Tuesday, January 18, 2011
It's January 18 and I feel like I've been assaulted a bit as a parent, and that America's education system has been similarly raked over the coals, perhaps justifiably.
Last week I went to hear Condoleeza Rice speak at the BYU Marriott Ceneter. I had no idea how much I would like her, and how what she said would speak to me in unexpected ways. I felt uplited to achieve more in my personal life, but also that my hands were tied as a parent concerning my ability to help my children become better educated.
Ms.Rice, who I believe was undoubtedly the best thing to happen to the George W. Bush administration, was stern in her reprimands of the status quo. She said, "The number one threat to national security in America today is the disastrous state of our K-12 system." We are not competitive, she says. Not remotely competitive. Ouch. We all agree that she's right.
How do we become more competitive? She offers several ways, but it seems like my kids will be middle-aged by the time her suggestions can take hold. And then America will be a tortoise, left in the dust by the smarter, faster hares in Asia. But she made me want to do something, to at least try. What exactly I don't know.
In the meantime, there is Amy Chau, the author of "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mama," who is all over the news right now. She makes me proud that I am the wussy tortoise and she is the ruthless hare. I am a kitty Mama, and proud as a peacock about it.
She is a woman who I could not spend five minutes with. She lambasts American parenting, insisting we are coddling our children because we let them have the pleasures of childhood. We don't drill them into the ground with academics and music. Never mind that her own children nervously vomit when they worry they can't live up to her abusive standards. Never mind that Asia's young women between the ages of 15-24 have an astonishingly high suicide rate due to unrelenting pressure.
Her parenting methods work, she claims. She says this is a traditional approach to parenting in China. I doubt many Chinese parents would have the energy, grit or heart (or lack of) to parent their children with such lack of compassion and harshness. It's just too exhausting and emotionally draining. I just think she likes the publicity she's getting for being the "Tiger Mama" and the $800,000 advance she got to write the book. (That part makes be a bit envious, I must admit.)
This Kitty Mama is sickened that she's getting rich writing a book that has a message that is so at odds with the human value that espouses freedom to become anyone you want to become. Amy Chao has forced her children to become what she wants. How will her children every learn to make a decision on their own?
So she makes me want to sit on my butt and watch my kids tiptoe through the tulips, read a little, have a sleepover, watch a movie, go out to lunch, hang out in their pajamas, all the things she says we wimpy American parents do. Hey guys, eat a cheeseburger while you're watching TV!
And I want to punch her in the face and tell her that a person who is truly intelligent is the person who has emotional intelligence. Because if you can't get along with people, you will never find success in life no matter how well you play the piano or what college you graduated from.
I agree with David Brooks of the New York Times. He says that Amy Chau's the wimp, not American parents, because she isn't making her children do the truly hard things like discern the emotional cues of their peers or play on a team or work in groups to figure things out. They don't have to get along with anyone.
Those are the skills that "competitive" people have. I will think about this when I help my daughter with her 10 math problems that she had for homework last night. I will think of this when I ask my son if he has any homework and he says, "No."