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Amy Chua has a book to sell, but even so you have to admire the courage of her convictions in taking on pretty much the entire Western parenting body with her contention that Chinese-style parenting produces high-achieving, confident children bound for successful careers and lives — while the Western approach to raising kids is hit and miss at best, and fails miserably at worst.
It all started with an essay in the Wall Street Journal. Titled “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” (a headline, to be fair, she probably did not write), Chua, a law professor at Yale, outlined her rigorous approach to raising her two daughters, Sophia and Louisa. The opening was eye-popping enough:
A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do: attend a sleepover, have a playdate, be in a school play complain about not being in a school play, watch TV or play computer games, choose their own extracurricular activities, get any grade less than an A, not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama, play any instrument other than the piano or violin, not play the piano or violin.
The story went viral — as you’d expect when a whole generation of parents is accused of getting it wrong. Chua has been featured in TIME, appeared on the Today Show (above) and been discussed on hundreds of blogs and Twitter feeds. Whether one felt Chua was simply too extreme, bordering on condoning child abuse, or that she was providing a welcome reminder that parents need to take control, any parent hearing her argument probably questioned, even fleetingly, their own prowess in the child-rearing department.
Those wanting to explore these issues further will have the chance to see Chua in the flesh in Berkeley on January 20 when she will be at the Hillside Club for a KPFA Radio event discussing her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, with Aimee Allison. Bring questions and an open mind — the conversation is sure to be lively.