Amy Chua: Medusa Or Cassandra?

Posted by | January 28, 2011 12:29 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Bruce Friedrich

There’s an awful lot of anger (and some mockery, courtesy of David Brooks) at Amy Chua’s new book, almost all of it (including Brooks) predictable and boring. The best thing I’ve seen on the book comes courtesy of the most recent New Yorker, in which Elizabeth Kolbert gives the book its due, laughing about the absurdity of “tiger parenting,” while also offering some comments that are much more worthy of national hand-wringing than this one woman’s extreme parenting:

Students from the United States, meanwhile, came in seventeenth in reading, twenty-third in science, and an especially demoralizing thirty-first in math. This last ranking put American kids not just behind the Chinese, the Koreans, and the Singaporeans but also after the French, the Austrians, the Hungarians, the Slovenians, the Estonians, and the Poles.

Just about the only category in which American students outperform the competition is self-regard. Researchers at the Brookings Institution, in one of their frequent studies of education policy, compared students’ assessments of their abilities in math with their scores on a standardized test. Nearly forty per cent of American eighth graders agreed “a lot” with the statement “I usually do well in mathematics,” even though only seven per cent of American students actually got enough correct answers on the test to qualify as advanced. Among Singaporean students, eighteen per cent said they usually did well in math; forty-four per cent qualified as advanced. As the Brookings researchers pointed out, even the least self-confident Singaporean students, on average, outscored the most self-confident Americans. You can say it’s sad that kids in Singapore are so beaten down that they can’t appreciate their own accomplishments. But you’ve got to give them this: at least they get the math right.

America’s falling standard is predictable; for all the complaining about standardized tests, two facts often fall through the cracks: First, the tests are all insanely easy; and second, a huge portion of our students still fail them. Sure, ineffective teachers and school administrators are in part to blame, but no child with a driven parent is going to let a bad school stand in the way of her academic success. Shouldn’t we all be at least as outraged by the ridiculous number of absent and apathetic parents as we are by this one tiger parent?

Invoking Chua’s anecdote of throwing a birthday card back in her daughter’s face, Kolbert sums things up nicely: “For some time now, the U.S. has, in effect, been drawing crappy, smiley-face birthday cards and calling them wonderful. It’s made us feel a bit better about ourselves without improving the basic situation.”

Perhaps this one woman has taken things too far with her children, but much more concerning is how far our nation has gone in the opposite direction.

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Copyright 2011 Liberaland
By: BruceGFriedrich

Vice President, Policy, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

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