We parents are lucky. So many people prepared to scold us! There’s the mother-in-law and health-/education/child development-experts. People in the street. Other mothers.
There’s a new nagging voice on the block and she’s got quite a roar: Amy Chua aka: Tiger Mom.
For those living under a rock — or perhaps too busy with micro-management of their growing children, Chua’s the author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, an entertaining, emotional, and pretty misunderstood memoir about her strict, high-pressure, awards-focused parenting style.
Chua’s book — actually, a chapter that was condensed and turned into an essay in the Washington Post — provoked outrage and soul-searching and, plenty of people to defend kids play and child-led educations and their own supposedly permissive “Western” ways.
Of the many grievances Chua has against “Western” (as opposed to “Chinese,” though Western and Chinese don’t actually mean Western and Chinese … I know, just play along), she includes allowing kids to watch hours of reality TV to be more cruel than forcing her daughter to practice violin for two hours minimum.
So that’s that with reality TV, right? The downfall of American education. Well, not quite.
As Chua’s daughters certainly know, a Tiger Mom is never satisfied and the message is, if not quite mixed, are at least very nuanced.
Chua is a surprising defender of the essay question on a recent SAT test.
The question, which itself provoked outrage and soul-searching and plenty of people to question whether they should have been making their college-bound watch American Idol, asked test-takers to write thoughtfully about reality TV.
Writing for the Daily Beast, Chua criticizes the students who came away from the test whining about the question.
She gives five Tiger Mom reasons (that’s going to be trademarked soon, isn’t it?), mostly saying to buck up and work with what you’ve got, practice (of course!) and if never settle for rote learning anyway.
I tend to agree with Tiger Mom on this, though I hate the assumption that all kids are just dying to watch reality shows. I especially like how she calls out kids so test-prepped that they’ve lost their skills to actually think. You know, with their own brains.
I’ll bet the kids doing the complaining are not too poor to have a TV but instead relatively privileged. (One of the students who “freaked out” wrote, “My tutor had told me to use Martin Luther King as an example no matter what the question.”) Any SAT essay question—whether about music, sports, or politics—will favor students with certain interests. If anything, a question about reality television is more fair than a question about, say, postmodernism or classical music, which probably would have a class or race bias. The truth is that the whole structure of the SAT wildly favors the demographic from which the complaining students most likely hail: kids, like mine, whose parents want them to read books and drill vocabulary words instead of watching television. Privileged kids claiming disadvantage will not make an inspiring new generation of leaders.
Do you think the question was fair? Do you think Chua’s right or just stirring the self-promotion pot?