [the piece] perfect by the next day. When Lulu said, “I thought you were going to the Salvation Army, why are you still here?” I threatened her with no lunch, no dinner… no birthday parties for two, three, four years. When she still kept playing it wrong, I told her she was purposely working herself into a frenzy because she was secretly afraid she couldn’t do it. I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic.

    Take a step outside the article. This is a woman explaining why Chinese mothers are superior. The thing is, I don’t know any Chinese mothers who would ever talk about their families this way, publicly, describe their parenting, brag about it. Never. And then you see it: Amy Chua isn’t a Chinese mother, she’s an American mother. She had a Chinese mother, but now she’s a first generation American, which means she has more in common with Natalie Portman than she does with any recent Chinese immigrant. As an American, she was raised by the same forces: MTV, Reagan, Clinton, John Hughes movies. She may have reacted differently to those, but they were her experiences.

    And what do Americans do? They brand themselves. I have no idea if Amy Chua cares about Viking stoves or Lexus automobiles but clearly her brand is SuperSinoMom and her bling are her kids. When Jay-Z wants to front he makes a video, and when Amy Chua represents she writes a WSJ article. Because that’s her demo, you feel me?

    Which means this self-serving piece has nothing to do with “how Chinese mothers are superior” but is really a summary of her episode of MTV Cribs. “Welcome to my home, yo, let me show you my gold toilet. It’s for peeing and flushing the coke down when the heat comes in the back way.”

    III.

    She meant this next passage to be self-congratulatory, let me know if she succeeded:

    “You just don’t believe in her [the daughter],” I accused.

    “That’s ridiculous,” Jed said scornfully. “Of course I do.”

    “Sophia could play the piece when she was this age.”

    “But Lulu and Sophia are different people,” Jed pointed out.

    “Oh no, not this,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Everyone is special in their special own way,” I mimicked sarcastically. “Even losers are special in their own special way. Well don’t worry, you don’t have to lift a finger. I’m willing to put in as long as it takes, and I’m happy to be the one hated. And you can be the one they adore because you make them pancakes and take them to Yankees games.”

    Who talks like this? This isn’t a 3rd person account, it’s her autobiography, these are her words, she chose these words, these are how she saw it all go down: “accused,” “scornfully”, “rolling my eyes,” “sarcastically.” That’s her impression of the world. She’s writing this about her husband.

    She can’t resist getting in a few jabs at her husband. I cringe when I hear a spouse criticising another spouse in public. Lesson 1: you should never, ever, ever, demean your spouse in front of a commoner, and that’s a much more powerful lesson to teach your kids than a decade and a half of Minuet in G.

    (sotto voce): my husband is a piece of crap my husband needs his face bitch slapped

    And while we’re on the subject of her husband, when I Google Earth this guy “Jed” what Chinese province is he going to be from? Oh, Jed isn’t Chinese, he’s a Jewish American Yale law professor. Now I can’t tell if this woman is a racist or insane. Its ommission can only be deliberate, right? It’s almost as if she is trying too hard to convince us not that she’s a good mother or a successful woman but Chinese, that’s the focus for her, so important is this that she needed to make it public– which makes me want to bet ten million dollars that her children are being raised Jewish. Is she publicly broadcasting that she’s the Chinese mother stereotype to make up for the SinoSems she’s created?

    You/she’ll say that the Chinese discipline is what makes the kids successful, but that’s silly. Given that her husband is a Jewish American equivalent to her Chinese Americanness, why isn’t their daughters’ successes the result of Jewish fathering? Chua would say that she’s the one who made her practice, but she’s at work all day just like he is, right? I get that she yells more, ok, mission accomplished, but as a technical matter she’s not there all the time, the kids have to be self-motivated, and that self-motivation came not just from the mother, but from growing up in with those parents. Unless she’s arguing that the father is pretty much irrelevant? Oh, that is what she’s arguing. Sigh.

    What Chua believes has made her kids succeed isn’t just that she makes them work hard, but that she is allowed to yell at them.

    As an adult, I once did the same to Sophia, calling her garbage in English when she acted extremely disrespectfully toward me. When I mentioned that I had done this at a dinner party, I was immediately ostracized. One guest named Marcy got so upset she broke down in tears and had to leave early. My friend Susan, the host, tried to rehabilitate me with the remaining guests.

    Look, I totally get how sometimes a parent will threaten their kid with piranhas or downed electrical wires, but why on earth would you brag about it? Seriously, think about this woman’s mind. Either she is totally oblivious to what people would find appalling, or else she actually thinks that she is going to convince an entire room of what I assume are also baby making professionals that what she is doing isn’t crazy, but awesome.

    IV.

    Amy Chua wants us to believe she is a “Chinese mother,” and my contention is she’s not. I’m not saying she’s a bad mother at all, only that what she thinks is and what she actually is aren’t the same.

    What defines a “Chinese mother”– and any steretoypical immigrant parent situation– is the sacrifice. “We sacrifice everything to give you better opportunity!!” they shriek at dinner. Look up at her opening list: those are the sacrifices her kids make, but what sacrifices does she make? Again, I don’t mean she’s a bad mother, but where is the sacrifice of her own personal happiness, clothing, hopes and dreams? Note carefully that she may in fact be sacrificing, but in her essay she does not describe those as important (or at all) to the success. What’s important to her is the yelling and the discipline, which she believes is a Chinese technique.

    The curse of the second generation, in which they do worse then their parents, isn’t about lazy kids but self-absorbed parents. When you immigrate to America to open a dry cleaning business you don’t make it your identity– it’s all for the kids (and boy of boy do the parents never let you forget it.) Then your kids grow up to become, oh, lawyers, and that does become their identity– so when these lawyers have kids of their own the lawyering isn’t all for their kids, a lot of it is still for the lawyers. It’s not a criticism, it’s a comment on the 24 hour day: two lawyer parents aren’t home as much as their wife of a dry cleaner mom was, so there’s less time for the kids. There’s nothing you can do about that.

    Except there is, and what Amy Chua isn’t telling you, the real secret of her brand of “Chinese” (read: affluent American) mothering, is that there’s likely a brigade of tutors running through the house. Now it appears on screen that Chua can be both successful and devote all this time to calling her kids fatties, but behind the scenes she has help. Hey, God bless anyone who can get it/afford it/convince your spouse it isn’t because you want college girls around, but if you want to prove that something is associated with success, you have to control for the external variables.

    V.

    You will observe that she is writing this nonsense not in a peer reviewed journal that could take her to task, i.e. McCall’s, but in the WSJ. Why would the WSJ want to support “the Chinese mother?” Because if you’re reading it, it’s for you.

    The WSJ doesn’t care a lick about her, as evidenced by the fact that they actually published this embarrassment. What the WSJ does care about is defining “good kids” in the same (but opposite) way The New Yorker wants to be the one to define it. For the WSJ, good = will generate a positive ROI.

    Let’s go back to her crazy list of why her parenting is better. #9: violin or piano, no other instruments. If Chua is so Chinese, and has full executive control over her kids, why does she– and the real Chinese parents out there– make their kids play violin, play Bach and not Chinese music? They’d be happy to educate you on the beauty of Chinese music, I’m sure, but they don’t make their kids learn that. Why not?

    She wants them learning this because the Western culture deems classical music as high culture, and therefore anyone who can play it is cultured. Someone said Beethoven is great music so they learn that. There is no sense of understanding, it is purely a technical accomplishment. Why Beethoven and not Beethoven’s contemporaries? The parents have no idea. Can her kids write new music? Do they want to write music? It’s all mechanics. This isn’t a slander on Asian musicianship, it is an observation that the parents who push their kids into these instruments are doing it for its significance to other people (e.g. colleges) and not for itself. Why not guitar? Why not painting? Because it doesn’t impress admissions counselors. What if the kid shows some interest in drama? Well, then kid can go live with his white friends and see how far he gets in life.

    That’s why it’s in the WSJ. The Journal has no place for, “How a Fender Strat Changed My Life.” It wants piano and violin, it wants Chua’s college-resume worldview. Sometimes it has no choice but to confront a Mark Zuckerberg but they quickly reframe the story into the corporate narrative. “The Google boys were on to something, but to make it profitable they had to bring in Eric Schmidt…” The WSJ is operating well within the establishment, right wing, artists-are-gay and corporations-are-not context. It wants kids who will conform, who will plug into the machine (albeit at the higher levels), it wants the kind of kids who want the approval of the kinds of people who read the WSJ.

    Amy Chua thinks she wrote an essay and published it. Wrong. The WSJ wanted this kind of an article and they chose one from the thousands available. They chose hers– a woman’s– because if this same article had been written by a man it would have been immediately revealed as an angry, abusive, patriarchal example of capitalism.

    Which is where this comes full circle. Amy Chua thinks she’s raising her kids the Chinese way, but she is really raising them to be what the WSJ considers China to be: a pool of highly skilled labor that someone else will profit from. On second thought, that is the Chinese way.

  16. Pingback: JewsNews 15 | Kolòt

  17. g.weitz

    1/18/2011 at 6:18 pm

    I recommend the article “Why Chinese mothers are not superior” by Martin Varsavsky: english.martin...

  18. Ralph

    1/18/2011 at 7:17 pm

    We are not asian but send our kids to both Hebrew School and Chinese school.

    • margot

      1/19/2011 at 4:26 am

      whoa! what do your kids learn in Chinese school? You think they have one of those in Israel?

  19. Larry

    1/20/2011 at 8:56 pm

    WENDY MOGEL RESPONDS TO THE CHUA BOOK

    After posting to Jewlicious.com two weeks ago, I reached out to Dr. MOGEL, author of Jewish-based best selling parenting books. Of course, she was busy, and recieved requests from other sources for comment. But she has replied to Jewlicious.com and and here is her reply below:

    Amy Chua makes valid points in her book:

    That honor of adults is in decline.
    Dr. Mogel writes that “Kids don’t look up from their laptops even when a grandparent enters the house.”

    That we overpraise children.
    Dr. Mogel writes, “Too often we praise kids for meek or half-baked efforts or for starts without follow-through. “Look at you. You breathed in and then you breathed out!””

    It’s tempting to give in when kids whine and complain.
    Dr. Mogel writes, “We so wish to stay on our children’s good sides or are so exhausted from nagging that sometimes we do give up too easily or soon.”

    But Yale Law School Professor Amy Chua’s her method deprives kids of normal and necessary adolescent experiences.

    Chua, in her campaign for uber-successful children, deprives them of the trials and joys of being teenagers.

    Of course, she would say, thank God! American adolescence is not a pretty or wholesome or safe passage. She did backpedal a bit in a post-publication interview “My kids had, whatever those things are called, iPods…”

    Dr. Mogel continues, “An iPod does not a full adolescent experience make.”

    As I stress in “The Blessing of a B Minus: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Resilient Teenagers,” the emotional and social curriculum of teenage-hood includes trying on and discarding identities, emotional separation from parents while still living in the safe harbor of home, the “playdates” (her kids couldn’t go on any) and parties which allow you to develop your social footing and learn whom to trust, whom to love and whom to stay away from.

    [Professor Chua] blurs the line between home and academics:
    Home is where children learn both family citizenship (pitching in with chores, getting along with parents and siblings, caring for their stuff, getting ready for school and to bed on time—none of this easy) and home is also the place where they can relax after surviving in the social and academic trenches of the school day. When the spheres of home and school overlap too much, when there is no escape from studying and discipline, no talk of anything but work and skill development, then the child has no respite, no relief, no time to regroup and refresh themselves.

    Dr. Mogel writes that, “A sixth grade teacher once said to me: I’m afraid our children are going to file the largest class action suit in history. They’re going to sue us for stealing their childhoods.”

    A shaky cultural moment ripe for overbearing parenting
    Chua says: one of my greatest fears is family decline. She quotes an old Chinese saying: Prosperity can’t last for three generations. She describes how the immigrant generation is followed by the professional and business generation which is followed by a “soft, entitled” generation. She sees classical music as the opposite of “laziness, vulgarity and spoiledness.”

    She also warns her children not to leave the house because “kidnappers” lurk and not to swim to the deep end of the lake where “ferocious biting fish” lie in wait.

    She holds them very close at all times. They chafe and are constricted.

    Dr. Mogel writes that, “We are so nervous about the melting planet, unstable economy and the potential for public violence–elements of our lives over which we believe we have no control–that we displace our fears onto the one thing we feel we can control: our child’s transcript! Or whether or not she gets the good or the better second grade teacher or, in the case of Amy Chua, whether or not she gets the good or the better violin teacher”.

    Jewish values at odds with Chua’s narrow definition of “the Chinese parenting philosophy”:

    Shalom bayit-peace in the home

    B’ztelim elohim- each child is made in God’s image

    Moderation in all things, neither perfectionism or slackerdom. The perfect is the enemy of the good.

    Gaiva (pride, haughtiness, showing off) is to be avoided, that’s why you don’t play the violin at your bat mitzvah.

    Shabbat the radically countercultural concept of twenty-four hours of the week where work is forbidden. Rather than create anything new, we can stop and be grateful for what is created.

    Shabbat is an antidote to the natural human tendency towards workaholism

    Value of community (you can only pray with a minyan, ten others), hakhnasat orchim (hospitality, caring for others, not just advancing yourself), tzedakah (giving, charity, community service), building middot (good character traits, being a good person rather than just good at things).

    Jewish arguments against asceticism are elaborated in both The Blessing of a Skinned Knee (Moderation, Celebration and Sanctification, p. 165) and The Blessing of a B Minus (Why Abstinence is Rude to God, p. 157). Also both books have extensive discussions of the dangers of perfectionism.

    ……

    By the wya. Dr, Mogel adds, that her book, The Bleesings of a Skinned Knee” has two Chinese editions: one in Mandarin and one in simplified Chinese

    • themiddle

      1/21/2011 at 4:56 am

      This is worthy of its own post, Larry.

    • froylein

      1/21/2011 at 1:26 pm

      I agree with Middle, Larry. That’s a great addendum.

  20. Larry

    1/21/2011 at 5:56 pm

    I am too lazy. I don’t have a tiger pushing me. I will post about Sundance later instead. Unless BoBo David brooks gives me a quote.

    • froylein

      1/21/2011 at 5:59 pm

      Larry, no more espresso, films, or books until you’re done with your assignment. And dare you not score less than a 5-star average.

  21. Isaac Hamaven

    1/22/2011 at 4:25 pm

    Well that’s all great. But at least my daughter, without a single push of chuk from her father, is an AA+ student of Facebook. Now isn’t that something to be proud of?

  22. David-Joe

    1/23/2011 at 8:47 pm

    She is the Chinese mother from hell playing into American neuroses.

    I had wonderful childhood and the greatest mom, which was several decades ago at a time when kids were encouraged to go play outside after homework was done.

    We had friends and did not need “playdates” and used to run around with pellet guns. we played sports at school which did affect our schoolwork but we got by and after miliitary service I became an auto mechanic on racing cars.

    The thought of studying at university and winding up in an office was terrifying and still is. I did spend seven years as trader on the stock market too – you do not need university for that.

    I run and swim everday and still hate school as much as ever. My mother taught me to think for myself and be strong in my mind.

    There are other ways y’know. I’d like to see how may therapist visits this Chinese mother’s kids end up having in their lives! Just a thought.

    PS: and she was a SINGLE MOTHER.

  23. David-Joe

    1/23/2011 at 8:59 pm

    What a superb message from Larry.

    “Perfectionism being the enemy of the good” Love that part!

  24. A Weil

    2/2/2011 at 10:51 pm

    oh what is all the fuss about! What some have done with shame and condemnation we have done with guilt and sibling rivalry.

  25. ilana Gutman

    2/5/2011 at 12:02 am

    Amy Chua’s parenting advice is a recipe for teenage suicide or extreme stress and discontent. What if your child is not a math or science genius, but is the next Van Gogh, Mozart or member of the Beatles. Hard work and discipline are a necessary part of any child’s development, however, creativity, self expression and the exploration of ideas are equally important. I have 4 children and their interests are extremely varied – one is a software engineer, one is a doctor and my high school age daughter wants to pursue a career in the arts. As long as they give their ambitions a 150% dedication, I am in full support of them pursuing their dreams.

  26. Erika Davis

    2/5/2011 at 10:37 pm

    That was a funny effing read through-and-through. As a black lesbian, Jew-in-Training I think it’s clearly just an difference of culture.

    For instance, my mother regularly spanked me (and by spank I mean a good “whoopin’”) because that’s how she was raised–in North Carolina. My Jewish girlfriend would get grounded, which didn’t work and she was a pot head who attended a small, private college and is working on her PhD.

    I do agree that some parents are a little too doting, are scared to discipline their children, and that some children lack respect for adults. I’m not a parent so I don’t have first-hand knowledge of what it is to raise a child but I think I’ll run a fine line between Tiger Mother, minus the crazies, and strong black mother, minus the whoopin’s.

    Children do need discipline. I’ve seen a number of crazy, out-of-control children with bewildered parents looking on and I can hear my mother’s voice, “That kid needs a good ass-whoopin’”

    Children do need to learn respect. They need to know what hard work is and they need to be productive. They also need to be children. As a child of the 80s I think of Parenthood with the genius child who knows the square roots of numbers of dots…and then there is Steve Martin’s kid who eats the dots. I gotta be real, I want the kid that eats the dots.

  27. Andre M. Smith

    4/23/2012 at 10:36 am

    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.

  28. Andre M. Smith

    4/23/2012 at 10:38 am

    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. diplomacy.stat...
    An obituary of Dr Claussen is on page 47 in 2001-2009.stat...
    and thefreelibrary...

    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 orient.bowdoin..., insidehighered..., and insidehighered...
    ________________________

    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.

  29. valet parking

    4/25/2012 at 12:48 pm

    We are not Asian but still i send my kids to both Hebrew School and Chinese school. to learn all kind of knowledge.

  30. SpinM

    5/6/2012 at 2:01 am

    The insane Prof. Chua’s methods can only produce unimaginative, mechanical beings with no creativity or leadership abilities. After 30 years of concert-going, I can state that most Asian musicians develop technical facility after years of relentless practice. But their playing is almost always dry and uninspired (compare Lang Lang or Yuja Wang to the great Evgeny Kissin). Similarly, Asian scientists and PhD students are notorious for being hard-working automatons completely incapable of “thinking outside the box”.

    • themiddle

      5/6/2012 at 2:42 am

      From what I hear, Asian countries are producing many significant patents these days, and are becoming competitive in those arenas with the US. It’s ridiculous to make generalizations such as these about Asians. The fact is that we’re seeing many Asians replicate what generations of American Jewish immigrants did to move up in the economic food chain, and just like with Jews there is now talk of unspoken quotas at top universities and people use all types of insults to diminish their accomplishments. The most frequent one I hear is how the Asians are boring and uncreative, and to my mind it is no different than when non-Jews who felt threatened by Jewish accomplishments in the arts, sciences, etc., would refer negatively to supposedly Jewish traits. There are boring Jews, boring Asians, boring Christian non-Asians and boring Muslims. You also have some brilliant, creative and very impressive folks among the above.

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