January 25, 2011

"'Call me garbage,' one of the twins said again. 'I dare you.'"

"'O.K.,' I said, trying, for once, to be a good mother. 'You’re garbage.'"

Elizabeth Kolbert writes about "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" in the New Yorker. Bonus: An illustration by Barry Blitt. (Click my Barry Blitt tag if you can't remember by loving Barry Blitt.)

40 comments:

Paul Zrimsek said...

If you kids leave my house, if you survive my parenting ... you will be a weapon, you will be a minister of death, praying for war.
But until that day you are pukes! You're the lowest form of life on Earth. You are not even human fucking beings! You are nothing but
unorganized grabasstic pieces of amphibian shit!

Sixty Grit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
prairie wind said...

Such a strange story. "You're garbage" would never leave my mouth, even in jest.

I wonder if Chua exaggerated her parenting stories and I wonder if she is really, really sorry that Americans can't take the joke.

rick said...

From the comments..."“But you’ll never get a Jimi Hendrix that way.”

Yes that's the life I want for my kids.....dead at 27.

Pogo said...

Tiger mom is sure gonna sell lotsa books.

If you tigermom enough kids, it allows an entire nation to be led by people who call them garbage, and throw them out like garbage.

In a short time, you can kill over 20 million people that way.

Florida said...

"If you tigermom enough kids, it allows an entire nation to be led by people who call them garbage, and throw them out like garbage."

You know ... it's really too bad that parents are allowed to abort their children but not the other way around.

Robert Burnham said...

Read the book. It's lot funnier — and more self-aware — than the WSJ exerpt (which everyone is reacting to).

Pogo said...

@Florida
True. Yet I was thinking of the Cultural Revolution.

China's, not ours.

Gabriel Hanna said...

RTFA, I was surprised by its evenhandedness.


It was the first time that Chinese students had participated, and children from Shanghai ranked first in every single area. Students from the United States, meanwhile, came in seventeenth in reading, twenty-third in science, and an especially demoralizing thirty-first in math. This last ranking put American kids not just behind the Chinese, the Koreans, and the Singaporeans but also after the French, the Austrians, the Hungarians, the Slovenians, the Estonians, and the Poles....



Americans have been told always to encourage their kids. This, the theory goes, will improve their self-esteem, and this, in turn, will help them learn.

After a generation or so of applying this theory, we have the results. Just about the only category in which American students outperform the competition is self-regard. Researchers at the Brookings Institution, in one of their frequent studies of education policy, compared students’ assessments of their abilities in math with their scores on a standardized test. Nearly forty per cent of American eighth graders agreed “a lot” with the statement “I usually do well in mathematics,” even though only seven per cent of American students actually got enough correct answers on the test to qualify as advanced. Among Singaporean students, eighteen per cent said they usually did well in math; forty-four per cent qualified as advanced. As the Brookings researchers pointed out, even the least self-confident Singaporean students, on average, outscored the most self-confident Americans. You can say it’s sad that kids in Singapore are so beaten down that they can’t appreciate their own accomplishments. But you’ve got to give them this: at least they get the math right.


America, f*ck yeah! We may be #31 in math, but we are #1 in our opinion of ourselves.

We're just cranking out the Jimi Hendrixes, aren't we? That's why we're still playing 60's and 70's music on the radio, and making new versions of old movies and TV shows. Because we're so much more creative than the Chinese, don't you know.

I had to try to teach little Abby and Zachary some physics when they grew up into legal adults and entered the university. I had American adults who didn't know what a satellite is (something to do with TV) or that the earth goes around the sun and takes a year to do it.

Pogo said...

We could return to parenting of the 1950s, which resulted in fine math skills, without requiring humiliation.

TWM said...

"It’s just about impossible to pick up a newspaper these days—though who actually picks up a newspaper anymore?—without finding a story about the rise of the East."

I found this quote interesting. And it's true - you can't pick up a newspaper (or read the Internet which is what I do) without reading about China being better than us in, well, everything.

Of course, it was true back in the 80s and early 90s when Japan was buying every piece of real estate in America and kicking our asses in pretty much everything.

We all know how that turned-out.

I admit I do find the Tiger Woman theory of raising children intersting though. Especially the way it starts out in China - you know, getting rid of the girls because they prefer boys and all.

Trooper York said...

The only thing the Chinese do better than us is dim sum.

The rest of it is just technology and ideas that they steal.

Cheaper yes. Better no.

lemondog said...

...and children from Shanghai ranked first in every single area.
Students from the United States, meanwhile, came in seventeenth in reading, twenty-third in science, and an especially demoralizing thirty-first in math. This last ranking put American kids not just behind the Chinese, the Koreans, and the Singaporeans but also after the French, the Austrians, the Hungarians, the Slovenians, the Estonians, and the Poles.



Curious on how numbers stack up.


re: Shanghai, it has general population of 19 million vs US population of 300 million.

US est 50 million students including immigrants

Shanghai ?

Top Test Scores From Shanghai Stun Educators

About 5,100 15-year-olds in Shanghai were chosen as a representative cross-section of students in that city. In the United States, a similar number of students from across the country were selected as a representative sample for the test.

Shanghai: The World's Best School System
Sure, but are the schools unionized and do teachers have tenure.....

Gabriel Hanna said...

@lemondog:

You could argue that the Shanghai students tend to be the best of a very large country, but that doesn't explain why tiny European countries with the same population as Wisconsin ALSO come in ahead of the US.

Freeman Hunt said...

“Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” exhibits much the same lack of interest in critical thinking. It’s breezily written, at times entertaining, and devoid of anything approaching introspection. Imagine your most self-congratulatory friend holding forth for two hours about her kids’ triumphs, and you’ve more or less got the narrative.

It is most unfortunate that the author of this piece did not have a Tiger Mother to goad her into learning reading comprehension.

I am, however, very amused that so many supposed intellectuals are incapable of picking up on the tone of the book and instead take it in purely literal terms. They are the credentialed version of Biblical fundamentalists.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@Pogo: I'm not endorsing the Chinese educational system or "Tiger Mother" parenting.

I am criticizing our educational system, our parenting, and the transparent and self-serving excuses we use to justifiy them in the face of objective data showing that they don't work all that well.

Kids in the 50's left high school, if they finished high school, knowing a lot more than kids do today. More kids today finish high school than they did then, but I don't see any evidence it's done them more good.

Freeman Hunt said...

How to write an article about Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother:

(1) Read the book. Or don't. (Excerpts will suffice for writing a review for publication.)

(2) Collect incidents from the book stripped of all context to make them seem outrageous.

(3) Read with no ear for tone. Assume that the author has no sense of humor and is never making fun of herself. Take everything as though written in a serious, literal style.

(4) Report things from the book incorrectly to bolster your case that Chua is insane/evil/unthinking/etc.

(5) Submit your story to a leading publication and collect your check.

I gather that this is how it is done.

Freeman Hunt said...

Chua must have forgotten that most Americans have been raised by lax, Western parents when she wrote a book seemingly too challenging for her audience.

Heh.

Freeman Hunt said...

The other funny thing about the misunderstanding of this book is that it's an incredibly easy read. Probably the easiest book I've read all year. And yet, it seems to have been so hard for so many. What gives?

I suspect that most of the problem comes from writing based on the WSJ excerpts and light skimming of the book for the same.

lemondog said...

...Shanghai students tend to be the best of a very large country

I do think size, because of incresed complexity, as well as homogenity is important.

I only compared Shanghai and the US because PISA scored a sample of Shanghai students rather than a sample across all China.

In the last few decades it appears Shanghai has undertaken action to substantally strengthen its school system
PRESENT SITUATION OF EDUCATION IN SHANGHAI
and more power to them.

Do we know how students from Wisconsin would stack up against those of Shanghai or Poland or France?

Joe said...

"I don’t want this," she tells Lulu, throwing back at her a handmade birthday card. "I want a better one."

There's context for this? Seriously?

edutcher said...

Insta made an interesting point some time ago. The talk about decline comes mostly out of the mouths of the Ruling Class, largely because they're the ones in decline.

While I'm the first to say we're in trouble academically, it's largely due to the teacher unions and the politicians that feed off them.

Trooper York said...

The only thing the Chinese do better than us is dim sum.

The rest of it is just technology and ideas that they steal.


Or have handed to them by some adulterous sociopath from Arkinsaw who has lied his way through life.

Freeman Hunt said...

"I don’t want this," she tells Lulu, throwing back at her a handmade birthday card. "I want a better one."

There's context for this? Seriously?


Yes. "Handmade" is a stretch. It was a folded piece of paper with "Happy Birthday :)" scribbled on it in ballpoint pen and admittedly made in less than thirty seconds.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@lemondog:

Do we know how students from Wisconsin would stack up against those of Shanghai or Poland or France?

Yes.

For example, we know from the 2007 NAEP math report that Massachusetts and Minnesota are high-performing states, that South Carolina and Missouri perform around the national average, that Mississippi and Alabama are low-performing states, and that the District of Columbia, is the lowest-performing “state” in the nation. The 2007 TIMSS ranks countries, ranging from the highest-performing, including Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) and the Republic of Korea, through the middle ranks, including the United States, and going down to the lowest-performing countries, including Turkey (the lowest shown in Figure 1), Syria, Egypt, Algeria, and Colombia.

By combining these two sets of results, we know that even the best-performing American states do not score nearly as high as Chinese Taipei or Korea, that the average-performing American states are about on par with England, the Russian Federation, and Lithuania, and that the District of Columbia’s performance is more comparable to those of Thailand and Turkey.


It is right for you to caution that we can't make too much out of these statistcs because it's hard to compare apples to apples. Nonetheless, it's one of many pieces of evidence that our educational system, with the exception of our universities, has failed to improve despite the ever-increasing funding thrown at it. In fact, we're always told we're not spending enough, when in fact we pay more per student than almost any other OECD nation.

Gabriel Hanna said...

Oh, if you were wondering what "Chinese Taipei" is, that's the current circumlocution for Taiwan (thereisonlyoneChinanadTaiwanispartofChina).

lucid said...

I refuse to give hits to anything published by The New Yorker.

It has become an atrocious lefty political rag.

Good fiction and poetry is easily gotten elsewhere.

Alex said...

Freeman - I fail to see why a birthday card needs to be up to Julliard standards. Can you explain that one?

lemondog said...

In fact, we're always told we're not spending enough, when in fact we pay more per student than almost any other OECD nation.

Parental involvement and oversight is key.

Was curious about PISA scores Chinese Taipei vs Shanghai. An accounting of Chinese Taipei deterioration would be interesting.

The rise and slide of Taiwanese education

Mimi said...

Gabriel Hanna:

Here’s something you probably haven’t read: “An achievement gap that won't be fixed in schools” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/09/AR2011010904011.html). It’s a Robert Samuelson column that appeared in the Washington Post recently. Hasn’t gotten much attention, I think, because it’s a touchy subject. An excerpt:

“However, the overall scores don't tell the full story. The U.S. Education Department examined the American scores by race and ethnicity. This report ("Highlights from PISA 2009") allows comparison with countries whose ethnic and racial compositions are more homogeneous than ours. For example, you can compare the scores of white non-Hispanic Americans with the scores from Canada, a country that is almost 85 percent white. This is an admittedly crude approach, but it suggests that U.S. schools do about as well as the best systems elsewhere in educating similar students.

Among non-Hispanic white Americans, the average score was 525 - not very different from Canada's 524, New Zealand's 521 or Australia's 515. All these countries are heavily white, and all ranked in the top 10 of the 65 participating school systems. The story is the same for Asian Americans. Their average score was 541 - somewhat below Shanghai, about even with South Korea and ahead of Hong Kong (533) and Japan. Again, all these other systems were in the top 10.

American schools are hardly perfect. Math scores, though showing the same pattern, are lower than reading scores. We can learn from other countries better ways to teach math. But the most glaring gap is well-known: the stubbornly low test scores of blacks and Hispanics. In the PISA study, their reading scores were 441 (blacks) and 466 (Hispanics). Changing this is the great challenge for schools, because the share of black and Hispanic students is growing. It was 23 percent in 1980, 35 percent in 2009.”

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Freeman - I fail to see why a birthday card needs to be up to Julliard standards. Can you explain that one?

Well, a little more thought and preparation should be required than...."oh fuck..I forgot.... it is your birthday, here's a scrap of paper I found in the trash and drew a smiley face on with a pen I stole from your purse".

When you falsely praise and condone sloppy, slovenly, thoughtless behaviour....you just get more of it.

Of course, since I didn't read the book, I have no idea how old the child was. If less than 5, you should probably cut the kid some slack.

Alex said...

DBQ - what I get is the impression that the Amy Chua's of the world demand perfection 24 hours a day and anything less is "garbage". What a toxic way to live.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

@ Alex

Agreed. To demand perfection 24/7 of anyone, especially a child is unreasonable and really a very cruel thing to do.

However, to expect that your child to "try" to do their best in everything they do (even if their best is average) is not unreasonable.

All I ever asked was that my child try. If average, or less, are what the results are: so be it. No one is good at everything.

Praise should always be given for trying no matter what the results. Parents also know when their child is NOT trying, is slacking off, and should NOT reward that behaviour.

rsb said...

Gabriel is right on the money I think - maybe a little less of the "Im OK - You're Ok" crap that was forcw fed in the seventies has something to do with this.
The mother though is way over the top and life under her would be a kind of hell.

Joe said...

"I don’t want this," she tells Lulu, throwing back at her a handmade birthday card. "I want a better one."

There's context for this? Seriously?

Yes. "Handmade" is a stretch. It was a folded piece of paper with "Happy Birthday :)" scribbled on it in ballpoint pen and admittedly made in less than thirty seconds.


Any adult who throws a gift at a child and demands a better one is a fucking asshole. There is no context for this. There is no justification. It is emotional abuse, pure and simple. The failure to see this is as vile as the act.

Alex said...

Joe - you have to understand. Amy Chua is simply preparing her daughters to be sharks in the real world. If you want to win in Ivy League, corporate world, politics, you have to be the most ruthless shark of them all. So throwing the birthday card back is a life lesson in shark behavior. Who needs love, when it's all about winning?

ricpic said...

Do they have thick juicy ribeye steaks smothered in onions and mushrooms with a baked potato on the side in China? Case closed.

ricpic said...

Most ruthless shark of all
Swim till die
Then make nice bowl soup.

--Lao Tze

Joan said...

Most ruthless shark of all
Swim till die
Then make nice bowl soup.

--Lao Tze


I dunno, Lao Tze, I wouldn't make shark soup unless I'd hooked that shark myself. God only knows what it died of, otherwise.

Freeman Hunt said...

Any adult who throws a gift at a child and demands a better one is a fucking asshole. There is no context for this. There is no justification. It is emotional abuse, pure and simple. The failure to see this is as vile as the act.

What a drama king you are.

(And no, they weren't little kids at the time.)

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