Amy Chua Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Tiger Mother: She’s Not My Hero

By:  Alan Carson

Alan Carson is an ACPI© Coach for Parents and the author of Before They Know It All:Talking to Tweens and Teens About Sexuality. Alan’s website is Alan has also facilitated teleclasses for RaisingSmallSouls on a variety of parenting topics such as communication with teens, problem ownership, and talking to teens and preteens about sexuality.

Amy Chua's book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Most of you would be familiar by now with Amy Chua, a Chinese-American mother, Yale law professor and author of the recently released book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Amy has appeared on numerous television interview shows in the past week, and many articles about Amy’s book have appeared in print because of Amy’s strict and inflexible parenting style, a replica how she was raised. Amy’s book is not a “how to” parenting book, but a memoir of her personal parenting journey with her two teen daughters, Sophia and Lulu. To clarify, “tiger” is in reference to being born in the “year of the tiger.”

Prior to sharing my opinions on her parenting style and philosophy, it is important to provide context. I spent thirty-six years in public education, my last sixteen as a middle school guidance counselor. As a result of my work, I am well aware that a disproportionate number of Asian Americans comprise the student bodies at our best universities— and the reasons for this phenomenon.

One of my favorite all-time students was AJ, who was born in India and sent by his father to live with his aunt and uncle in Pennsylvania— hoping AJ would have a better life. AJ wanted to be a teacher, however, after sharing this with his aunt and uncle, was immediately told that being a teacher was an unacceptable goal and would bring shame to his family. AJ was to work hard to become a physician. As you can imagine, AJ was a superb student and went to college at the top tier Case Western Reserve University, majoring in biology. I went to Cleveland to visit AJ and was struck by how few students were Caucasian Americans. I clearly recall saying to AJ, “AJ, there aren’t any white people here.” AJ’s response was, “Too many kids in the U.S. don’t value an education— everyone else in the world does.” I conclude by telling you that AJ reached his goal. He is a cardiologist who also teaches at in hospital in which he has his practice!

I know that Asian Americans comprise 4% of our population, but make up 23% of the students in our best universities. We can’t ignore the fact that too many “westernized” American kids are not willing to work, sacrifice and persevere, and our standing in the world may suffer as a result. The latest result from the Program for International Student Achievement places U.S. students 17th in the world. Students in Shanghai placed 1st in every subtest. We score below students from Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Poland and Estonia. These results are frightening, and U.S. parents need to make earning an education a top priority.

Regardless of the challenges we parents face, I am appalled with Amy Chua’s methods. Nevertheless, we have to keep in mind that the Chinese culture is different than our culture, and this is why it is not appropriate to make cultural comparisons regarding education. Three beliefs held by most Chinese people with respect to parenting are:

1) When children don’t excel academically, the family is shamed; it is a child’s duty to his parents to be exceptional in school
2) Anything less than an A is unacceptable
3) Being a kid, having fun, watching TV, and playing with friends or on the computer lacks value; devotion to work for future success is the target.

These Asian beliefs aren’t without fallout. The pressure to succeed, let alone failing to succeed, leads many young Asians and Asian Americans to suicide. This reality is well documented in our top tier schools. For example, even though Asian Americans only comprise 14% of the students at Cornell, 13 of the 21 on campus suicides between 1996 and 2006 were Asian/Asian American students. To quote journalism professor Betty Ming Liu, “Parents like Amy Chua are the reason why Asian Americans like me are in therapy.”

Specific to Tiger Mom’s book, I will list excerpts from her book (in bold) along with my opinion regarding her comments.

Amy made Lulu, age 7, practice the piano piece, The Little White Donkey non-stop for hours and hours one evening until she perfected it. No dinner, no water, no bathroom break— nothing. After numerous breakdowns and threats, Lulu played the piece perfectly and was very proud of herself.

At the very most, I could accept this once— to make the point to our child that, “You can achieve great things you never thought you could achieve if you work hard, stick with it, and refuse to make excuses.” After that, it is up to the child to tell himself, “If I can learn The Little White Donkey in one night, I can do anything.” To make this approach standard practice is insane.

Amy told Sophia she was “garbage” for talking to her disrespectfully. Amy’s father called her garbage as well for the same infraction. Amy said, “It worked. I felt terrible and really ashamed of what I had done. It did not damage my self-esteem. I knew exactly how highly he thought of me.”

Are you willing to take the risk that you can degrade your child and he would not be scarred by it? I hope not. It is a rare person who can border on being brutal with a child and have that child understand and respect why the adult said what he said. Some gifted sports coaches (i.e. Vince Lombardi) have been able to lead this way, but to say those things to your own child? Remember how offended we were when William Baldwin called his daughter a pig?

“Everything I do as a mother is built on a foundation of love and compassion.”

It doesn’t matter what I think I am doing. What matters is how my child interprets what I am doing. Is it OK to abuse your child and say, “I am doing this because I love you?” You’d be setting you child up to be in very abusive relationships because her boundaries were not respected— out of love!

“By disciplining me, my parents inculcated self-discipline.”

That is the goal— for our discipline to lead to self-discipline. But I don’t think the end justified the mean. There are more humanistic ways.

When Amy won 2nd place for something at a school awards assembly, her dad said to her, “Never, ever, disgrace me like that again.”
So, our kids should not be experiencing success for themselves, but for their parents? Totally disagree. My daughter’s life is her life, not mine. If she behaves badly, she is reflecting badly on her own character. She needs to accept responsibility for her own her life. If my daughter messes up, I want her to be disappointed in herself. I also think, what about the other parents and the other kids? Don’t they matter? Do I only win when I am better than everyone else? I am a winner, therefore you are a loser.

Paraphrasing Amy, “My parents didn’t think about our happiness when we were children, they thought about preparing us for the future.”

I agree. We want our kids to make it in the real world and whether they are happy at any given moment in their childhood is not the priority. If it is the priority, our kids will be wimps. On this very topic, I highly recommend Edward Hallowell’s book, The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness.

Amy’s kids practiced their instruments seven days a week, no excuses. While in Moscow, Amy got into an argument with Lulu, then 13, because she was not practicing the violin well enough and long enough. Quoting Amy, “All out nuclear warfare doesn’t quite capture it. After screaming and a glass smashing public showdown in a restaurant, I admitted defeat. ‘Lulu you win. It is over. We’re giving up the violin.'”
First, I do not like hearing parents say “we” when referring to something the child should own (i.e., “we need to start your homework.”) Second, power struggles are lose-lose. If our child doesn’t want us to win, he can dig his heels in. We have to keep in mind humans have basic psychological needs: fun, control, sense of belonging and feeling capable to name four. We have to meet our child’s needs. Making our child do something because it is important to us, yet not impacting us, is dysfunctional.

Amy Chua's book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

“Chinese parents demand their kids get A’s because we believe they can get A’s.”

It is wonderful to believe in your child and his capabilities, but what if he truly struggles to learn Geometry or Russian? Are we willing to ruin our relationship with our child over striving for A’s? Are we willing to turn every evening into a tension-filled battle? Of equal importance, people who pursue excellence in life are self-motivated, they love challenges, and they enjoy the journey.

The way I see it, there are better ways to achieve our goals. We can raise our children to be responsible, to be resilient, and to take pride in doing their best. Our kids can feel disappointment when they let us down without us telling them they should feel badly. We can raise kids to care about other people and contribute to their community. Lastly, we can have high expectations for our children, yet maintain a connected relationship with them.

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  1. Firstly, thank you very much Alan Carson for this penetrating article for the RaisingSmallSouls site. I really appreciate your perspective and have gained tremendously from your insights and ideas.

    There’s only one point where I disagree, and that is where you state that you can accept once for a parent to make a child practice piano for hours without a bathroom break or water. It just seems inhumane to deprive our children of their natural right to use the bathroom or drink a glass of water, no matter what the reason. I would be okay with the idea of depriving a child of everything but plain bread and water until xyz is finished – once, as you state – i.e. not allowing snacks or fruit juice. However, to deprive a child of a bathroom break or plain water is nothing short of cruel. As an aside, how can a fidgety child who needs the restroom practice piano well??

  2. Susan Christiansen says:

    I read Amy’s article with my mouth hanging open. Everything that I have read, studied and practiced raising my two children reflects a very dissimilar approach: firmness, fairness, honesty, encouragement and lots of love.

    My children will succeed not because I shamed them into it. Instead, I choose to raise them to become well-balanced, happy and accomplished individuals. Excellence is not mutually exclusive of these things.

    Having said that, I did take away a very beneficial perspective from Amy’s article. In thinking back to my 3-year piano lesson stint from age 10 to 12, I do not recall my mother ever sitting with me or teaching me how to stick with something until I mastered it. And–no surprise–I did not enjoy my lessons or master the piano. I was so happy to quit.

    So, when my children begin lessons of any kind, I will make sure I am there to not only encourage their success but to teach them about perseverance and the joy of accomplishment that comes from mastery. And I will do it without the “or else” attitude.

    Sometimes you find nuggets of gold even in the muddiest of waters…

  3. Just one correction…Alec Baldwin called his daughter a pig, not William. Thanks!

  4. I, too, was utterly appalled by reading the excerpts from Amy Chua’s book in the press. Apart from the obvious damage it causes to the children themselves, there is no place in our culture for that kind of self-promoting, survival-of-the-fittest mentality. It carries a very narrow view of success and promotes the ill-conceived notion that “the perfect job” (read: highly paid, prestigious job) will bring happiness and fulfilment. It also totally dismisses the reality that we are all created differently with different giftings and passions. To disregard a child’s individuality is to totally disrespect who they are, and that will have repercussions in the relationship, particularly for Asian-Americans/Australians/Canadians etc who get to see the alternative first-hand.

    Having said this, I do agree that Western culture often under-values education, and we could learn a thing or two about perseverence, dedication, and plain old hard work from Asian cultures …..just not at the expense of our children’s souls!

  5. I totally agree with her. One of the things about American parents they think that mediocrity is the order of the day. Their children are to be rewarded for doing nothing. I see it in the school everyday, they want their children to be a apart of extra curricular activities their on stage making a fool of themselves because they refuse to work hard then their shouting “that’s my baby, that’s my baby”

    I am from the Islands we have to work hard for everything. That is what success is all about. that is why America will never be number one until they start understanding the importance of making their children work hard.

  6. great article! (I think it was Alec Balwin that referred to his daughter that way, though,,,)

  7. It is ironic that we routinely have writers who bemoan the fact that large percentages of the population of high-end colleges are Asian and Indian, and insinuate that multi-generational Americans are stupid and don’t care.

    Please remember, at all times, that many if not MOST of these kids are coming from other countries just to BE in AMERICA.

    If their parents, who despise “American” ways, and claim their ways are superior, have done such a good job and placed such importance on education in their home countries, why did their parents bring them to America?

    The United States of America is socially, politically and economically the most successful country in the history of humankind, and it is deeply ironic that those who complain about our value of our education system do so from the depths of the very structures built by those they complain don’t value them?

    Don’t believe me? Go compare our literacy rates, expected years in school (by population,) expected income and even expected lifespan to those in China, guess what, we win, by a large margin. Statistically, if her parents hadn’t brought her to this country, Amy Chau was more likely to be an illiterate rural farm worker that the spoiled dilettante she is.

  8. I think the true answer lies somewhere in between. American parents today do not push their kids. Oh honey, its OK.

    Its ok to eat junk and be obese, its ok to just do enough to get by, its ok to not participate in family chores, its ok to text and drive – we’ll just buy you a new car.

    We have a bunch of kids that can’t deal with the least bit of stress. When mommy and daddy die, these kids don’t have a prayer. But I think these parents love their kids being dependent.

    I was raised in a Jewish neighborhood. While they stressed hard work and good grades, they also took time for fun. The valuable lessons I learned were from all the Jewish mothers that cared about me – certainly not from my family. It was because of these mothers that I opened my home to kids that did not have such great family lives. They had to clean up after themselves, and do their homework, just as if they were my own.

    On the other hand, we had tons for the kids to do at our house. We would go places and do fun things.

    I think positive encouragement and rewards works about the best. And maybe being a good example. What do you think?

  9. I am and Irish-American woman married to a Chinese immigrant. First, I want to point out that Asians and Middle-Easterners traditionally have their names “backwards.” (Most change this when they come here.) In other words, the family name comes FIRST, while your personal name comes second. I think that says a lot right there. People initially judge you by what family you come from, and you represent your family in everything you do. Your individuality is not that important. In fact, some cultures traditionally named their children #1, #2, #3 (according to their birth order), preceded by the family name.

    While there are benefits to being such an intrinsic part of a group, I see the scars of this sort of thing daily. My husband feels great shame because he is not an incredible success. He actually overcame many disadvantages, but he does not feel any pride in that. Our son has moderate to severe autism, and my poor husband just cannot accept this. He keeps thinking that our boy will eventually just snap out of it. Now that our son is in his teens, he is starting to realize it doesn’t work that way, and he is sure it is because of something I have done wrong. (We are separated, as you can imagine.) Because of our son’s autism, my husband feels great humiliation and shame. I give him a lot of credit, because he is still a good father and is always sweet and loving to our son. But the pain any father would feel in this situation is greatly magnified because of feeling that we are failures as representatives of his family. I thank God I was not raised this way.

  10. As a Parenting Coach and mother of four, Amy Chua has set my teeth on edge. While many North Americans define success in terms of grades, the right schools and high paying jobs, it’s important for parents to broaden their definition of success to include social competence. Fast forward twenty years…what kind of husbands, wives, employees or employers will Amy’s (and others like them) children be? Will they be patient, gracious, considerte, kind, thoughtful, innovative, adaptable, collaborative and emotionally aware people? How will parental bullying affect them over the long term? When we look at the ground breaking work on emotional intelligence (Daniel Goleman) we see that organizations are no longer content to hire individuals who are technically competent. Our North American organizations are no longer content to be run as dictatorships, so how will children who have been raised in dictatorship manage teams, work together, and adapt?

    Terry Carson, M.Ed., ACC –

  11. I grew up in India, did my Masters in the US, lived and worked there for many years before returning to India. In many ways the Indian and Chinese cultures are the same, and the pressure to excel is the same. I myself have a Masters in Electrical Engineering (my parents were not the kind who pressured, but I did Engineering, because if you didn’t, that seemed to indicate you’d failed in life – things are changing now. Not as much pressure anymore). After my kids were born, I quit engineering altogether. Now I work as a writer/editor, and feel much happier for it. I’m also the mother of two kids, a 9 year year old boy, and a 6 year old girl. My son is *very* good at music. My only requirement is he attend two classes a week (he’d rather be playing with his friends). Beyond that, I don’t care if he never plays in Carnegie Hall. I’d rather that he be happy in whatever he chooses to do. (Same with my daughter too). Does that mean that my kids’ll get away with not doing well in school? No, they need to be on top of their homework. They also needs to go to college. Only, it doesn’t *have* to be Ivy league (if they make it on their own, good for them).

  12. Fernando Lopez(Parent Educator)_ says:

    What saddens me the most, are the childhood memories that come to mind as I read about all this. No matter what your nationality may be or where you come from, the problem world wide when it comes to raising children, is bad parenting. My father was physicaly and emotionaly abused by my grandmother and he chose to raise us the exact same way. Most of my life, I feared my father. As I got older, I hated my father. Nothing I did was good enough for him. He wanted to control me, but never wanted to be involved in my life. I had nightmares for 17 years because of my father. The worst day of my life, was when I lost the fear of my father. That was at the age of 17, when I almost got into a fist fight with him. Had it not been for my mother and my sisters who had interviened, only God knows how it would have all ended. My point is this…for all you parents who are still raising children, DON’T raise them the way that your parents raised you. Even if you had good parents, raise your childred better than them. Remember your childhood memories and if you were not happy growing up, don’t make the same mistakes with your children. Find help, educate yourself as much as possible on how to be a better parent, before it is too late. No parent deserves to bury their kids. The one thing that I wish the most, is for all parents to have as much fun with their kids as possible. Make every learning experience fun. Kids grow up too fast and if we don’t take advantage of the opportunity now, tomorrow we may not have that chance.

  13. Cristina Jean Fuller says:

    I agree with Carole- the answer lies somewhere between. I work in a public school junior high in an upscale area. Many of our students won’t do their work or do it quickly to get it over with. It seems they don’t care. If they get an unsatifactory grade according to the parents it’s “not their fault”. The teacher didn’t: explain it well, give them enough time and so on. So many American parents do everything for their children and then wonder why they are still living at home playing video games on their couch. The Asian students are the top of the school ranking. Their parents do not make up excuses.
    I did not expect to find such a huge cultural gap when I started working. A schoolmate of my son’s (Chinese) has a mother that could have written that book. That poor child does get excellent grades, but he is now rebelling. He has run away from home a few times, has other kids bring him clothes so he can change out of his golf shirt and khaki pants at school, and is starting to get into trouble. What will that child’s outcome be?
    Last year my fourth grade daughter and her friend were invited to a birthday sleepover on a Friday. Her friend (Indian)was not allowed to attend because the state assessment test was the following week. Her friend had to go to tutoring most of the day Saturday for the state assessment. She and my daughter got the same score. She’s often articulated to my daughter how she is tired of having “no life”.
    Incidentally my daughter is adopted from China. I have made it a point to learn about her culture and so try not to judge. I also have a child with learning disabilities. I have high expectations for both of my children, yet they are different from one another. They also have many extracurricular activities as well.
    Balance is the key. American parents should expect much from their children, but we don’t have to shame them into excellence. We shouldn’t always be there to “save” them from a mistake. Most kids are capable of fixing their own mistakes with only a little guidance.

  14. I believe balance is very important in a child’s life. Yes…most Americans don’t push academics enough. You can see it in our society and schools. How many times are academic extra curricular activies cut or non-exsistant in schools. Schools will even cut music and art programs, before they will cut sports. Sports has always had center stage in schools. How many of your coworkers say, “Hey, did you see the Schoolastic Skrimmage on TV last night?” At the same time, China’s not perfect either. They only give you statistics for their best schools, not the average or the ones in the poor provinces. If Chinese parents are like Mrs. Chua, then who are the janitors, teachers, store clerks, etc. in China? Why aren’t they all doctors? If most Chinese/American parents are like Mrs. Chua, then why are they still a minority in the Ivy league schools? What is the end result of Mrs. Chua’s parenting? Mrs. Chua is a professor…A professor is a teacher…Mrs. Chua claims teachers are looked down upon among the Chinese…Is Mrs. Chua a failure? No, she’s not; but she’s not a perfect mom either. She’s just telling her story. The point is that there is no perfect way to bring a child up, but you don’t brain wash or abuse the child…not even verbally. Ok…I’ll come clean…My family’s half Chinese and half American. That means my child is Eur/Asian. My hubby would be exactly like Mrs. Chua, if it weren’t for me. I provide the balance, so our son does get to go to birthday parties. (No more than 2 per month.)He gets to visit his friends or have them come to our house to play. He also plays an unusual musical instrument at home and in his school band. He taught himself, and he was the one to decide to play it. I was the one trying to get him into sports, but he’s not interested and that is ok. He doesn’t have to practice a lot, but he does have to study very hard. My husband is not the “toy arsenist,” but he as thrown toys out…and I would retrieve them. I taught my hubby to take away and allow our child to “earn” them back or only have them taken away for 2 weeks, if the infraction isn’t that great. Basically teaching my hubby that the punishment has to fit the crime and not be so extreme that you loose your child’s respect. Guess what? With controling the Chinese Tiger and tempering it with American fun/freedom….Our son has started school 1 year early, skipped 6th grade, and has completed 3 freshman college math courses with credit from college by the age of 11. Can’t tell you the end result, because he has 4 more years of high school yet. As for my mother-in-law’s Chinese friends and their children…Yep, some of them did go to Ivy League schools, but none are doctors or even lawyers….some are divorced, while others can’t seem to find husbands. I really think their children could have benefited from having a little social life to help with their social skills.

  15. Thanks, Alan!

    Here’s where the infamous Tiger Mother and this white Rabbit Dad might agree:

    If you put yourself first, you won’t be tired or inconvenienced much, but you won’t be happy for very long either.

    My experience is that self-focus is secretly a form of self-sabotage. Like many addictive behaviors, it gives you a quick fix, but ultimately leaves you hungry.

    Do I plan to tell my daughter this?

    Absolutely. I believe the key will be to teach her to value her family and community at least as much, if not more, then herself. Frankly, I wish this had been more emphasized in my family and schools, but it certainly wasn’t in the culture in the 80′s and 90′s. This value has become more prevalent with the rise of the environmental movement, but I still believe this is one area where this fluffy, year-of-the-rabbit dad could learn something from the rabid Tiger Mother.

    I write more about this on my site 1000 Baby Steps:

    1000 small steps toward a better life for all grown-ups, based on what I learn from my baby daughter over the next 1000 days!

  16. Thanks Alan!

    I should thank Amy Chua too for writing that book as it served as a reminder on what a great responsibility we have as parents. I am a parent of two young children diagnosed with autism. Not all but probably a lot of people may have heard now of ABA/IBI (Applied Behaviour Analysis/Intensive Behaviour Intervention). This is one method of teaching most effective with children diagnosed under the spectrum. This can cover from self-help skills, cognitive, receptive/expressive language etc. Intensive is the key for a better prognosis, more potential for intergration to mainstream. Intensive means atleast 5 hours everyday of therapy. Talk about a life! In my children’s case it was necessary as they needed it but as they acquire skills and anxiety has gone down, I have always provided opportunities for fun play, trips to the zoo, morning walk to the beach, building sand castle, trips to McDonalds, the museum etc. I have used all these things as teaching oppotunities for my kids to learn how to be like any other kid their age. Now, they are age 9 and 11. They may have less therapy time (3 hours thrice a week)but everything we do are always learning opportunity. Baking will be fun and yummy but it includes measuring and learning math. Drawing and arts and crafts will be fun but it includes learning about measurement, history and other concepts that we can infuse into the activities. Balance?…well, I still think it was trying to make it more fun and making sure reaching some of our target goals for mastering and generalizing. I don’t want to mislead anybody so I need to tell you also that it was hardwork at first (about 4 years) but I never fail to see my goal which is to make a happy and well loved child out of my two sons!

  17. Fernando Lopez(Parent Educator) says:

    Excelent Hedi. My heart and best wishes go out to you and your family. Keep up the good work.

  18. Andre M. Smith says:

    Professor Chua is a woefully ill-informed parent, one ignorant of just what is happening in some parts of education in America. Fully confident in her presumed success as a writer with an editorial staff at Penguin shadow boxing for her and unapologetically wearing her signature plastic smile for public appearances, the Lawyer Chua is trying to persuade and convince; on both counts controversially, but with enough negative reactions to cause her subsequently to attempt a dilution of the intensity in her initial self-congratulatory tirade by latterly asserting that her writing is merely one person’s experiences of some trying times in motherhood. To gain working points among the Old-Boy network, the prime lubricant of Yale, Professor Chua initially claimed that she is a Tiger Mom as Chinese maternal type; Fierce! When that showpiece veneer didn’t sit well with mothers who are the real thing, i.e., mothers from China, this faux cat altered the validity of her claim to violence by stating that she is a Tiger Mom because she was born in 1962, a Year of the Tiger. That a tenured Professor of Yale can – must? – openly justify her self-classification with superstitious underpinning should provide anyone what is needed to draw a conclusion about the level of intellect afoot in Yale Law School. Professor? Indeed!

    Any of Chua’s public statements of the purposes of her work evolve to fit the tenor of the evolving criticisms directed at it. It has passed, in her own words, from (1) practical handbook for parenting to (2) tongue-in-cheek (whatever that’s supposed to mean), to (3) memoir, (4) satire, (5) parody, (6) “a coming of age book for parents” (7) “the book is about a journey”; and who knows what else as she makes the rounds of the book circuit trying to snare yet more unsuspecting purchasers into her net. That she can, without blushing, class a single work with such a range causes me to wonder what kind of grade she got at Harvard for her command of the English language. She’s Trollope (the author), Pope (the author), The Wicked Witch in Hansel und Gretel and Gullible’s Travels all penned together into one oversized Pamper. Anyone who can’t read the monetary cynicism driving the kaleidoscope of this whole Tiger Mom scam and its spurious, unproven claimed insights into parenting, with variant latter-day reflections by the author herself, deserves to have paid full retail price for this book.

    “What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it.”
    Stamp collecting, fishing, lazing about on a summer day, science club, Brownie Scouting, baseball, birthday parties, church annual picnic, kite flying, visiting relatives, kissing, jumping rope, student council, insect classification . . . Away with this woman! “Fun” must be one of the more overused, misunderstood words in the American lexicon. Chinese parent = The Model Minority? In China?

    “I’m happy to be the one hated.”

    “If I could push a magic button and choose either happiness or success for my children, I’d choose happiness in a second.

    That’s it perfectly stated in Tigerese: Either / Or; not both. Amy Chua is a chameleonic con artist. PT. Barnum certainly was right, one “. . . born every minute!”

    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.

  19. Andre M. Smith says:

    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.

  20. Andre M. Smith says:

    I divide my year annually between New York and Shanghai. One of my common visitations in the latter city is to the area in and around The Shanghai Conservatory of Music. About four years back the school built a large new building on Fenyang Lu. Along the street side is a lower level with a string of music stores stocked with new instruments. In four of those stores I counted, literally, one trumpet, one horn, one trombone, no tuba, two flutes, one clarinet, one oboe, no bassoon, a handful of strings (but no string bass), and two-hundred pianos! The single trombone (my instrument) looked and felt like it had been made in an industrial arts school as a class project. I asked one of the clerks how many trombone students were
    then enrolled in the Conservatory. “Five,” he replied. I told him it would be impossible for any serious student of that instrument to plan advancement playing such useless metal and asked what brand of instruments are taught upstairs. All the trombones were imported by the school, only as needed, from Yamaha in Japan. But, why the sea of pianos?

    Most parents do not want their children spending, i.e., wasting, their time on any instrument for which a student can not enter a contest and win prizes. Prizes mean medals and certificates, which Mommy and Daddy can display as their own achievements by extension. It is the major conservatories in China (Shanghai, Beijing, Shenyang, and Wuhan) which are responsible for continuing to nurture this false status, while, visually at least, giving the external impression that China is a major cultural locus of Western classical music. Anyone who has heard the wind sections of a major symphony orchestra in China will hear just how major the cultural locus is in China for those instruments. Naïve morons; school and parent alike!

    For the serious student having neither interest nor ability to become a graduate of Harvard Medical School, this phony sequence of contest successes may lead to Juilliard in New York or Curtis in Philadelphia. “If a clown like Lang Lang can make it, then so can my little angel. Who is, of course, the most adept keyboard wizard to blossom since Lawrence Welk or Rachmaninoff.” Stage mothers: Away with them!

    All of this clap-trap nonsense has no relationship whatsoever to two very important issues: music or Asian American. It is, with the rarest of exceptions, largely Oriental in the homeland. Atavistic immigrants from those eastern cultures or those descended directly therefrom – like the ever-psychobashing Kommandant Amy Chua – have some untested, sentimental notion that music opens doors and ensures careers in whatever direction the unmusical music student chooses; which the student is free to choose, so long as it isn’t music. (Try to figure out that one. “You are free to study physics or mathematics, so long as you don’t attempt to make a career of them.”)

    For the past forty years during my own studies in medicine and music in New York I have been wedded to and worked closely with and around nurses, physicians, surgeons, and medical technicians active in all the standard disciplines. Those persons have come from all modern regions of the world. And, yes, some of my coworkers have come from the beloved Harvard Medical School. But, I can write with authority, the number of those professional persons who have had any direct contact at any times in their lives with piano or violin is insignificantly small.

    No one has ever wasted time typing me as a wimp. Nevertheless, with an Amy Chua of my own only thinly masking a contempt while ostensibly trying to encourage me before the age of ten by classing me as “garbage, “lazy,” “useless,” and a host of other niceties (a savage, a juvenile delinquent, boring, common, low, completely ordinary, a barbarian) all the while forbidding me to sit on a toilet until I can play triplets in one hand against duolets in the other mechanistically en duo with a metronome might have (likely would have) set me up both for advanced training to climb The Texas Tower and chronic constipation.

    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.