CAFÉ Discusses Reactions to Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”

Andover joined in the nation-wide discussion over the views of Amy Chua, Yale Law professor and former ASM speaker, this past Friday in a CAMD-hosted forum for student and faculty perspectives. Around forty students and teachers gathered in response to the recent articles published in the “Wall Street Journal”, the “New York Times” and “Time” magazine about Chua and her novel, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”. Asian Society organized and led the event with the help of Café and Aya Murata, Advisor to Asian and Asian-American Students. Seyoung Lee ’12, President of Asian Society, and Tailor Dortona ’12, Café Co-ordinator, moderated the discussion. In her book, Chua supports the high expectations of and hands-on parenting style of herself and fellow “Tiger Mothers”. The Wall Street Journal featured an excerpt from her novel on January 8th that instigated both support and condemnation. The article inspired a number of follow-up articles, including one in which Chua claimed that the excerpt pieced together only the most controversial portions of the book and altered her underlying point. Murata said, “When I first read the original Wall Street Journal article, I had a sense that it was important and would elicit feelings and opinions that would be worth talking about. I sent it off to Asian Society the next day.” Elisa Li ‘11 said, “After reading the Wall Street Journal excerpt, I was really angry. The article was way over the top. But, as I read some of the other articles, where Chua was given more of a chance to explain herself, I realized the Wall Street Journal had manipulated it to be as outlandish as possible, and I liked her much more after that.” After the articles raised the attention of the wider Andover community, many students and faculty wanted to open up discussion to the entire school. Li said that Asian Society wanted to allow students chances to respond to Chua’s perspective and share their different opinions in a communal setting. “It opened the discussion up to questions such as what type of parenting is effective, and how we, personally, would parent,” Lee said. The forum operated as two separate groups for the majority of the time but convened to make final conclusions as a whole. Michael Legaspi, Instructor in Religion and Philosophy, said, “I found the discussion to be open, honest, searching, and at times very personal. Students went out on a limb to share some of the ways this style of pressure-oriented parenting affected them.” Lee said, “It was interesting to see the contrast between those who had been brought up with this pressurized type of parenting and agreed with it, and those who had felt it had hurt them.” Some of the issues brought up included the stereotype of the Chinese mother and the pros and cons of extreme expectations. Legaspi said, “We talked about whether kids owe debts to their parents, and I think this is the heart of the matter. The American emphasis on autonomy and individuality while designed to help students feel good about themselves self esteem, can become a disservice to kids when it becomes an excuse to not fulfill their potential.” Chinese instructor, Qing Ye, said, “The article only represents some Chinese mothers, so it is wrong to create such stereotypes. As a Chinese mother, I believe in giving my sons more choices and I spend time listening to what my kids have to say and talking to them as equals. “Nowadays lots of young Chinese moms are exposed to Western philosophy in college or grad school, so often they treat act more like what Chua calls the ‘Western mothers’,” she continued. “Things are changing, and especially in modern cities, parents are not like Amy Chua. The change is good, because I think that it brings us closer to finding a happy medium.”