Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Tiger in the Room

I found interesting the strong reaction against Amy Chua's "Tiger Mum". Ms Chua is entitled to be strict with her kids, and bring them up in any manner she deems in their best interests. There are many other parents who are equally, if not more, strict. So why the reaction? Was it her assertion that her methods were superior? That still does not explain the ferocity of the response. Just because she claims superiority does not mean it is true. We can simply disagree, raise our children the "western" way and tell ourselves that they will be the better for it. But there lies the problem. We can disagree, but what if she is right? After all, her children have done well. The truth is many of us would prefer not to be "Tiger Mums" for different reasons. We do not like their methods, it is difficult, requires a lot of discipline, creates unwanted tensions with our children, etc. So it is easier to dismiss Ms Chua's arguments as flawed.

But there is another problem. It is undeniable that the amount of time a child devotes to school work has some effect on his grades, particularly in the earlier years. So while we may not want to be a "Tiger Mum", our child is competing against the child of someone who is. So no one likes a "Tiger Mum" because, in local parlance, she "spoils the market". We would prefer a level playing field, for all children to be educated the same way, so that their "true" abilities will determine their success. That may explain why some speak out against those who are prepared to queue overnight to get their children into elite kindergartens. They want places to be balloted, so that everyone has an equal chance and no one has to make a special effort. But we know that is unrealistic. People will always seek to gain an advantage, whether in education, business, finances or even romance. We send our kids for phonics and abacus classes when they are 3 or 4 because we think it will give them a head start in language and math. We send our children to tuition classes, not because they cannot cope in school, but because coping is not good enough. We want them to ace exams, and more importantly, do better than others.

Deep down, we fear and dislike the "Tiger Mum" because for all we are doing to help our kids excel, there is someone out there willing to go further then we are prepared to.

1 comment:

  1. Happened to chance upon your comment posting in Siew Kum Hong's blog about "fresh ideas on income gap".

    As I cited your name in my comment posting in Mr Siew's blog, I thought I should inform you as a matter of courtesy.