Thursday, March 22, 2012

CULTURE : Tiger Moms, Eagle Dads, and Asians--OH MY!

Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon...
            If you make a list of Asian stereotypes, “Good at math” will definitely make it to the top three. Why is this? Are Asian kids just naturally good at math? If I were a little more scientific, I would write a research paper on the genetics behind this phenomenon. But as an art history major, I really can’t do much about it. There is one thing, however, that I am sure of: even if there is no clear relation between Asian brains and mathematical skills, the educational system, social environment and most importantly, the parenting styles in some Asian cultures, will definitely make a genius out of anyone.
            Amy Chua’s memoir Battle Hymn for Tiger Mother introduced the term “tiger mom” to the western public for the first time, revealing typical Chinese style parenting and leaving American parents in shock, confusion and even fear. Like hens in an organic farm whose dream it is to produce Grade A organic eggs, Amy Chua and other tiger moms aim to raise Grade A children with strict rules and high expectations. Grueling music lessons and extra tutoring in academic coursework are mandatory for these children, along with constant scolding and accusing. If Chua complains that her family pet rabbit is "not smart enough", demanding it to learn intelligent tricks and not just acting as a cute and cuddly addition to the family... well, imagine what she (and other "tiger moms" expect for the children? Yeah. Exactly.
            Amy might have revealed the parental style of Chinese parents, but her book is just the tip of the iceberg. Long before "High Expectation Asian Dad” became a popular meme, Asian parents started training their kids even before they are born. Parenting books from “how to educate your baby in the uterus” to “it’s still not too late! how to train your kids into Goldman & Sachs” constantly conquers the Best Seller section of major bookstore in China. 
           Back in Beijing, my mother’s apartment is situated next to the best gynecology hospital which is surrounded by companies that provide education on both the baby and pregnant mothers. These companies promoted their education package to “jumpstart your baby” so they can be better than other babies when they are finally born into this world. Then there are kindergartens that provide bi-lingual education in exchange for an obscene amount of tuition; even so, parents are still camping out of the kindergarten just to get their two-year-olds enrolled (looking familiar? Black Friday shoppers?). A good kindergarten will really look great on the babies’ resume when they are applying for good elementary schools, especially when you list skills like dancing, musical instrument or math olympic medals. Similar procedure will be required when you are applying for middle schools and high schools as well. Basically, the competition started in the uterus-- by the age of kindergarten, if your kids are still having a careless and stress-free childhood, they will be eaten up by tiger babies, the vicious cubs of tiger moms.
            Besides mental training, physical trainings are essential as well. Soon after tiger mom publish her book, “Wolf Dad” appeared in a talk show in China, carrying a feather duster and explaining how he beats all of his kids into the best Chinese university. There is also “Eagle Dad” who trained his pre-maturely born baby by asking him to run naked in the snow; the poor four-year-old, recorded in a video clip, which went viral, was pleading with his dad not to run anymore. The Eagle Dad later proudly shared his parental experience on Chinese micro-blog (Chinese twitter), saying that under this training program, the baby achieved a potential IQ of 218. His son later came to the US for kindergarten (or pre-school) education and guess what, he finished all the material within half a year. Apparently dissatisfied by the easiness and lack of competition in US education system, the father soon brought the baby back to China and gave him something more challenging: running naked in the snow.
            These extreme parents, who are probably on the black list of child protection agencies, are taking the education of their children very seriously. All they ever want for their kids is to live their lives to the fullest, in which case the term “full” is defined by the standard of the parents. When their kids grow up and look at their childhood, they won’t regret spending their summer playing in the fields with the neighborhood kids. But sometimes, living life to the fullest does not guarantee living life happily. Even though some people regard “challenging the limit” as the ultimate thrill of life, maybe that might not be the dream for the babies who are still sleeping in their mother’s uterus. Mothers-to-be, fearing their babies will be left behind, anxiously plunge into this competition among toddlers. Unfortunately, the trend of “Tiger Mom” and “Eagle Dad” has yet to die... it's snowing outside. Get your running shoes?

The Woman Behind the Cultural Perspectives Section:

Asheley Gao is an extremely creative young woman, currently attending UC Berkeley as an undergraduate, a long way away from her home country of China. She is double majoring in Political Economy and History of Art. Her interest in life and exuberance is evident, not only in her work as an artist and academic, but also a friend and co-worker.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've wondered about Asian kids and math too. Here's a blogpost that you might find interesting that looks at what exactly Asian moms in Singapore do when it comes to Math: