Since its release earlier this year, Amy Chua’s book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (Penguin, 2011) has elicited strong reactions and criticisms, both pro and con, about parenting and the rearing of the children in America. Throughout the book, Chua, a Yale law professor and mother of two Chinese-American daughters, describes how she and her husband (also a Yale law professor) set high expectations for their children and settled for nothing less than perfection. Her daughters were never allowed to attend sleepovers, have playdates, watch TV or play computer games, or get any grades less than A. They were expected to be first in their class and also maintain rigorous afterschool practice schedules on piano or violin.
Chua describes the Chinese way of parenting (Chinese or not) as much more rigorous than Western methods. “Most of the other students at the school had liberal Western parents, who were weak-willed and indulgent when it came to practicing” (p.27). Her philosophy and parenting methods might see appalling, cruel, and heartless, yet her daughters excelled in academics, piano, and violin.
Earlier in May, I blogged about the need for afterschool professionals to evaluate the levels of rigor we expect for all children and youth, both during and after school. I got little argument that we should collectively strive for higher expectations for children and youth in our programs.
But now, let’s focus on adult expectations.
Is it cruel and heartless to expect the employees in our afterschool programs to increase expectations and settle for nothing less than their best everyday? As program leaders, are we too weak? Are we too lax? Do we adhere to high enough standards? Are we so focused on doing and saying what is politically correct that we fail to resolve plaguing issues? Are we satisfied too quickly and so easily that we’ve grown comfortable with the status quo and mediocrity?
My guess is that these questions raise doubts, concerns, and haunting memories among most of us. Too many of us have become accustomed to overlooking adult mistakes or accommodating a poor work ethic in order to avoid a confrontation. We continuously deal with student behaviors that could be prevented if the adults would simply supervise and do their jobs. We allow too many “adult issues” to get in the way of staff members actually performing their jobs – and at proficient levels.
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is more than a memoir about the contrasts and differences between Chinese v. Western child rearing. It implies as much about how we approach the rigor and quality of our professional development programs and the expectations that we, as adults, have of each other.
One might disagree with Amy Chua (and me), but there is much to consider, debate, and reflect upon within the pages of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Schedule a staff book study and raise some key issues about practices and methodology from both the perspectives of student and adult performance and achievement. Those reflections should spark some lively discussions and fruitful outcomes.
Reference: Chua, Amy (2011). Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. New York: Penguin Press.