Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lessons From A Chinese Mother

A Chinese-American author and Yale law professor, Amy Chua has written a thought provoking article about parenting in this week's Wall Street Journal. This article has received a huge number of hits as the word has spread that maybe, just maybe, American parents have something important to learn from the Chinese about rearing children to be responsible students and successful adults. I strongly recommend this article to all education leaders and to all parents of school age children.

My impression upon reflecting on the article was that we in the U.S. have lost our way about the essential components of parenting in a competitive world and maybe we should take a few lessons from a people who have a very old and successful culture. I am not talking about Communism which is a relatively new phenomenon, but about the art of raising healthy well motivated kids which philosophers would say is the most important job of our lives. I am convinced that some American parents have no clue about how to prepare children for a successful life because they themselves have had little training in proper work ethics and the value of education. In fact it seems that rearing children is the one important job in life for which we have no instruction manual, no degree, and no operator's license. I believe it is an absolute shame what often passes for parenting in this country.

I just completed a great interview with Illinois educational psychologist, Johnathan Plucker who had spent quite a bit of time visiting and studying the educational system in Shanghai China. When I asked him about the parent's attitudes and values relative to education, he pretty much expressed the same ideas as Amy Chua in her Wall Street Journal article. Plucker told me that he does not see much difference in the quality of teachers in the U.S. Compared to Shanghai. He said the big differences are in the supportive attitudes of parents, in the actual length of the school year and the length of the school day and the extra time spent on studying outside the classroom. All of these efforts are much greater in Shanghai than they are in the U.S. According to Dr. Plucker.

Also while poverty is a major problem affecting student achievement in this country, it can be overcome by more positive attitudes toward education in the home and in the community. I refer readers to our blog post of Dec 29  which includes an account of education performance of the Vietnamese immigrants who settled in Baton Rouge after the end of the Vietnam war.

A careful reading of Amy Chua's Wall Street Journal article should be the first in a series of lessons about parenting that should be recommended to all parents of school age children.