The Story of One Chinese Mother

Amy Chua has caused quite an uproar with her recent Wall Street Journal article 'Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.' The article has garnered some 6,767 comments, and Chua has received both praise and hate mail from non-Asian Americans and Asian Americans alike.

When I first read it, I thought, "Okay. Some of this is true. And some of this has been common knowledge since the 70's. What...exactly...is the big deal?"

I think the big deal is this, though: her overarching point - that Chinese mothers are superior - is not true. The word superior, in the piece and the title itself, comes off as 'superlative'. Yes, there are better ways to parent than others, but there is not a best way.

Having grown up in an area of greater Los Angeles that is almost half Chinese, I was raised around girls like Chua's daughters. The ones that couldn't go to sleepovers, and studied piano only after Chinese school and SAT prep classes were finished with.

Chua's parenting techniques raise smart and successful adults. But those techniques can also raise adults who don't fare well when not being given directions. Ten years out of high school, the AP and the SAT crowd has 'grown up', but for a long while there, they hadn't. High-school meet-ups during college were meetings of twenty year olds who still acted like fifteen year olds, joking about sex (that they hadn't had yet) and complaining about homework.

So her subtle suggestion that American society would be magically transformed if every child had to play the violin sounds bogus to me. It also sounds classist; not everyone needs to have a B.A. in order to be a good person.

In the end, Chua's article taught a lot of people about a world they didn't know about. And that's good. But Chua's article @font-face { font-family: "Cambria"; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; } is exaggerated to the point where it's almost untrue; and that all but negates the power of her argument.

She sold a hyperbole in order to get a book deal.  And since misunderstanding equals media squalor and media squalor equals web hits, both she and the WSJ are profiting. But it should be seen for what it is a - a hit. It's not an overarching statement about an ethnicity, it's one statement of one (superior-feeling) mother.