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Old 01-17-2011, 01:15 PM   #31
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This thread called to mind my two cousins adopted from Asia. The oldest is a freshman in college, the younger a junior in high school. The older of the two has embraced being "Asian" almost to the point of self-mockery. On his Facebook he uses his Asian birth name and all sorts of lingo and slang I don't understand. He seeks out other Asian people as his friends. His best friend is Chinese (not adopted) and from what I gather was raised pretty similar to what the original post describes. My younger is embarrassed by being Asian, constantly reminding people she's adopted, and seems to have no interest in her native culture (my aunt and uncle tried to teach them about it and take them places to experience it). For example I've overheard conversations where my younger cousin accuses the older of being an anti-social nerd, and the older will respond sarcastically with something like, "duh, we're Asian, we're supposed to get 4.0 and be mathematical geniuses...." and the younger will respond with, "we're adopted so we're not really Asian, you're taking it too far..." They were not raised how the Chinese mom is describing but it's almost like my cousin uses those cultural stereotypes (all Asian kids are super smart, can't participate in social activities, are under constant pressure to excel, etc) as his reason for being academically gifted and borderline anti-social.
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Old 01-18-2011, 10:53 PM   #32
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The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof, who spends a fair amount of time in China, had an opinion piece over the weekend that might be relevant as a point of comparison:
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China's Winning Schools?


An international study published last month looked at how students in 65 countries performed in math, science and reading. The winner was: Confucianism! At the very top of the charts, in all three fields and by a wide margin, was Shanghai. Three of the next top four performers were also societies with a Confucian legacy of reverence for education: Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea. The only non-Confucian country in the mix was Finland. The United States? We came in 15th in reading, 23rd in science and 31st in math.

I’ve been visiting schools in China and Asia for more than 20 years (and we sent our own kids briefly to schools in Japan, which also bears a Confucian imprint), and I’ve spent much of that time either envious or dumbfounded. I’ll never forget pulling our 2-year-old son out of his Tokyo nursery school so we could visit the States and being handed a form in which we had to list: “reason for proposed vacation.” Education thrives in China and the rest of Asia because it is a top priority—and we’ve plenty to learn from that.

Granted, Shanghai’s rise to the top of the global charts is not representative of all China, for Shanghai has the country’s best schools. Yet it’s also true that China has made remarkable improvements in the once-awful schools in peasant areas. Just 20 years ago, children often dropped out of elementary school in rural areas. Teachers sometimes could barely speak standard Mandarin, which, in theory, is the language of instruction. These days, even in backward rural areas, most girls and boys alike attend high school. College isn’t unusual. And the teachers are vastly improved. In my Chinese-American wife’s ancestral village—a poor community in southern China—the peasant children are a grade ahead in math compared with my children at an excellent public school in the New York area. That seems broadly true of math around the country.

For a socialist system that hesitates to fire people, China has also been surprisingly adept—more so than America—at dealing with ineffective teachers. Chinese principals can’t easily dismiss teachers, but they can get extra training for less effective teachers, or if that doesn’t work, push them into other jobs. “Bad teachers can always be made gym teachers,” a principal in the city of Xian explained to me as she showed me around her kindergarten. In China, school sports and gym just don’t matter. (That kindergarten exemplified another of China’s strengths: excellent early childhood education, typically beginning at age 2. Indeed, the only element of China’s education system that really falters badly is the university system. Colleges are third-rate and should be a national disgrace.)

But this is the paradox: Chinese themselves are far less impressed by their school system. Almost every time I try to interview a Chinese about the system here, I hear grousing rather than praise. Many Chinese complain scathingly that their system kills independent thought and creativity, and they envy the American system for nurturing self-reliance—and for trying to make learning exciting and not just a chore. In Xian, I visited Gaoxin Yizhong, perhaps the city’s best high school, and the students and teachers spoke wistfully of the American emphasis on clubs, arts and independent thought.
“We need to encourage more creativity,” explained Hua Guohong, a chemistry teacher. “We should learn from American schools.” One friend in Guangdong Province says he will send his children to the United States to study because the local schools are a “creativity-killer.” Another sent his son to an international school to escape what he likens to “programs for trained seals.” Private schools are sprouting everywhere, and many boast of a focus on creativity.

For my part, I think the self-criticisms are exactly right, but I also deeply admire the passion for education and the commitment to making the system better. And while William Butler Yeats was right that “education is not filling a bucket but lighting a fire,” it’s also true that it’s easier to ignite a bonfire if there’s fuel in the bucket. The larger issue is that the greatest strength of the Chinese system is the Confucian reverence for education that is steeped into the culture. In Chinese schools, teachers are much respected, and the most admired kid is often the brain rather than the jock or class clown.

Americans think of China’s strategic challenge in terms of, say, the new Chinese stealth fighter aircraft. But the real challenge is the rise of China’s education system and the passion for learning that underlies it. We’re not going to become Confucians, but we can elevate education on our list of priorities without relinquishing creativity and independent thought. That’s what we did in 1957 after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. These latest test results should be our 21st-century Sputnik.
"Programs for trained seals"--do I hear an echo of AliEnvy's characterizing Chua's former parenting style as "authoritarian drone production" in there?

Kristof's not wrong to say that the drawbacks of so-called 'Confucian-style' education are most apparent at the college level, IMO; however, I do find it odd that he implies no connection between China's higher ed system and this "trained seal" system feeding into it. Perhaps he's only saying that the disparities in quality between the most and least prestigious schools is greatest at the college level (true), and not suggesting anything about the 'Confucian' pedagogical approach which in fact underlies both.

Still, any stereotypes Chua's "excerpt" might've fanned that China's best colleges must be filled with suicidal, socially incompetent achievement robots would be foolishly overblown. True, both my mainland and HK students last year were clearly unaccustomed to interactive class discussion and to articulating original, critical opinions--skills which business leaders in both places are increasingly linking to the perilous shortage of innovative capacity they see in their otherwise competitive young applicants. And true, for them gaining admission to a good college in the first place was all about cramming for then acing standardized tests. Both problems which higher education administrators in China and, especially, HK are to their credit actively overhauling their curriculums to address. But these kids weren't fragile, self-reproachful neurotics nor narcissistic 'entitlement mentality' brats--in fact, if pressed to compare along those lines, I'd say my impression was that those particular pathologies are actually considerably more widespread here in the US. I think the first thing most Western expats in China notice about Chinese teenagers and young adults is...their gentleness, sweetness even, the refreshing lack of all the posturing and pretense and twisted social maneuvering which accompanies the ethos and imperative of "Cool" in our culture. Chinese-American kids grow up negotiating both sets of pressures, often under the guardianship of parents who've never experienced and don't understand the latter. If that's a reason why many of them rebel, withdraw, or endure only through resentfully gritted teeth, no wonder.
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Old 01-19-2011, 05:16 PM   #33
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She rejected her four year old's birthday card because it wasn't good enough/done professionally enough. Yes, great parenting

It reminded me of the time when I was a kid and one of my neighbors slapped her son because he picked some of her flowers out of her garden and gave them to her.
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Old 01-19-2011, 08:43 PM   #34
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I have taught 7th grade language arts in a public school for many years.

The big change, the past twenty years, has been the breakdown in the family.

The kids have written about this often in their Journals.


You can think whatever, but a family that has a stable mom and dad is very important to a child.


The view of the family unit is much stronger in Asia.
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Old 01-19-2011, 09:59 PM   #35
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You can think whatever, but a family that has a stable mom and dad is very important to a child.
Just ... no. Stop. Please. Retire.
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Old 01-19-2011, 10:48 PM   #36
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Their is validity to the argumnet that 'Asian' parents persue excellence. But that might not be what life is all about. Some young asian boys can play a Bheetoven piece but that does not make them a great expressive muscian. That is them reciting which has its merits.

The fact is excellence is a great feeling and can have many rewards. But really, others value social relationships, watching tv and the like. It is what it is. Shouting multiplication tables as they do in some Asian schools doesn't really have any benefits other than creeping people out.

Making human connections and working in a team might be beyond some of these students. Lets examine, Tiger Woods, he is a great golfer but obvioulsy has difficulty with relationships. We should also rememeber the Asian studnets who have needlesly committed suicide over the years for no reason other than they didn't meet some ideal.

I think what is really telling in this matter s that China is now lending much of the world serious cash. They must be doing something right if they are pouring in badly needed stimulus to the rest of the world.

Finally, where does ethics play into this. China still has the death penalty and does awful things to endangered species. So what is the price of the piece of mind that says the death penalty is wrong and the environmnet should be repected before it is too late?
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Old 01-20-2011, 07:27 AM   #37
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You can think whatever, but a family that has a stable mom and dad is very important to a child.
I would think that stable parents would be very important to any child.
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Old 01-20-2011, 10:54 AM   #38
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I would think that stable parents would be very important to any child.


agreed. Chua doesn't seem to have any of the essentialist, female-only qualities of being a mother that only a woman can offer and without which a child is doomed to failure and without which everything else is just a pantomime of a real family.

she seems really butch, almost mannish (or, worse, lesbian-ish) in her parenting style. i bet she doesn't bake cookies or sing or nurture in the way that children need in order to properly either identify (if they are girls) with such essential, eternal female traits, or to define themselves against (if they are boys).

you'd think her daughters would be confused and sad but it seems that they're doing just fine.

all that said, two good parents are better than one. but one good parent is better than two bad parents.
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Old 01-20-2011, 11:15 AM   #39
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Just over the top for me.. and that's all I am gonna say about it..
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Old 01-20-2011, 11:43 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by Irvine511 View Post
she seems really butch, almost mannish (or, worse, lesbian-ish) in her parenting style. i bet she doesn't bake cookies or sing or nurture in the way that children need in order to properly either identify (if they are girls) with such essential, eternal female traits, or to define themselves against (if they are boys).
I lol'd. But I also flinched. And I know you're speaking with a heavy dose of irony here, but still...one should be careful about promoting the notion that your own culture's gender constructs, especially where family is concerned, will work as a yardstick everywhere. Most Indians would be puzzled to hear Indira Gandhi's political style described as "masculine," most Jews would raise an eyebrow to hear Golda Meir described as "butch," you know? But fair point that there's perhaps a major irony going undetected in situating Amy Chua in (our) ideal nuclear family model. I just don't think most Chinese people would see it that way.

I do agree completely with you and Diemen about the arbitrariness of ascribing family stability to the specifics of family composition (which vary wildly across cultural bounds anyway--nuclear, extended, patrilineal, matrilineal, arranged marriage, love marriage...etc., etc.). And at the same time, I also agree with iron horse that East Asian societies are more family-centric than ours, and believe this is related to, for example, their far lower violent crime rates. The two positions need not be incompatible.
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Old 01-20-2011, 04:51 PM   #41
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i generally agree about the family structure. though i'd argue that it's important to have an ability to construct a socially acceptable life outside of the traditional nuclear family if one is an adult. not everyone wants, or needs, a spouse and 2.5 children (regardless of sexual orientation, which was of course what i was getting at), and i think we do better when we have more ways for one to be one's true self. social pressures to settle down and raise children as a notion of one's duty to the parents who came before (and grandparents, on and on) probably are much stronger in Asian societies, and while they may result in things like lower crime rates, i think there are also enormous costs to such rigidity. i find it fascinating that Oprah, of all people, was all ready to kill herself when she was pregnant at 14 because her father had said that he'd rather see his child "floating down the river" than pregnant out of wedlock, and then she lost the baby and all was well. granted, one could say (and she might say) that had she grown up in a more "family-centric" environment she might have never gotten pregnant at 14, but when suicide seems preferable to the punishment one would receive were one to stray from such proscribed models, then i think i'd come down on the side of giving adults more freedom as opposed to more duty-oriented Asian notions of adulthood, because happy adults make the best parents.

i hope that made sense.
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Old 01-20-2011, 04:58 PM   #42
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happy adults make the best parents.
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Old 01-20-2011, 08:31 PM   #43
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...i think we do better when we have more ways for one to be one's true self. social pressures to settle down and raise children as a notion of one's duty to the parents who came before (and grandparents, on and on) probably are much stronger in Asian societies, and while they may result in things like lower crime rates, i think there are also enormous costs to such rigidity.
If we're limiting ourselves to an ethical debate within our own culture, then I can agree. I can also agree that people who are happy to be parents will probably make better parents anywhere in the world. But as a Westerner, I've really only ever known a worldview where the individual is the fundamental social unit, and the taken-for-granted first reference point for any ethical theorizing. I've also spent enough years abroad struggling to learn to think outside that box to accept that I'll never actually be able to; I simply lack the conceptual tools to do it. And that gives me pause, because I don't know what else to draw upon to formulate an argument for what 'family duty' should and shouldn't entail. Outcomes? I've known too many Indian (and, to a lesser extent, Chinese) families to readily buy the idea that our net happiness average is clearly higher than theirs thanks to our more limited notions of family duty. Reality--at least, to the best of my ability to observe it without either romanticizing or exoticizing--simply doesn't bear that out, so far as I've ever been able to tell.

That said, I don't know how much of that applies to Amy Chua. She's a Chinese-American raising Euro-Asian-American kids (my grasping at labels of course, not hers), writing about it for a general American audience, and while she has every right to offer her personal vision of Asian-Americanness via family models for consideration, she'd damn well better also expect to be evaluated on 'mainstream Western' terms and to be able to respond along those lines, too.
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Old 01-20-2011, 11:18 PM   #44
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I've known too many Indian (and, to a lesser extent, Chinese) families to readily buy the idea that our net happiness average is clearly higher than theirs thanks to our more limited notions of family duty. Reality--at least, to the best of my ability to observe it without either romanticizing or exoticizing--simply doesn't bear that out, so far as I've ever been able to tell.

i don't mean this to sound flip -- but how many Chinese or Indian people have you met who fell outside of the fairly rigid social norms and expectations of their culture? i fully appreciate notions of fundamental cultural unknowability as you've laid it out, but i think there are certain social categories where one would be objectively happier in the DIY west than in the east.
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Old 01-21-2011, 04:32 PM   #45
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It's not flip at all, that's why I used the qualifier "net average"--for what that's worth when "happiness" has no standardized measure. Most of my work has been with Dalits and ethnic minority groups, obviously I socialize often with academics and certain kinds of civil servants as well. But I assume for these purposes we're talking about Indians who fall outside family norms and expectations, which in my acquaintance would include several gay men (never even met any out lesbians, which surprises me), several (straight) couples in intercaste marriages, a few men and women who never married (straight AFAIK), and a couple women who were widowed young and childless. I have met divorced men and women (their divorce rate is just over 1%) and, once, a single mother, but I can't claim to actually know any. India's almost without exception a tough place to be gay or lesbian (it's decriminalized now, there are small out communities in a handful of prosperous cities and even a small number of--religious--gay marriages, actual marriage licensing being a pointless and widely ignored option in India...but, harassment and social exile remain widespread); a single mother (self-explanatory); or a childless young widow ('used goods'); the rest on that list would depend heavily on where you live, your socioeconomic background etc. So, absolutely, I can think of at least a few groups with reference to family norms who are indeed "objectively" better off here. On the other hand, and again on account of family norms, by and large I'd say ours is a considerably worse place to be elderly, and various demographic cohorts of children are vulnerable in unique ways in both countries.

Perhaps a more constructive question might be whether these outcomes are actually inevitable in both cases, versus to which degree reforms to remedy the worst slips through the cracks could be achieved without radically recasting the foundations of society (which is not necessarily what marginalized groups want). It is possible to an extent to distinguish between the ideals embedded in a traditional social structure and the specifics of that structure itself.
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