Best-seller sparks discussion about parenting

Odi Opole and Emily Brown, Staff Writer and Copy Editor

Education drives expectations

In my family, perfection isn’t an achievement. It’s an expectation.

For both me and my 11-year-old brother, transcripts, SATs and college applications are normal topics of discussion.

In my house, bad grades aren’t supposed to happen: a grade of a B or lower equals failure.

But when Amy Chua’s book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother came out, it still shocked me.

She uses extreme measures such as forcing her 7-year-old daughter to practice a piano piece for several hours, without dinner or bathroom breaks.

However, differences in educational values between America and the rest of the world probably affected her parenting style in a huge way.

Chua writes about how Chinese parenting is superior to western parenting — how Chinese students are doing better than American students because Chinese parents are willing to go further to get results.

But Chua hasn’t looked at the big picture.

Yes, American schools are different, and yes, foreigners are achieving higher test grades than Americans.

But this is not solely because of parenting styles.

A school’s focus influences its students’ successes in a huge way.

American schools are geared towards creating thinkers: we highly value problem-solving, teamwork and other skills that will help students become leaders in their communities and in the workplace.

Different countries have different agendas.

It may be more about encouraging producers than thinkers.

Instead of small business owners, a developing country may be working to create competent and capable workers.

When that is added to a demand for jobs, an environment where schooling is crucial to success is formed.

That’s what brings out the ‘Tiger Mother’ mentality.

America also has more educational opportunities than most countries.

A variety of schools and educational programs make it possible for a large number of people to get a higher education. That’s a huge difference compared to some countries.

Imagine trying to apply to two to three colleges with B’s and C’s — in fact, imagine those two or three colleges are the only colleges in the country.

Suddenly, those college applications seem a lot more important.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother reflects an immigrant’s perspective on school, and it’s not a bad perspective to have.

Chua’s parenting methods, however, could use some work. But throughout her life, and the lives of her children, she has followed the mantra of someone who’s looking for a better life in a strange land.

You can make it in America.

Despite Chua’s harsh perspective, the values are there.

Strict parents limit potential

My family has never been anything but supportive.

They don’t scream at me to be strong; they encourage me to strive for my best.

And I have succeeded on my own.

Not because my parents constantly nag me, but because they let me make my own decisions and choices.

Perhaps this is the reason I don’t understand the methods of ‘Tiger Parents’ — parents of all ethnicities who bring up their children in a strict environment.

Writer Amy Chua recently published her controversial book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. In the book, she describes the differences in Chinese and American parenting.

She talks about the expectations she had of her children.

They could never earn a grade less than an A and they had to be the number one student in almost every subject.

How incredibly sad.

For students with such strict parents, failure is simply not an option and perfection is expected.

But how are students ever supposed to learn from their mistakes if they never experience failure early on in life?

How are they going to feel when they eventually do fail? Because everyone does. That is what makes us human — our imperfections.

According to UCLA’s annual survey of the nation’s incoming students at four-year colleges, only 51.9 percent of students said their emotional health was above average — a significant drop from the 63.6 percent in 1985. At the same time, the ratings of the students’ desire to achieve reached a record high of 75.8 percent.

Parents are supposed to prepare us for life and expecting perfection does the exact opposite.

In 2005, Esmie Tseng, a Blue Valley North junior, stabbed her mother to death with a knife.

On her blog, Tseng shared the punishments that drove her to the extreme.

If she did not win a statewide competition, her piano would be sold.

She was grounded for earning a 96 percent on an exam.

When she disappointed her mother, she was forced to stand naked in a corner.

Parents aren’t supposed to be overbearing dictators. Parents are supposed to teach us what is right and wrong — show us that failing is just another learning opportunity and let us decide what will make us happy.

Instead of forcing us to work our hardest, why not let us find out how important hard work is?

It is not our parents’ responsibility to find the determination and strength to achieve our goals — it’s ours.

Because one day we will be on our own. We will have to make choices that will lead us on whatever path we pick. Not the deferred dream of our parents.