Tiger Mom: Some cultural groups are superior

(75 Posts)
OsmiumPhazer Mon 06-Jan-14 21:50:15

I was talking to a Nigerian colleague today who agreed with many of the hypothesis put forward by the ‘controversial’ Amy Chua. I am certain many of you read Amy’s Book ‘Battle cry of a tiger mother’ and were either shocked or inspired by her childrearing methods.
According to Amy In 2013, though making up less than 1 percent of America’s black population, Nigerian Americans—many from modest backgrounds—made up 20 to 25 percent of the black students at Harvard Business School and are starkly overrepresented in America’s top investment banks and law firms. Is there any truth in what she says, even though I am certain many of you do not know any Mormons apart from the Osmond’ and Miit Romney.

Shootingatpigeons Wed 15-Jan-14 08:39:25

Laura That is the trouble with stereotypes, you can't always find the evidence to support them. hmm

FYI a lot of cultures, especially China, very much value and respect children, far more than we do here. The stereotype of the spoilt very well fed "little Emperor" is far more likely to apply. You will actually encounter very little corporal punishment, perhaps the result of the trauma of their recent history, most parents will have experienced the extreme violence of the Cultural Revolution and value peace and harmony.

Of course with only one "little Emperor" to pay for your care in old age (no iron rice bowl anymore, healthcare costs money) faced with a very competitive school system that requires extraordinary levels of rote learning of model answers to succeed in the exam system, a relic of the Imperial exam model that determined membership of the bureaucratic elite, then they will do whatever is required to succeed, to the extent that some schools connect them up to drips to keep them going. Not surprising then that when the various University of London libraries started opening 24 hours the number of Chinese students asleep over their books was perceived as a worrying problem. Hard working, but few in the UK think that is smart working.

LauraBridges Tue 14-Jan-14 20:59:24

I meant physical punishment is the norm in some countries where children are forced to hard work. Someone was saying how do you make the child work hard - well a lot of cultures they beat them and that is the norm. I wanted to see rates in Africa and China but did not really find what I was after.

"Of the 24 countries with corporal punishment bans, 19 are in Europe, including all of the Scandinavian and near Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Finland). Three others are in Central or South America, one in the Middle East and one in Oceania (the region that includes Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Ocean island nations such as Malaysia and Indonesia).
There are no national bans on corporal punishment anywhere in Asia or North America. "

FormaLurka Tue 14-Jan-14 20:08:17

Lol at Laura's comment that some but not all tiger parents beat their children. Why stop there? How about some but not all tiger parents cheat on their partners or ... or ...

mathanxiety Tue 14-Jan-14 19:15:23

I don't think it's all grim grindstone slog either in the case of students who achieve great results, Shootingatpigeons. That is where I part company with Amy Chua.

mathanxiety Tue 14-Jan-14 19:13:24

It's not all drilling for tests in the American system, and this is where some of Chua's observations are lost in translation, because tests are such an important of the system in Britain (and Ireland -- no idea about continental European systems).

In America consistency of effort and homework product from day to day, week to week and month to month is the name of the game thanks to the grade point average system. Your final grade for the semester depends on your participation in class, every piece of homework you have turned in and your tests and quizzes along the way as well as the final semester exam. Ahead of each final semester exam every one of my DCs got notification of the percentage they had to achieve in their final in every subject in order to get an A, B, C or D for their final grade for the semester. A final never counted for more than 40% of the semester grade iirc and in some courses it contributed a much lower percentage to the final grade, so you could not hope to raise your final grade by much in many classes.

And the content of the final was discussed and prepared for in class and at extra study sessions, with the understanding that students would also work at it at home if they needed to. It wasn't a case of making children learn the whole semester's coursework off or guessing right about the exam content in hopes of hitting the jackpot on exam day. The philosophy of teaching is that students will have a solid grasp of the material, and their test taking skills, adrenaline management, or sheer dumb luck are not what the exams are intended to measure.

When parents arrive from a system where the exam is the be all and end all, and they see how the possibility of achievement is built in instead of systematically excluded, it looks like a candy store left unlocked. At least that is what it looked like to me, arriving form the very cutthroat and completely exam-focused Irish system.

US students heading for university do also have to do well in ACT (American College Test) and Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) which are aptitude tests as well as tests of material covered. In order to do well, students need to be all rounders as the score is cumulative. So while parents may have a student on their hands who enjoys math or music or English literature and can do well at these subjects without tearing their hair out, keeping them working really hard at subjects they find challenging is a task that ambitious parents have to grapple with.

In such a system, parents who take their eye off the ball for the whole of September and October and allow their children to forget about homework and weekly tests, etc., are going to find their children unable to achieve an A even if they learn the textbook completely by heart the day before the exam.

The three qualities Chua singled out as really important matter greatly in America. Again, I think impulse control is the most important because a consistent and very disciplined approach on the part of your student is really, really important in America, and very few 12, 13, 14, 15, or even 16 year olds have the maturity to manage that on their own (and there are lots of very serious distractions in the middle class communities Chua is familiar with), but I see where she is coming from as far as over-identifying with the American culture being a drawback goes. It pays to see your educational approach and your own educational experience at home as superior. If you do, then at the very least you will have something to compare your child's curriculum with, and this matters in a world where your child's competition for that place in Yale is a child from Eton or some education factory in Shanghai.

I don't think it matters for the sake of Chua's argument that Nigerians, Lebanese, Mormons, etc., are not the majority in superselective schools (and superselective schools are not a factor in America anyway). It's the high achieving students as a percentage of their own group that Chua is deriving her figures from and her arguments too. The percentage of 'American' students achieving great results is far lower as their group is much larger, obviously.

Speaking from my own experience, of 23 valedictorians in DD2's graduating class (in her HS, this meant students who got all As in all honours subjects for four years running/seven of eight semesters - see description above of the consistent effort across the board this required) two were the children of Russian immigrants (of three identifiable children of Russian parents), one Irish (of two known Irish parents), one English (one known English family), one Indian (four Indian families). Harder to tell who may have been Jewish or Mormon.

In the case of those HS students who achieved National Merit Finalist status based on their success in the PSAT/NMSQT exam (these students came in the top half of one percent nationwide in that particular exam) -- 17 from this particular graduating class of 850 -- representation of children of immigrants was even more pronounced as a percentage of the whole (and there was a lot of crossover between valedictorians and National Merit Finalists, as you might expect.)

Shootingatpigeons Tue 14-Jan-14 16:19:17

I don't buy this at all. Children from ethnicities associated with tiger parenting are overrepresented in the local superselective state and private schools but they are still not the majority, plenty of pupils who do not have ethnic backgrounds get into these schools and achieve highly. You also have to factor in parents from different cultures being willing to subject their DC to hours of repetitive VR practise (for the state schools and acknowledged as skewing the ability range that are successful) or being prepared to make sacrifices to be able to pay for private education.

Of those who do achieve highly some are very competitive but plenty are not, indeed these schools pride themselves on nurturing individuals, not putting them through a sausage factory (the extent to which they succeed is another matter). The cohorts going to the most selective universities are not particularly skewed ethnically or according to their competitive natures either.

Noone seems to be building into this that the subject and intellectual challenge of academic study can be the motivation. I have always been very careful not to be a tiger mother but I and my DDs have had great joy in discovering and sharing our respective specialisms. They therefore have the motivation to achieve and do well. The sheer joy of learning, and of using your ability and talents.

LauraBridges Tue 14-Jan-14 16:01:16

Also some cultures will beat the child and even use sticks and other implements to ensure the child stays still and works. I am not saying all Tiger parents do this but many do on the planet.

Nibs777 Tue 14-Jan-14 15:52:05

I think you have to have quite an obedient child or they are entirely self driven in which case they shouldn't need "tiger mothering" or micro management . In some cultures, at risk of stereotyping, some children are more obedient to authority (parents, teachers) than others.

If you have a child who is innately very clever but strong-willed and potentially rebellious and not happy to be overly scheduled or pushed to extremes, and who may have other interests they want to pursue than just drill drill drill for tests, I do think enormous pressure to compete from the parents to always come top can really backfire. It may even destroy love of learning on the long run.

wordfactory Tue 14-Jan-14 15:11:22

math I think you may have something there.

My DS attends a super selective school, one which many UK parents would not even bother trying for. They would dismiss it as 'too difficult' or 'too much pressure'.

Yet, many many parents from cultures you describe put their DC's names down. They figure with enough graft and grit their DC will get in and thrive there.

And they do seem to!

lainiekazan Tue 14-Jan-14 14:54:54

Dd's friend is a Tiger Child (Malaysian). Her schedule is frightening. She is a very able child and high achiever.

I think though that given that the child has some innate ability, and the parents are ambitious, there is another factor to create the perfect storm - and maybe that relates to certain ethnic groups - and that is that the child must be driven too.

With the best will in the world (and a whip) I just could not persuade dd to keep up the same pace as her friend. She would rebel and it would not end well. Amy chua mentions in her first book that by the third generation, kids have gone off the boil and can't be bothered with all the hard work, so perhaps success does depend on raw hunger.

mathanxiety Mon 13-Jan-14 02:09:13

em, I think India is an economic powerhouse and if not then it may be by the time I finish typing this..

Obviously, if there are tables in China, Korea, etc., someone is going to be at the bottom, and those students are most likely also Chinese or Korean, since these societies do not have large immigrant groups.

Chua also singles out Mormons and Jews, who are most likely not immigrants or second generation Americans as examples of groups who do really well. In both groups, thanks to bigotry from outside, a clear sense of identity existed right from the start of their experience of America.

I think on reflection, those groups who do best come from cultures where the education system is designed to be very competitive or where opportunities to flourish are few and far between. Parents who arrive in America from those places see an education system and grading system designed to enable children to succeed and can't believe the treasure they have stumbled upon. Some immigrants are also acutely aware of what they themselves were doing in school at certain grades and become impatient with slower-moving school instruction so do it themselves at home.

My Russian friends were dismayed at the maths curriculum they encountered so taught their grandchild themselves; she got both Russian and American maths, as well as Russian literature taught every afternoon, and Russian language and culture at weekend classes, and violin lessons -- from a graduate of the Moscow Conservatory -- to the point where she is now first violin in a prestigious youth orchestra.

Kenlee Mon 13-Jan-14 00:10:25

Ah but the question is if you Tiger your child does it make them succesful? If you are micro managing their lives do they become reliant on it?

If your child is naturally bright I think they may get over it. Although, If they are lazy and you are doing all their life's descion they just may end up educated but not intelligent.

Im not a fan of tigering nor helicoptering... I think advice should be offered when needed. Amy chua's type of parenting is not my cup of tea. Although, when I see it in HK I accept that its parental choice.

I still don't see intelligence stems from ethnicity. It still is to me the ability of the child to organize themselves and for them to put in the time to understand and yes even rote learn components for the test in hand.

FormaLurka Sun 12-Jan-14 12:41:31

Hi Laura

I agree that in Hong Kong for example the culture is such that there is more focus on education success. I was merely addressing those posters who draw conclusions based on immigrants in their respective countries.

LauraBridges Sun 12-Jan-14 12:01:56

Forma, that's very well known in the UK. Somali refugees in London who were uneducated back home do nothing like as well as the successful lawyers and doctors who were from India but were thrown out of Africa by Idi Amin. Even though when the Indians arrived here from Africa they had to take jobs as taxi drivers etc because the family had been from the professional class not surprisingly their children did very well. The Nigerian female lawyers I met in Lagos from the middle classes sending their children to English boarding schools are the same and very different from descendants of American black slaves from very poor homes.

I also agree that those who choose and make the effort to move somewhere as likely to be the ones who work hardest although none of this explains the tables showing Chinese, Koreans etc at the top of all those school tests for maths and science in their own countries - they aren't immigrants working hard. They are brought up in their homeland in a culture of hard work and it shows.

FormaLurka Sun 12-Jan-14 10:16:45

LOL at the posters who roll their eyes at the assertion that Africans from one part are culturally different from another part.

The French are only a Channel Tunnel train ride away and look at the cultural difference. Now, pull up a map of Africa and note the size ....

With regards to the OP, I know quite a few Asian Oxbridge graduates from 'humble' backgrounds. One dad is a shop floor worker. So easy to draw the conclusion that Asians are academically superior eh?

This one parent was a University lecturer before fleeing Africa and is now a shop floor worker. Others moved to a strange country (the UK) to seek a better life. By implication these are more pro active and ambitious people than those who stayed behind.

My point? Generalisations about immigrants are meaningless. I mean, the ones that you meet here are not necessarily representative of the native countries culture. If it was then India would be an economic powerhouse.

mathanxiety Sun 12-Jan-14 05:58:03

Amy Wotsit also appears not to recognise the fact that 'Nigerians' and 'African-Americans' are closely related racially, historically and culturally.

That's not really true.
African Americans may mostly have originated in west Africa but hundreds of years of legal disability and being told they were worthless have had an effect on many African Americans in America that west Africans whose ancestors spent the last few hundred years in Africa do not have to grapple with.

Amy Chua makes the point that work ethic and maybe a tendency to value yourself based on what school says about you, or how far you are promoted, or the size of your paycheque, is something common to specific ethnic groups whereas some others are happy to blend in with their communities, or be seen as hip, or feel good about themselves if they make what they feel is an effort, without reference to how that effort is perceived. Think of Lisa Simpson when school is closed for a snow day and she finds she can't survive without being graded. That is the sort of culture Chua has identified in certain groups.

As an Irish immigrant to the US I have noticed that many Irish immigrants are uber over-achievers, along with many Russians and Poles, none of whom were rich and few of whom were English speakers or holders of advanced degrees when they arrived. There is a sort of divide in those communities, with some sinking into the American middle.

However, her categorisation of Nigerian Americans is spot on imo (and I realise this is not a scientific observation). All those I know are gunning for Harvard and its ilk for their children, and doing the spadework necessary to make sure their children get there (making sure homework is done, making sure children have library cards and read a lot, making sure children are in at night and not out partying) -- it's not all aspiration with nothing to back it up. And while the Nigerian Americans I know speak very good English with an accent, none of them came from wealthy backgrounds. Speaking standard English and insisting your children do too is a struggle they have taken up with great energy and commitment.

Chua is not saying there is anything innate, or biological if you will, about the drive to succeed -- what she is saying is some groups have a culture (derived from their history and circumstances and maybe from religious values) that makes them better suited to get their children through school with As and into top universities. They also have a very hands-on attitude to parenting, see themselves as 'in charge' of their children's education, and do not leave it to schools.

I think Chua should look at members of her highlighted communities who do not succeed. These people exist, and I think she could refine her argument substantially if she looked at examples of individuals who do not get As or get into a selective university. I think impulse control is the most important element of the qualities she identified, and from my own unscientific observation of my DCs' schoolmates, this is a quality that is shared by many, not just the groups she identifies.

* Affirmative action programmes do not tend to benefit the urban poor, and the non-urban, non-poor would do fine without them. I think it is a fallacy that American teenagers root around among their ancestors trying to find the tiniest hint of some minority to give them some miniscule advantage.

Kenlee Sat 11-Jan-14 23:36:03

Again as a BBC whose parents spoke Chinglish. I did not feel disadvantaged in the least. I never felt I was held back by my parent's lack of English skill.

English was spoken at school. You learnt it from your friends and teachers. In fact I regularly gained higher marks than my non immigrant counterparts.

I attribute this to hard work. So having non academic parents also is not a barrier to getting good results.

Although I have to admit the sterotype of Chinese parents thinking a B is a fail was true of my parents.

In HK that is certainly true. All children are expected to have an art...a musical instrument ....a Sport....and be academic.

All are tutored to within an inch. Do any kids what to do it NO....only a very few.....

Now my daughter still hates to dance but is now willining to do the grade 8 music after quitting at grade 5....She likes to swim not to win but just for the heck of it....that is what a good school provides choice...and making the right choices....for the right reasons...

o yes she has been to school for 3 mths and has already picked up the Surrey accent....

LauraBridges Sat 11-Jan-14 16:26:36

I wish I'd never mentioned the poor boy now and I hope his mother doesn't read this site. He does say "go gym" - he said it again the day before yesterday and it sounds really weird and I don't think most of the children talk like that. Anyway it's not an important point except I do think some of the children at their fee paying school are in homes where the standard of English of the parents is not very good and that is probably why my sons are in the top set for English whereas if they were with children whose parents spoke correct English at home I doubt they would be.

Work ethic makes a huge difference. I love it that most of my children's schools are second generation immigrants putting their all into paying fees as that rubs off across the whole class and culture of the school and I want mine to work hard too so it's a huge bonus if you can be in a school like that. We have a much stronger work ethic in this family than most UK white families so I have more in common with these other cultures in that sense.

Woody Allen was once asked the secret of his success - he said he just showed up and that alone explains enough. If your family ethic is you work regardless, whether you're feeling a bit tired or whatever you always turn up on time and do what is expected. If you can do that you are already well ahead of a lot of people. I just took a call from a client who was surprised I was at my desk and I was happy to give him the advice needed immediately on a Saturday afternoon.

I was reading in the paper today about two black UK actors on in that new slavery film and what was fascinating about the description of their teenage years was that they became utterly focussed on work and acting (and one was lucky enough to have a single parent mother who paid fees for Dulwich College school I think it said who worked very hard). When a lot of teenagers were lying around they were out there practising, joining groups, reading, learning. It is the 10,000 hours Gladwell suggests in his Outliers book that people who succeed often put in that can make them good at something. He found the Beatles did 10,000 hours in clubs in Berlin, often 7 hour sessions. Bill Gates did 10,000 hours of programming as a teenager etc etc. Put in the effort, have drive and self confidence, work very hard and you often do well. People say I've been very lucky and I am sure I have but the old saying that funnily enough the harder I work the luckier I get rings true.

Nibs777 Sat 11-Jan-14 12:21:30

I was not referencing any Indian boy that I know ....I was just commenting on someone else mentioning it on this thread ....and the comment... "I go gym...." yes, not having been witness to it, it could well be "yoof speak", rather than English spoken as a second language which I was surmising.

My own son won't stop dropping in a "lol" here and there and I can't stand "textspeak" but he seems to think it's cool.

Agree with Kenlee...but you have to agree work ethic in some cultures (Indian, Chinese) is very much focussed on things like acceleration in maths and nothing to do with DNA yes, no group is innately superior at all in my view, but sometimes (and not to single out any cultures on this) the pressure can be taken to an extreme at the sacrifice of balance ...lifestyle balance is a choice for adults, but for children made to have no balance, long term, it could be detrimental. Awful if they looked back and thought, where was my childhood. You have said this yourself for HK Chinese.

Enrichment - fostering natural curiosity and interest in a subject to go more in depth by a variety of means- I see that as different from coaching or acceleration.

Kenlee Sat 11-Jan-14 10:38:06

May I add being a second generation chinese immigrant British born (BBC). I did not find that we faired any better or worse than our non immigrant counterpart. In fact I went to lowly UCL where my best friend went to Cambridge. We both turned out ok.

It is really nothing to do with ethnicity it is mostly to do with work ethic. If it is install at home and is carried over to school work then in most cases your child will succeed.

I have never believed the utter rubbish from statistics saying East Aaian have the highest IQ. It all down to the individual we all share the same DNA.

deliverance Sat 11-Jan-14 09:29:08

I don't think that some groups are superior, inately. I am first generation English Indian (born in the 60s). Most Indian children are seen to be highly intelligent. My children were born in the noughties. They are not particularly clever but I have supplemented thier school work with home-based education. Call it coaching, call it enrichment, but it is really down to how education is perceived by some cultures. Because I perceive it highly, I have pushed my average level ability children hard. Older one has now got into a superselective grammar school.

BTW,, to Nibs. You mentioned an Indian boy who spoke, "I go to gym". Are you sure you are not just confusing that with wider "yoof speak".

LauraBridges Wed 08-Jan-14 21:46:41

It surprised me too about this boy. In fact my son tonight showed me that boy's texts to point out the grammar. I hope I made it clear that above all they must all try to be nice to each other and there will be plenty of things we get wrong or just do differently.

"I go gym" is interesting because his father works in the City and presumably is quite bright and I presume was brought up here in the UK not India, and I don't think it's put on, like some teenagers deliberately speak with Caribbean accents to be trendy and my son said quite a few of the boys miss the the out. The other one that annoys me and plenty of less well educated adults use this is say - I play guitar or piano. They miss out the "the". Perhaps it's just lazy speech such as people who drop their ts might be doing.

I would prefer I go t'gym as they have the definite article in there - the the. Anyway it's not important or particularly relevant to the thread. The boy though does say he's gifted and talented and I am laughing because my sons (at home not to his face) were telling me his low marks. He probably just feels a bit insecure and he seems to need to show off about things all the time. Mind you if he has my self styled "grammar Nazi" son sitting next to him all day pointing out where his apostrophes should go I'm not surprised. Anyway they all get on, so that's fine.

Actually if we take this thread as about cultural groups then middle class high earning mothers from and sending children to selective fee paying schools are a culture of their own and their children do fairly well too because it matters that our children do well in their exams. So really any class, caste or culture which has that ethos is going to find children do better within reason. If you're beating them and not letting them ever play then the whole thing will backfire on you.

AngelaDaviesHair Wed 08-Jan-14 21:18:25

S'ok, Osmium, hope I didn't come across as too arsey. There was jiggery pokery on another thread involving PMs and ithas made me twitchy. It's an interesting thread, thanks for starting it.

Nibs777 Wed 08-Jan-14 16:44:04

should have typed ..."I'm going t'gym" is dialect not use of bad English

Nibs777 Wed 08-Jan-14 16:37:54

Don't forget ....educated ethnics are usually only let down by their English when it is a second or in some cases third language.....bit like being educated much of your life in UK then going to work in France and being judged by not so perfect French. Some second generation immigrant children may also revert to bad English because at home that's what their first generation parents speak if not talking to them in their native language (and sometimes parent's native language may be the only in spoken at home).

I wouldn't expect any educated person who speaks English as a first language to be saying "I go gym".

"I go t'gym" though is just dialect and not any lack of education in English.

It's a rare bird that is truly bilingual...most who are still have a noticeable first language and hence a distinguishable "foreign" accent in the second.

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