Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tears of the Black Tiger Mother

Okay, this is not the real post I promised. And Tears of the Black Tiger is a Thai film, not Chinese, but it was the first pun to come to mind...

So there's apparently some sort of mild controversy around Amy Chua, who wrote a book about her rather strict "Chinese mother" (her formulation, not mine) parenting style, which raised two genius daughters. The whole thing is rather storm-in-a-teacup, the kind of controversy that I'm sure publishers love springing up around non-fiction, because suddenly everyone wants your author to show up and explain his/her life/decisions or what-have-you.

For the most part, count me as a disinterested party. On the one hand, I think children are sociopathic little monsters who need to be disciplined (and also loved) into being socially tolerable. On the other hand, no matter what, I doubt Amy Chua's parenting style will ever be adopted by more than a small minority, mostly because parenting has become such a strange creature due to societal and economic pressures that even the strongest willpower can only do so much to overcome.

But... what bugs me about every article I read w/r/t Mrs. Chua is that, among the things she denied her kids, along such usual culprits as sleep-overs, TV and computer games, was being in the school play.

Amy Chua has nothing against art in general, as she talks about the importance of teaching her daughters music and making them practice, and also ballet. But not only did she not allow her kids to be in the school play, she also let drama be one of two classes they did not have to be #1 in.

(Gym was the other class, which seems rather silly, as most gym programs would give you an A just for not beating up kids and trying to do the activities. And if you practice ballet for hours a day, I bet you can climb the rope once.)

Rather than turn this into a huge rant, I just want to say that acting in school plays was the first time I ever had people other than a teacher (or my parents) applaud my imagination and creativity. It was the first time it was socially acceptable for me to show those traits and, not only that, even be appreciated by my peers.

I'm not going to claim it turned me from an outcast to a popular kid, but it at least showed me that, at times, the world beyond administration could value creativity and imagination. And that's the one thing I personally would not want to deprive a kid.