Just to make us think

I don’t know exactly what the Wall Street Journal’s reason was to publish this controversial essay about Chinese mothers (other than the obvious, to sell newspapers), but I think it’s good food for thought, no matter what you think of the opinions expressed in the essay.

Hearing a view very different from your own (and I would guess that most readers of my blog would have views much closer to the typical Western parent than the Chinese mother who wrote this essay) can make you see your own views a little differently. Maybe you don’t change your views, but having to think why you hold them is good – better than having those same views without thinking them through.

And maybe thinking about those different views helps you consider that there might be some good points in the opposite view also. After all, why is it that some people do hold such views so tenaciously?

My own inclination is always to guess that the best answer lies somewhere between two extremes. In the context of the article, I would say that typical Western parents can learn from the Chinese about having high expectations, and being willing to do the difficult work of insisting on high standards being met – despite strong resistance from children.

Based on some of the comments (though I read only a few of the 2500+ comments), it’s not at all clear how typical the views of the essay’s author are, among Chinese parents. But however many do hold those views, and see them as superior to the typical Western view (and I don’t know just how typical that view is either, though I would guess pretty widespread), they can learn something from the Western point of view. Not every child can be the best – obviously. There are valuable traits and skills that may not manifest themselves in high grades and awards.

I can’t help but lean more towards the Western view, but it’s worth stopping to ask myself why.

How much of our views comes from the culture we live in? How much from our individual experience (including direct observation of others we know personally)?

Is there one best way to parent? What are the unintended consequences of both parenting styles described?

Must stability in society always be at odds with innovation? If one has to err on one side or the other, which has the better long-term consequences?

Is it possible for everyone to be special? If so, what does it mean to be special?

What do you do with the low achievers in society?

I almost didn’t read the article, because the headline “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” didn’t sound like it could be intended to do anything but grab attention and provoke strong reactions. But I’m glad I did read it. Because it made me think, and that’s always a good thing.

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