SOME 2,400 years ago Mencius, a Confucian sage, endured a peripatetic Chinese childhood. His tigerish mother moved house three times before settling on one good enough for the infant genius—close to a good school. Many modern parents, anxious to give their child a winning start in the postcode lottery of life, would sympathise. They agonise about how to raise their children. Chinese mothers, however, still know what’s best.
So contends Amy Chua, a Chinese-American law lecturer, who has whipped up a storm with her book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”, and, in particular, a provocative extract published in the Wall Street Journal. The article’s starting-point is that “Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids”, because “Chinese mothers are superior”. Chinese matriarchs are better because they are tougher, stricter and readier to be loathed for banning children from almost any form of fun, from play dates to—horrors!—computer games. Indulgent Western parents, cosseting their baa-lambs’ self-esteem and releasing them to play in the mud when they could be doing extra arithmetic or practising scales, are condemning them to a life of underachievement.
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