Saturday, January 8, 2011

Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior

What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work . . .

A Chinese-Canadian pianist friend of mine from graduate school drew my attention to this article.  Once I got over my initial shock, it made me think two things:  one, that my mother must be secretly Chinese; and two, that some people are right there on the same page with me about the ethos of relentless practicing, if perhaps not about other things.

16 comments:

Rodak said...

It was this kind of thinking that sent Han Shan to his chilly cave.

irenic cannon said...

a friend who was also my boss, got an asian "male" order bride and brought his son up much as is described here:(no t.v., especially cartoons, no sleepovers, no video games, practice, practice, practice,...etc.) It may be coincidental but his son suffered from stomach ailments a great deal

but there are things we can learn, yes - i notice that when i go to my favorite chinese restaurant, the kids are actively involved - a 6 year old running the cash register, my kids have trouble tying their shoes...

i have free-range children pretty much - while the strict "chinese" way does produce a kind of evident material success, i wonder if it hampers imagination and creativity and the sense of being loved without having to meet some criteria or meet an expectation

asians also tend to have a group mind that is foreign to westerners - recently my daughter was doing a paper on japanese and their attitudes toward death and i got some scholarly articles for her- japanese response to someone dying is more of a loss to the unit than a grieving for the individual - so the parenting thing probably is part of that too - no wonder communism works so well there (relatively)-

Pentimento said...

My friend Enbrethiliel in the Philippines left an interesting comment based on her experience which I inadvertently deleted; hopefully she will post it again.

American conservatories are dominated by Chinese and Korean students, virtually all pianists and violinists (though there are also a lot of Korean singers, and they are usually quite good). There's a lot of talk about what you suggest, I.C., which Enbrethiliel also elaborated upon -- technical prowess vs. creativity. I'll write more about it later.

Emily J. said...

I saw this article yesterday in the WSJ. Lots of food for thought. I made my kids read it.

Pentimento said...

Was it a sort of "And you think I'M a bad mother" move, Emily? :)

Emily J. said...

Exactly! The article seemed an interesting counterpoint to another about the PA governor's comments about how Americans are wimps.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Here is the comment again, Pentimento. =)

*****

And my mother must be secretly Western. LOL! I did have a maiden aunt who was "Chinese," though. She made me write the multiplication table over and over and over . . . and when I brought home an 80/100 grade on my Maths exam, she snapped, "You made TWENTY mistakes?!?!" (Not that it worked: I wasn't ashamed of that grade at all. In fact, I thought twenty was such a nice number that I would have been less happy with nineteen mistakes. =P)

I've had my own "Chinese mother" moments as a tutor, too, when it came to basic computation or memorisation. And my most difficult tutees have been those with "Western mothers," who know, at the end of the day, that it is their happiness that counts.

*rueful laugh*

So when it comes to Maths, learning a musical instrument, and anything else that requires drills, yes, I'm on board!

On the other hand . . . and you knew this was coming, right? . . . I've seen the other side of it, too. I teach Korean students whose parents seem to follow the Chinese model, and the kids are really great at acquiring knowledge but completely awkward at putting it to use. And as long as we're in the safe realm of stereotypes, remember that one thing said about Asians is that we're good at imitation and reproduction, but poor at creativity.

I remember when I took a TESOL accreditation course and learned the true story of a man whose strategy for learning German (I think that was the language!) was to memorise a hundred words a day, with definitions. He was honestly baffled when his huge vocabulary didn't help him understand the Germans he encountered every day. But this is exactly how many of my Korean ESL students try to learn English. Suggest that they listen to the radio or watch a movie so that they hear words actually being used, and they'll look at you askance. That's "fun," you see--and learning shouldn't be fun. LOL!

Anne said...

Having read a synopsis of Chua’s book, what comes to mind is the horrific custom of foot binding that persisted in China for a thousand years–a millennium when most mothers were fully complicit in this most painful and life threatening abuse of their daughters. It was the West, specifically Christian missionaries, that sparked a movement against this savage practice.

Clare Krishan said...

Thought of you when I spotted this link over at Joshua's "Western Confucian" blog
"Kolleen Park Directs Ennio Morricone & Chiara Ferraù's Nella Fantasia"
http://orientem.blogspot.com/2011/01/ennio-morricone-and-lyrics-by-chiara.html

Has your acquaintance considered ex-pat work? No job offers at home is what led me to W.Germany pre-unification even with no German language skills! Joshua is an ESL professor in South Korea, check out his blog for more background on their family life even with a special needs child.

I'm kinda glad there's no subtitles like I'm used to from PBS broadcasts of Korean dramas - it might be a bit too much to take - the faces tell the tale well enough along with the odd "ok good!" Chuckle!

My dear heart bought us a digital tuner for Christmas so that we can get my beloved Korean historical dramas again (our DVR doesn't have the electronic wizardry necessary to convert the new HiDef channels) I can't wait for the overwrought emotions just like in opera!

Pentimento said...

Thanks for the interesting link, Clare. I like it. Do you mean my Chinese-Canadian friend? She actually is married to a German and teaches in Germany for half the year, then sees her students in New York and Toronto the other half.

Korean TV sounds awesome! I have a very close Korean friend back in New York (a pianist with whom I've performed often), and I'm going to ask her about those historical dramas . . . :)

Clare Krishan said...

Anne is of course correct but Western tastes needed reforming also: Pentimento patron for 2011 Bl Leo XIII banned castrati as late as 1902!

Pentimento said...

My man for 2011 is actually John XXIII, but that's okay, I'll take Leo too. There are recordings available of the last castrato; his name was, I think, Alberto Moreschi, and he sang in the Vatican choir. They are absolutely haunting. He was recorded late in life and he was a choral singer, not a soloist, so the recordings don't, I think, give a real sense of what the great operatic castrati sounded like.

Clare Krishan said...

oops my bad! Gentle rolly-polly papas both!

Pentimento said...

:)

The last castrato was Alessandro, not Alberto, Moreschi. There are videos on youtube. I stress once again that I doubt very much this was how the great castrati sang.

Melanie B said...

Here's an interesting response to Chua's book that suggests the WaPo piece distorts the book: "Her book is, in many ways, an account of her doubts about “Chinese parenting.” The cruelty that some readers found in the Wall Street Journal is present in the longer text, but it is present with doubts about their efficacy, the damage that was being done to her relationship with her daughter, humor, and emotion. The Wall Street Journal excerpt doesn’t contain any of that. In fact, in large part, the Wall Street Journal “excerpt” only qualifies as an excerpt in name. In reality, it’s nothing more than some of the book’s most inflammatory paragraphs and passages, cherry-picked from various points in the book, and arranged in order, minus context"

That plus an interesting conversation with a friend in which he vociferously defended his Asian mother's insistence on excellence really makes me want to pick up the book and read it for myself.

Pentimento said...

Thanks for the link, Melanie. It's already on my Amazon wish list. :)