Lewis Kelly, February 01, 2011 at 1:19 PM


Green Chat weighs in on a recent parenting controversy

The Wall Street Journal, as it is wont to do, recently stirred up controversy with an article by Amy Chua called "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior." Chua, a professor at Yale Law School, claims that her authoritarian parenting style played a big part in making her daughters the successful adults they are today. "What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it," she writes. "To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences."

It didn't take long for a discussion on Green Chat to start up in response to this bold position. Dan Randles kicked off the substantive discussion by positing that a more forgiving parenting style widens the range of outcomes for a child. "Variance is double-edged," he wrote. "While there is a higher probabability that your child will be a proud, self-entitled loser, there's also a much higher chance that they will be passionate, engaged and focused on doing something truly unique that no one else has dared to do or risked committing resources to." Randles also said he though the article's tone was deliberately inflammatory.

Amy Chua and her children










Roland Nadler also found the article's tone troublesome. " I think we might do well just to stop and take stock of the fact that the article's breezy dismissal of the myriad problems with relying on an unwelcome cultural stereotype is pretty lazy and irresponsible," he wrote. "The way in which the topic is framed makes it a fertile spawning ground for shambling abominations of self-congratulatory bloviation wherein participants treat "the best way to raise a child" as though it's a unitary fact ingeniously staked-out as the property of some society or another.

Sunny Chan, who calls Hong Kong her hometown, thought Chua's syntax problematic. "A problem with saying "Chinese mother" is that Chinese culture is, like any large group of people, not monolithic," she wrote. "Nomadic tribes in northern China don't raise their kids the way this woman does, because classical music and As in school aren't relevant to their lifestyle. People in Hong Kong live in a strange mega-capitlistic past-paced hyperreality, and it affects how they raise their kids compared to parents in an idyllic village in Yangxin county."

No Greenies came to Chua's defense, and the suspicion that Chua or the Journal was being intentionally offensive in hope of generating traffic was raised more than once. While her ideas catalyzed some interesting debate on Green Chat, they certainly didn't stir up any real controversy. As Nadler wrote, "Man, I popped some popcorn, sat down, and waited for stuff to get real in this discussion, and instead everybody's being so civil and thoughtful."

"What a perfectly good flamewar wasted!"