Open thread

Published by Lori Pickert on January 21, 2011 at 03:24 PM

A large number of US university students fail to develop critical thinking, reasoning and writing skills because of easy classes and too little time spent studying, a study found Wednesday.

The study of 3,000 students at 29 four-year universities found that 45 percent “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” during their first two years in college as measured by a standardized test.

After the full four years, 36 percent had shown no development in critical thinking, reasoning and writing, according to the study, which forms the basis of the new book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses.

U.S. College Students Don’t Learn Core Skills: Study

Just another quote to go with these interesting quotes.

And for those following the “Tiger Mom” story (and thank you, Mamie, for sending me the link), an update and a question in this article:

Though Chua was born and raised in the U.S., her invocation of what she describes as traditional “Chinese parenting” has hit hard at a national sore spot: our fears about losing ground to China and other rising powers and about adequately preparing our children to survive in the global economy. Her stories of never accepting a grade lower than an A, of insisting on hours of math and spelling drills and piano and violin practice each day (weekends and vacations included), of not allowing playdates or sleepovers or television or computer games or even school plays, for goodness’ sake, have left many readers outraged but also defensive. The tiger mother’s cubs are being raised to rule the world, the book clearly implies, while the offspring of “weak-willed,” “indulgent” Westerners are growing up ill equipped to compete in a fierce global marketplace.

One of those permissive American parents is Chua's husband, Jed Rubenfeld (also a professor at Yale Law School). He makes the occasional cameo appearance in Tiger Mother, cast as the tenderhearted foil to Chua’s merciless taskmaster. When Rubenfeld protested Chua’s harangues over “The Little White Donkey,” for instance, Chua informed him that his older daughter Sophia could play the piece when she was Lulu's age. Sophia and Lulu are different people, Rubenfeld remonstrated reasonably. “Oh, no, not this,” Chua shot back, adopting a mocking tone: “Everyone is special in their special own way. Even losers are special in their own special way.”

With a stroke of her razor-sharp pen, Chua has set a whole nation of parents to wondering: Are we the losers she's talking about?

The Roar of the Tiger Mom

I love the juxtaposition of the Tiger Mom article (and follow-ups) and the burst of articles about how our students aren’t learning anything in high school or college.

What do you think?

27 comments

Comment by amy on January 21, 2011 at 04:36 PM

I've only seen very little about this Tiger Mom business. I try to avoid mother lit these days. What do I think? I think it does me no good to compare myself to any other mother. I am me, my kids are themselves, and I honestly don't care how OTHER people do things. My attention is better spent making sure things are working in my own household. And geez, I'd never write a book telling people my way is the best way, either. (I don't know if that's the gist of her book, that her way is the best way, because I haven't read it. I'm just saying.)

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 21, 2011 at 05:06 PM

i would have missed it completely had an alert reader not shared it with me. and i found it to be an entertaining read. i was amused. i gather that's not the general reaction. :)

the gist of her book is not (to my understanding) to say her way is the best way -- evidently it's about her growth as a mother, and in the back half of the book she modifies her traditional methods because they aren't working for her younger daughter.

it's good you are satisfied with your way and don't need to know how others do things; it still makes for interesting reading, though, even if you aren't shopping for methods or philosophies. ideas are always interesting, and my brain needs the exercise. :)

Comment by Cristina on January 21, 2011 at 05:07 PM

I admire Ms Chua's devotion to her children and involvement in their academics. I've also read some excellent, insightful responses to the article, especially this one: http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2011/01/why_chinese_mothers_are_not_su.html

Having said that, I do take issue with her marginalization of creative endeavors, such as drama and art, as well of her lack of appreciation for any music except classical or any instrument except piano or violin.

If gentle parenting is ineffective, how did I end up with a daughter who is doing so well in college? I believe her daughters might actually enjoy some of the competitiveness for good grades. My brother had that drive. My daughter has that drive for perfect scores and I can assure you, I downplayed the importance of every test I gave her and never graded her. Why? Because some kids like to do well for themselves.

The difference lies in that Ms Chua seems to want approval of what she's doing. She insists and argues that she isn't hurting her children's psyche in any way with her extreme parenting. That remains to be seen. Maybe they will be fine, and maybe they will grow up feeling their mom will only love them if they do well and don't shame the family name. Maybe my kids will grow up needing to lean on me for reassurance constantly. Know one knows because, um, all kids are different and special and respond in their own way to the pressures placed upon them.

Can you tell I've been thinking of this a lot lately? :-)

Peace and Laughter!

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 21, 2011 at 05:16 PM

random open thread thing - my 11yo is really loving bill bryson's "a really short history of nearly everything", his kid verson of his "short history" (which i read aloud to the boys years ago, editing as i went):

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0385738102/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_tl?ie=U...

hope that link works...

Comment by amy on January 21, 2011 at 05:24 PM

Lori, I probably od'd on the mother lit at some point early on, and it just made me feel like crap, one way or another. It's healthier if I just stay out of this type of reading! I take my job seriously, and I read lots to supplement it, but that's not the sort of thing I find filling, if you understand what I mean by that.

Comment by Sheila on January 21, 2011 at 05:26 PM

I read this article in our local newspaper - I too was amused. I read it as a sort of self-mocking piece, to be honest.

My brother married a Chinese woman and it seems to be a fairly common method of parenting, this Tiger Mom business. The piano fights - my GAWD - the piano fights were legendary. My SIL is almost identical to this Ms Chua although she didn't get such amazing results from her kids. She is rather broken up about this but you didn't hear it from me, lol.

Interestingly, her son (my nephew) is now in a small city in China, teaching English. He hates it. He thinks all the Chinese (remember, he's HALF Chinese, lol) there are incapable of original thinking, shallow, and only concerned with how they APPEAR to others, not how they might actually be. His mother is a frequent commenter on his blog and it's quite hilarious how her thinking juxtaposes with his experiences. Never the twain shall me, methinks.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 21, 2011 at 07:50 PM

hi cristina! :)

i'm not sure she marginalized art, since she had her daughters practicing music 6 hours a day (!). i would say she chose for them -- piano and violin, good; school play, bad.

i didn't read her excerpt (and i've lost track of what was in that original WSJ article and what was in her follow-up interview) as saying her rendition of "chinese mother" was the *only* way to success; i just read it as her sharing what "chinese mother"ing was (in her experience) and why she chose to attempt to raise her daughters the way she was raised.

(a lot of what she wrote was cringe-inducing, but while i was cringing i was also thinking "wow, she's being very honest; she's not trying to hide the nasty stuff".)

"The difference lies in that Ms Chua seems to want approval of what she's doing. She insists and argues that she isn't hurting her children's psyche in any way with her extreme parenting. That remains to be seen." mm, i didn't read it that way. i didn't think she was looking for anyone's approval *at all*. and she did say that the book is about her changing her outlook and her parenting, and the excerpt was from the beginning of the book, before she changed.

i think she's satisfied with her choices, why she made them, how her daughters are turning out, and her relationship with them -- that seems clear.

i guess i read her excerpt as an anthropological piece -- her personal explanation of "this is why we [chinese mothers] make the choices we do, this is how we raise our children, this is what we care about", etc. and i thought it was interesting.

amy, yes, i know what you're saying. similar to what i was saying to cristina, i suppose i didn't read it didactically; i thought it was very interesting from an anthropological point of view.

sheila, yes, same here. i thought there was a lot of humor and refreshing honesty.

re: your nephew, here's a quote from that second article i quoted up above:

"For educated urban Chinese parents, the trend is away from the strict traditional model and toward a more relaxed American style. Chinese authorities, meanwhile, are increasingly dissatisfied with the country's public education system, which has long been based on rote learning and memorization. They are looking to the West for inspiration — not least because they know they must produce more creative and innovative graduates to power the high-end economy they want to develop."

thanks for sharing your family story -- so interesting! :)

Comment by Barbara in NC on January 22, 2011 at 02:37 PM

I think a lot of what is compelling about the tiger mama thing is that it paints the picture of a family where the mom is in charge, in control, and is able to compel her kids to do what she wants them to do. Even though the dynamic that she describes is far from anything I'd want for my family and my kids, I can understand the appeal of an approach that promises compliance (not to mention performance!).

Another thing I find interesting is that she paints "western" parenting as permissive, while she by contrast is very demanding. I think the more telling contrast is that she seems to give her kids lots of attention, whereas it seems to me that the modern western parenting approach is more hands-off than explicitly permissive. And while it may not always be positive attention, I would agree that the non-attention given to most kids these days is hardly a better way of doing things.

The thing in her book excerpt that makes me the most crazy is the reasonable-sounding idea that nothing is fun until you're good at it, so you need to push your kids through the boring part until they're skilled and therefore enjoying themselves. That's just plain wrong! I do quite a few things that I really enjoy that I don't do at all well. And in fact, part of the enjoyment comes from the process of trying to get better. And I certainly see the same thing in my kids. There have been times that we have hit snags when my older dd (who can struggle when things don't come easily) wants to master something but is frustrated with the required practice or intermediate steps. But I have found that I can help her push through that (or choose not to) in a way that is collaborative and doesn't require witholding food or bathroom breaks.

But I guess my approach is based on a lot of different assumptions about parent/child relationships and what it is (or isn't) important for kids to learn and do.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 22, 2011 at 03:26 PM

that also stuck out for me -- i highlighted two sentences in my notes:

"nothing is fun until you're good at it."

"to get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences."

i agree: wrong. actually, you can have a lot of fun doing things that you're not good at .. you can enjoy *mastering* something difficult.

the second statement just basically says kids are lazy. combined with the first statement (that kids can't enjoy something difficult and challenging), it's just anti-child thinking. common thinking, too. these are the kinds of things that teachers and parents say against project-based learning -- how could it possibly work when kids are inherently lazy (don't want to work, don't want to be challenged) and will always take the easiest path? but it's just not true.

"I do quite a few things that I really enjoy that I don't do at all well. And in fact, part of the enjoyment comes from the process of trying to get better." this is a lesson i really wanted my children to learn, so they wouldn't be bogged down with perfectionism, with that sense that if they don't excel at something, they should move on. there is so much enjoyment to be had from doing things that you *don't* automatically excel at!

tiger mom wants her kids to learn that you can improve from hard work, not just natural talent, but that is something that you can also learn from project work .. children don't have to be *forced* to learn that lesson.

"There have been times that we have hit snags when my older dd (who can struggle when things don't come easily) wants to master something but is frustrated with the required practice or intermediate steps. But I have found that I can help her push through that (or choose not to) in a way that is collaborative and doesn't require witholding food or bathroom breaks." i think the missing piece for tiger mom is the child's genuine desire .. collaboration works because you are working to help your daughter achieve something she *wants* to do, helping her get past the difficulties and frustrations but aided by her own motivation.

i think tiger mom stumbles onto this fact, but makes a critical mistake when she thinks that it's all about "it only gets to be fun when you get good at it". in this sentence, "it" is "something you are forced to do against your will", *not* "anything you do". maybe if you are forced to study violin or piano, you will eventually learn to enjoy it when you become skilled at it. but the "fun" (i hate the overuse of this word in relationship to education -- i prefer enjoyment, pleasure, something that conveys a deeper meaning than the balloon animals and sparkly unicorns feeling of "fun") can be there from the start if you are working on something you really care about. this is a lesson tiger mom misses because she just doesn't work that way, as you point out.

Comment by Deirdre on January 22, 2011 at 05:14 PM

Such interesting reading here! Love Barbara's comments, as I too felt that the degree of parental involvement---of giving time, energy and attention to one's child (ie: love) was the great story underneath all the flash of the Tiger Mom.

(Also interesting to note that WSJ named the excerpt "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior"--setting the kind of "who's right?" tone that also turns me off parenting lit too, but the memoir sounds more like the truth-telling narrative that Lori describes, offering a specific view into one parenting culture's flaws & strengths).

I am the child of immigrants, and the first in my family to graduate from college (despite being the 4th of 9 children...though almost all now hold MAs & PhD's). My parents weren't able to offer the kind of attention (thank GOD) that Chua does, but they did hold up learning and education as the keys to freedom.

And they would have had zero patience for a child who blamed a teacher for his or her lack of teaching. We knew early on that WE were our own teachers, responsible for our own learning. So if college students aren't learning, I think it says more about them and our culture as a whole expecting to be passive drive-through learners.

I remember a Carl Rogers quote (can you help me out here Lori?) about how no one can teach anyone anything---we can only set the table and make it look as appetizing as possible and encourage them to eat. Chua force fed her children---which would have turned me, personally, off food altogether. My parents set the table by the example of their own insatiable hunger for learning and knowledge. What worries me far more than parents with Chua's style are those with a McDonald's view of education, who think they don't need to set a table at all, and who expect a public school to turn their children onto learning with cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all mandates.

Mandates=chicken nuggets. Not inherently evil, but neither are very nourishing.

Comment by brooke on January 22, 2011 at 07:09 PM

I read the Tiger Mom article, but not the book ... so I can't really comment too much on it (other than the fact that she says the article is tongue-in-cheek, but is obviously a good enough writer to have accomplished "tongue-in-cheek" without it sounding like it isn't and could be more of a publicity stunt than anything) ...

but as far as the other article ... it fascinates me. I have heard that our last two years of high school are generally the equivalent to the first two years of college. I'm sure there are exceptions. But considering the percentage of students who don't take education seriously and yet still want to go (or are sent by parents) to university ... professors must be stumped by stupid students and not sure how to deal with it, in additon to the expectation that they will party and be indecisive about a major ... I could easily see how that could translate into spreading two years of education into four because we expect so little of a vast majority of our students. iI's a waste of two years of their life (and their parents' money).

I was a high school senior taking college classes (17 years ago) and was the student setting the curve (right where it ought to be ... at 100%).

As as adult I took a German class for fun at our local community college and was absolutely shocked at how easy it was, how poorly the students worked and how the professor seemed to teach to the lowest achieving student.

We are doing our students and our country no favors.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 22, 2011 at 09:07 PM

hi d ;)

"My parents weren't able to offer the kind of attention (thank GOD) that Chua does..." hahaha, that was my reaction, too .. thinking on the one hand, while controlling she certainly is involved and attentive and focused on what's best for her child, and on the other, wow i'm glad that's not MY mom. ;)

"[I]f college students aren't learning, I think it says more about them and our culture as a whole expecting to be passive drive-through learners." i think we've created an educational system where the priorities are in 1, getting people through the system (so keep promoting them regardless of their performance, and never mind if they're paying attention or care about what they're "learning"), 2, fudging the data to make it all look good on paper (so rely on standardized testing but kick out the low performers, and get them into college whether they're able to learn there or graduate), and 3, exactly as you say, training kids and young adults to passively accept the system and quietly acquiesce (so teach them early their job is to sit and be quiet and do as they're told; their input is not necessary).

i agree with you completely (obviously ;) and it harkens back to what we were discussing a bit northward in this thread .. real learning requires a collaborative relationship between teacher and student. if the student is just along for the ride, doing the minimum, unengaged, then no real learning occurs. is the problem the teachers/universities? or the students we've *trained* to be passive and disengaged?

re: carl rogers, i can't put my finger on the quote you mention, but rogers would say (i think ;) that a teacher's job is to facilitate learning by making the environment as positive and as conducive to learning as possible .. because students *want* to learn and have a natural propensity toward learning that simply needs to be allowed to flourish. this is directly opposite to what ms chua says, which is that children are not naturally inclined to work.

"Chua force fed her children---which would have turned me, personally, off food altogether." ha -- and sadly, even if you were hungry! it sounds like her younger daughter rebelled and therefore she changed her ways; it would be amazing to *not* have a child in a family who would rebel at this kind of heavy-handed martial rule even if they *wanted* to, e.g., learn piano or violin. all the control is in the parent's hands and the child is assumed to have no work ethic, no desire, nothing positive except the ability to improve under constant haranguing .. i accept chua's experience that it worked for her older daughter, for herself and her sister, and for others in her culture, but i wonder what price they pay emotionally and intellectually. it's rather like the human equivalent of bonsai .. what shape might that person have taken if free to grow naturally?

"What worries me far more than parents with Chua's style are those with a McDonald's view of education, who think they don't need to set a table at all, and who expect a public school to turn their children onto learning with cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all mandates." interestingly, there are many hands-off parents in the homeschooling/unschooling arena as well .. those who think that their children will automatically/magically become self-directed learners if left to their own devices or who apply that same magical thinking to a curriculum-in-a-box. *this* perhaps is what we should be looking at with a grave societal eye .. where did we get the idea that we don't have to put deliberate focus and effort toward helping our children become independent, engaged learners?

brooke,

"professors must be stumped by stupid students and not sure how to deal with it" -- absolutely! i know my professor friends talk about students who are shockingly unprepared for college-level work .. and yet they aren't allowed to "punish" students by giving them appropriate failing grades. the administration keeps those students moving through the system, and the professors (at least some of them, according to my own anecdotal evidence) are forced to work with what they've got.

"I have heard that our last two years of high school are generally the equivalent to the first two years of college." i've read that college freshmen are coming in to university so ill prepared that time is wasted in college doing high-school level work .. that means students aren't getting as much out of their four (or five) years at college as they used to. it really is a mind-boggling waste of time and money.

Comment by Barbara in NC on January 23, 2011 at 12:25 AM

I'm honestly surprised at how absent the idea of collaboration is in so many homeschooling conversations. It's as if there are two options--either the parent makes all the decision and enforces the doing of work, or kids are to be left entirely on their own and not be interfered with. Either the parent is in charge, or the kids are. In practice--looking at my own life and at the homeschooling families around me--I see much more of a middle ground, with lots of negotiation about what to do and how to do it. Not even just negotiation (as in, you want one thing, I want another, let's meet in the middle), but lots of conversation--I'm always talking with my 9 y.o. about how we want to be spending our time, reflecting on what's working and what isn't, how things could be working better, what we want to prioritize going forward. Now that I think about it, I actually think those conversations are some of the most important work that we're doing together right now.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 23, 2011 at 04:25 PM

b. agreed. it's funny that things are so polarized. when you suggest to the school-at-home parents that they could allow children to play a significant part in their own learning, they imagine fluff. when you suggest to the some radical unschooling parents that they could play a more active role in their children's learning, they are horrified at the idea of such manipulation and coercion.

maybe it's because people haven't seen enough real-life examples of successful collaboration between teachers and students, parents and children. i know that when i was doing educational consulting, over and over again i heard from teachers that until they saw it working in a real classroom, they didn't really believe it could work.

and there are few examples of this kind of cooperative learning for people to see.

i know exactly what you are saying about "negotiation" -- some would read the word and imagine sitting on opposite sides of a table arguing to get your own way .. or giving up your ideal to accommodate the other person. but it can mean taking each other's opinions and points into consideration and working toward a common goal. working together as a team to achieve a common goal -- both children together and children with adults -- isn't as valued as it should be.

re: the important work you're doing having those conversations with your 9yo .. it's something that can only grow out of a shared learning relationship. the other models -- parent completely in control, children completely on their own -- don't include this rich work that can only happen where people come together.

some parents are so afraid of taking over that they stay too far back; they think their children require a vacuum to have opinions, express ideas, or develop creativity. they think they are pro-children, but really they are anti-children -- because children's ideas, opinions, and creativity are far too powerful to evaporate in a collaborative setting! children working with others, sharing ideas, making suggestions, negotiating solutions, brainstorming, explaining, asking, imagining .. it's more challenging and enriching than always just doing your own thing with no one to bump up against and make things interesting.

Comment by Barbara in NC on January 24, 2011 at 02:04 AM

Lori, I'm reminded of something I read once on a discussion board or unschooling listserv...that if parents selected books for their children (say, at the library) and then brought them home and put them out in a prominent location or otherwise put them in front of the kids, that this was "coercive," because the kids would infer that the parents wanted them to read them and therefore feel pressured to read them.

Seriously?

In my experience, when I bring a bag of books home from the library, my kids (1) run up and pull out all the books to see what treasures I've brought home and (2) read the books they are interested in and forget the rest. And if I'm bringing home too many books on a particular topic, or there are books they aren't interested in, I don't find that they are especially shy about tossing them aside and letting me know these aren't what they want. ;-)

But I do think this depends on my having a relationship with me that they trust that I'm not actually interested in coercing them to do anything. At the very least, they tend to assume my good intentions.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 24, 2011 at 03:06 AM

mm, yes, i've read the same sort of thing. it's coercive if you set them out or offer them, and it's manipulative if you leave them lying around for the kids to discover.

such a dark view!

"I do think this depends on my having a relationship with me that they trust that I'm not actually interested in coercing them to do anything. At the very least, they tend to assume my good intentions." and i think any child knows immediately when he's being coerced or manipulated .. and they react accordingly. and they become suspicious of any thing or any activity that smacks of "educational".

since you have a trusted relationship with your children, and they know they are free to take what interests them and leave the rest, they can enjoy an environment that continually offers up something interesting. because you give *them* the freedom and the choice, you can freely offer.

the person who assumes coercion and manipulation is, ironically, seeing children as weak. they'll fold and do what their parent is sneakily manipulating them to do. whereas there's another possibility -- a close, vibrant, intellectual, engaged, sharing, collaborative relationship between parent and child, where one feels free to offer directly and indirectly and the other feels free to pursue what interests them and politely decline the rest. this relationship benefits from an environment that is always interesting, always changing, always alive .. with both parent and child bringing something to the table.

i'm not sure what to do about this, other than try to share what's possible. i'm glad we can do that here.

Comment by Barbara in NC on January 24, 2011 at 03:17 AM

Lori, I'm looking forward to your brilliant book that talks about all of these things!!

Comment by Dawn Suzette on January 24, 2011 at 04:27 AM

Great conversation...
When we were in our last year of college my husband was expected to write a 20+ page paper for one of his classes.
The first three weeks of that history class they spent learning english. The prof said that he did not want to read a bunch of garbage papers. After four years of honors english classes in high school and almost five years of college he learned more in that three weeks than in all his time in "english" classes. He was highly motivated with graduation on the line... and he wanted to write a great paper about a topic that was very interesting.

...Easy classes and too little time spent studying...
I think we have forgotten why universities exist. They are not a right of passage... a place to party... sow your wild oats...
A degree means so much less than it once did. It is a frustrating position. In one sense you don't learn what you had hoped to learn from classes. .. On the other hand without those classes you can't get "X" job... because they want that paper that says you took those classes... now if you learned something in those classes... Well...

I know nothing about tiger mom. I just know that when my kids want to know about something they learn about it! When I take the time to expose them to lots of different experiences they want to know even more. They are motivated. They love to learn.
Thanks Lori...

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 24, 2011 at 03:03 PM

ah, thank you, b. ;) xo

dawn...

"A degree means so much less than it once did." i wonder if it means so much less mostly to those of us who've been to college .. i know it meant a whole lot less to me after graduating, and i was the first person on one side of my family to go to college. not only did i know how little was asked of me during my four years, but i knew so many people who did the absolute bare minimum (and sometimes not even that) and still walked away with their diploma.

true true re: needing that piece of paper to get some jobs... really, i was shocked (i was!) when i went to college and found out most of my classmates were treating it as a necessary step to a job. they cared zero for getting an education. it was illuminating.

ah, i wish tiger mom could spend even a day with your two :) .. but it's not that easy to change our ideas, unfortunately. even faced with children who are on fire to learn and who push *themselves*, people who have ingrained beliefs that children are lazy and need to be pushed would find a way to align what they see with what they already think. cognitive dissonance...

Comment by David on January 24, 2011 at 09:20 PM

A lot of the discussions on this post have a lot to do with values . It's really interesting to read about different people's experiences and how they have been, or are currently being, shaped by their values or in some cases the values that people around them have. Maybe 'shaped' is not the right word....
I think though that living your values is about 'walking the walk' and not just 'talking the talk'....interesting discussions. :)

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 25, 2011 at 12:21 AM

i agree completely and in fact i think i over use the phrase "walk the talk". ;)

Comment by Cristina on January 25, 2011 at 10:50 PM

Hi Lori,
I just realized why I wasn't getting follow up emails. Apparently, I don't know how to write my email address!

Anyway, I just wanted to clarify that I meant art as in the painting, crafting, making beautiful things style. I was commenting more upon the original article, sorry if I confused things by doing that! Who knows? It's possible WSJ used some creative editing on the original piece that made it sound much more...haughty?...than was intended. I know I read that the title was their idea, not Ms. Chua's.

I guess I'm just coming from my own homeschooling perspective that academic scholarship is not the only road to success. I get tired of all the high stakes testing nonsense that goes on in our area. I'm sure the book would make an excellent anthropological study. We're already studying it!

Peace and Laughter!

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 26, 2011 at 02:04 PM

oop! ;)

i only read the excerpt, not the book, so i can't confirm about the visual arts. you could be right.

i enjoy reading an insider's view to another culture .. and i am interested in values related to education. so i guess this was bound to interest me. :)

glad you got your e-mail straightened out! ;)

Comment by Jen on January 28, 2011 at 04:08 AM

I will have to address the college issue at a later time. I am swimming in it at the moment.

As for the article on Amy Chua: I have read several pieces due to a former professor sending them my way to get my opinion. Additionally, today I managed to lay my hands on the actual book and skim it thoroughly, if there is such a thing. The original except released to the press took one of the worst parts from the book. Chua goes on to explain that she realized that her expectations were not healthy for her children. I don't think she lowered her demands much, but that is merely my opinion. Chua makes clear that her parenting style is reflective of the life she wants for her children and not the life she believes every child should have.
With that said, her thinking is much like many mothers, at times myself included (oops): she has the idea that she can control the future of her children and determine the life they will want based on the life she desires to live. To an extent the parent certainly plays a large role in a child's life. However, it is not up to me to determine the life my child will want as an adult. If I wish them to live the life I want I am selling them short of living the life of their authentic self.

I will tackle the college one tomorrow.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 29, 2011 at 02:48 PM

jen, interesting .. i am probably going to post yet another excerpt from a follow-up article today. i love the conversation that's coming out of this little brouhaha.

"she has the idea that she can control the future of her children and determine the life they will want based on the life she desires to live." i would say, too, that she down-values childhood at the expense of adulthood. this is something i would like to discuss -- do we think it's worth trading childhood away for an improved shot at a privileged adult life?

"it is not up to me to determine the life my child will want as an adult. If I wish them to live the life I want I am selling them short of living the life of their authentic self." agree, agree. it is terrible being forced to live a life that your parent wants to live vicariously, too. in chua's case, i would say it's a cultural generational agreement -- this is what you'll do to keep us rising. she talks about how even adult children continue to do what their parents tell them to do, and the parents absolutely expect them to.

knowing how to prepare your child to live the life of their authentic self .. there's the rub. at one end of the spectrum are parents shoving their kids into a million activities from dance to soccer to computer camp and at the other are parents who don't want to "manipulate" their children into doing anything so keep completely hands off. somewhere in the middle, i believe there's the opportunity to encourage your children to follow their own interests, the chance to build a family culture that celebrates work and intellect and conversation, the chance to transmit values that, say, include music but don't include forced lessons.

i look forward to hearing what you say about college. :)

Comment by Jen on January 31, 2011 at 02:24 AM

Back to tackle the college issue. Life has prevented me from responding sooner.
I am preparing to leave college. I decided to go back to school last year when the opportunity presented itself. I love learning and there are very few subjects that I do not fall down the rabbit hole when searching out more information.

I decided to try to obtain my teaching certification. After all, I have a passion for education, have read just about every education book I can get my hands on, have a knack for explaining or showing things in a way that correlates to all learning types and I would always have the opportunity to continue learning if I were teaching.

I have an undergraduate degree that I didn't work hard to get, much to my surprise. College was supposed to be difficult! Students had to study outside of class for several hours a week, right? The only time I studied was when a group study sessions were proposed and even then I did little studying and more writing study guides for others. I graduated with honors including a school-wide honor. I felt like a cheater when people congratulated me for hard work. Hard work? I just showed up, listened and did what I was told.

Fast forward and I am back in a college classroom as a student. If I thought that my first degree was easy then what does that make this? A majority of the students are in college not because they care to learn but for one of three reasons: they were told to get the piece of paper so they can get a job (forget being interested in the topic), because someone else is paying for it (in this state there are many benefits if you are receiving an undergraduate and/or Mom & Dad foot the bill) or because one can live off of student loans and grants without working. Unfortunately I am not exaggerating on the majority part. Doesn't anyone want to pursue knowledge?

Then there is the fact that the students in classes I am taking are going on to be school teachers. In a recent elementary math class for teachers there were only a handful of students in the class who could figure out 10% of 100. No time limit. They simply didn't understand. The professor lamented the fact that he had to teach elementary math to adults who were supposed to teach the next generation. I could give numerous similar examples from that class and others. Are there individuals who will be decent teachers? Yes, but they are (unfortunately) the exception. A very few will be excellent teachers. There is basically no screening to become a teacher, just a very, very pathetic basic skills test and a background/fingerprint test. No interview, no references required.

Next is the quality of the education. It's so very, very sad that I don't want to think too much about it because I fear for my children's future education, should they decide to pursue higher ed. The essay structure has been dumbed-down to the point that we (students) are given a five-paragraph essay outline detailing how to write the essay. More-or-less fill in the blank. Students complain that it's too difficult! I would say it's sixth grade level, not college! Information is fed in bite-size chunks that my six-year-old could comprehend. The students complained if "difficult" work or information was involved.

Many higher ed institutions are so concerned for money at the moment that they've entirely forgotten that the students and pursuit of education is the purpose of the school. The school I am attending has proved to be no different. I dropped one class because the person hired was not a professional or expert in the field, had been hired the week before, was consistently unprepared for class and thought very high of herself despite her lack of knowledge of the subject material. Many classes are now taught by graduate students in place of professors.

My opinion? College has become a business rather than an academic institution. It does not surprise me that students leave college having learned no more than when they began. Writing skills are not needed for college. Simply fill-in-the-blank and you'll receive full credit. Extra credit is given for things such as having your name at the top of the paper. One class I had gave credit on every exam simply for having your name on the exam. I thought I left that behind in first grade.

So when someone tells me they have such-and-such degree it tellls me they put their name on the paper and filled in the blank for their essay. What I do not assume is that they are a professional in the area of their major.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 31, 2011 at 03:39 AM

jen, moving your comment to the newest open thread so more people will see it...

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