Amy Chua on Reshaping American Education: Worth The Read Today
I weighed-in lightly on the Amy Chua-Tiger Mom issue a few months back. Much of the noise around Chua’s book struck me as too calculated- too obviously marketing of her book.
But Chua, despite her, seemingly, constructed authorial persona, has given voice to questions and issues around parenting, child rearing, and education in America. If not an expert, she becoming a reasonable, thoughtful, voice around parenting and education issues.
Today, I think Chua might be on to something. (Although I still don’t get her seemingly eternal issue with sleepovers. I think it’s just become a mandatory part of her shtick.)
Chua has an editorial piece in USA Today in which she makes the case for reshaping American education by doing something that America, and Americans, have done well over time- combining the the best pieces of a series of ideas and making them our own.
“In so many areas — science, music, food, business — a unique American strength has always been to absorb the best of many cultures,” Chua writes. (USA Today)
America collects, refashions, retools, and recombines people, and ideas, so well, in so so many areas, but, not in education and child rearing.
“Not so with parenting. When it comes to raising our kids, we are strangely closed-minded,” Chua reminds readers. (USA Today)
Chua goes on to argue that American parents can best serve, and prepare, their children for the global future by setting-aside their polemics and considering the best pieces, and practices, of educational approaches worldwide.
American’s don’t have a lock on educational and parenting know-how and that’s hard for Americans to swallow. American exceptionalism runs deeply in the American psyche- including education.
“But now more than ever, intolerance is the wrong mind-set. Our children will inherit a world of fierce global competition, and we need to do our best to prepare them. Like it or not, child-rearing is inextricably intertwined with our nation’s future. At stake is not just our children’s well-being but the durability of the American Dream. Instead of ripping into each other, we should follow America’s traditional formula for success: building on what we do well while being open to what works elsewhere and bringing it to America.
Interestingly, Asia is already looking West. Education in Asia is still too stifling, rote and high-pressured. In China, for example, kids often study from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., grades are publicly posted, and a child’s future can depend on a single exam. (“Sleepovers” are still extremely rare in China.)
Today, most Asian countries are trying to find ways to encourage more creativity, individuality and leadership in their children.”(USA Today)
“East meets West
If in their early years we teach our children a strong work ethic, perseverance and the value of delayed gratification, they will be much better positioned to be self-motivated and self-reliant when they become young adults. This is a way to combine East and West: more structure when our children are little (and will still listen to us), followed by increasing self-direction in their teenage years.
America’s comparative advantage has always been its openness and inclusiveness. In parenting as in all other spheres, we should let go of convenient but false dichotomies — creativity or discipline, freedom or hard work — and aim to incorporate the best of all worlds.” (USA Today)
Of course, implementation and adoption of proposals like Chua’s face a couple of formidable hurdles- competing interests and views to start.
Americans tend toward conventional wisdom and held beliefs when building educational policy. Change would require clear leadership, and, collectively, we’d have to admit that an idea(s) other than own might be better.
All of this would require Americans, and American policy makers, to address- face-to-face- notions of American exceptionalism and conventional wisdom. We would be required to look at, examine, think about, and consider ideas and possibilities other than our own.
You mean- we’re not right because we’re American?
Chua’s right. We’ve got to look at the evidence and use the tools and approaches that work best- no matter where they come from. Even if the idea, or practice, wasn’t first our own.
We can’t afford to just believe any more. We’ve got to really find out what works and use it. Our future depends on it.