For me the debate over Amy Chua’s “Tiger Moms” now-legendary WSJ article and new book fits best as a question of cultural expectations and parenting styles. But as the bloggers and comments swarm, David Brooks manages to lob a good counter–arguing that the skills of socialization, including interpersonal interaction and group mastery–trump indivualized, mandated achievement. (His column is notably titled, “Amy Chua is a Wimp.”)
I’m not taking sides, yet. For me, expectations among many non-Chinese (or non-immigrant, as some have pointed out) parents do seem to be low. In Utah where I live it can be quite depressing to see how the mix of low funding for teachers, low expectations from parents, and the new pressures of NCLB and “rigorous” testing have provided incentives for principals to help bring up the rear (good goal) yet while neglecting the middle and upper range of students–all the while beefing up language arts/math (very important) and losing social studies, science, music, foreign language and even sports.
But a key issue in the Brooks column is, namely, what is lost when students are isolated from seemingly “non-academic” or, better stated, “non-achievement oriented activities.” I agree instinctively with his goals, but it does feel like he’s rhetorically over-stating the benefit. A sleepover is more complex as a course at Yale? Not likely…but perhaps more or equally important is a more accurate assertion.
Bringing it all home, I can’t help but see Brooks argument as a case for co-curricular and other experiential learning opportunities at all ages. In higher education, this is my ballgame–study abroad, international internships, simulations like Model UN, etc. In the meanwhile, rage on Amy Chua and others….
Practicing a piece of music for four hours requires focused attention, but it is nowhere near as cognitively demanding as a sleepover with 14-year-old girls. Managing status rivalries, negotiating group dynamics, understanding social norms, navigating the distinction between self and group — these and other social tests impose cognitive demands that blow away any intense tutoring session or a class at Yale.Yet mastering these arduous skills is at the very essence of achievement. Most people work in groups. We do this because groups are much more efficient at solving problems than individuals swimmers are often motivated to have their best times as part of relay teams, not in individual events. Moreover, the performance of a group does not correlate well with the average I.Q. of the group or even with the I.Q.’s of the smartest members.
via Amy Chua Is a Wimp – NYTimes.com.