Two great takes on the Amy Chua article on the superiority of Chinese moms. I will begin by saying that I went to an Ivy League school and would love to see my kids go there as well. But the be-all end-all drive to get into such a school, combined with 6% admissions rates, seems to be a recipe for a lot of unhappiness. Especially since the vast, vast (did I say vast?) majority of the most successful people I have met in my life went to non-name-branded schools.
The first take is from the Last Psychiatrist:
I'll explain what's wrong with her thinking by asking you one simple question, and when I ask it you will know the answer immediately. Then, if you are a parent, in the very next instant your mind will rebel against this answer, it will defend itself against it-- "well, no, it's not so simple--" but I want to you to ignore this counterattack and focus on how readily, reflexively, instinctively you knew the answer to my question. Are you ready to test your soul? Here's the question: what is the point of all this? Making the kids play violin, of being an A student, all the discipline, all of this? Why is she working her kids so hard? You know the answer: college.
She is raising future college students.
Oh, I know that these things will make them better people in the long run, but silently agree that her singular purpose is to get the kids into college. Afterwards she'll want other things for them, sure, but for 18 years she has exactly one goal for them: early decision.
Professor Amy Chua is part of two broken credentialist mindsets: the Chinese Confucian admissions-to-the-imperial bureacracy memset, and the American academic admissions-to-the-Ivy-League memeset. (But perhaps I repeat myself).
Heck, she’s risen to a top spot in the American conformist system – she’s a PhD and a professor at a top university. Of course she buys into the implied social hierarchy.
I climbed much of the way up that particular hierarchy, and then decided towards the end of the process to bag on a PhD. Why? Because I looked around and realized that PhDs, even professors at Ivy League schools, weren’t really accomplishing much, and weren’t really happy.
I do interviews for Princeton as part of the admissions process. I am not sure that the admissions office would agree with my approach, but I spend time in the interviews trying to figure out if a high achieving student has succeeded by grimly jumping through hoops under his or her parents' lash, or if they have real passion and interest in the things they do. I tend not to be impressed by the former.
Seriously, are we really celebrating the creation of a whole generation of our brightest kids who get all their motivation externally? What happens when the motivation prosthetic they have been using goes away?
Postscript: From the first article
That's why it's in the WSJ. The Journal has no place for, "How a Fender Strat Changed My Life." It wants piano and violin, it wants Chua's college-resume worldview.
Oh how I wish my parents had forced me to play electric guitar rather than piano.