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Ideology and Parenting. Review of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother Herman Ong Upper Iowa University


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Abstract For many years, people always view Chinese and west as a dichotomy and opposite to each other. In fact, this discrepancy rose to another climax in 11th Jan of 2011, the day Chinese American Amy Chua published her controversial book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. The book apparently reviewed whether Chinese authoritative or American permissive parenting style was better. However, it was only a probe in which there had a hidden assumption lied behind – “Is there really have a fundamental difference between Chua’s Chinese parenting and western parenting?” This study attempted to deconstruct the intention of the author and examine how postcolonialism affected her value as well as parenting style. By demonstrating that the one and only ideology in the world is “American liberty and value”, it is meaningless and no necessary to argue the dichotomy in any field whether Chinese or west is better.


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Ideology and Parenting. Review of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother People in the world have deliberately imposed a dichotomy and opposition between Chinese and western. From the value in which Chinese favors collectivism while western favors individualism, to the politics where Chinese government runs the communism in contrary capitalism runs by western government. However, due to the reform of Chinese government in recent decades and globalization of western culture and business, these discrepancies are no longer a threat to both Chinese and western people. All of us get used to reunite both values and act as a double-agent to behave those values too. Nevertheless, in 11th January of 2011, we were inevitable to face a discrepancy between Chinese and Western again, a war lied on the topic which everyone will encounter whenever in childhood passively or actively in adulthood, it was a war of “Parenting” who arose by the Chinese American, Amy Chua published the book named Battle Hymn of Tiger Mother on that day. Background This book provoked a fierce debate and argument in media as well as in academic, such as Time Magazine and Wall Street Journal. It restarted the discussion of an unsolved myth whether authoritative Chinese parenting is better than liberal western parenting or not. In fact, parenting style is not a brand-new topic, people re-shed the light on this old but controversial topic should be related to the increasing-tension between China and United States of America. In recent years, Chinese have increased its importance in the worldwide political stage. It


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became the largest competitor to challenge the first place of United States of America. From the economic perspective, U.S are suffering from the high rate of unemployment, it was nearly 9% or above while the GDP Annual Growth Rate was only 2.8 in 2010. In contrary, Chinese recorded more than 10% of annual growth in 2010 (tradingeconomic, 2011). And the most embarrassing to the U.S. people was China is their single biggest creditor who owned more than 8000 billion of U.S. dollars (Time, 2011). On the other hand, from the education perspective, Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) revealed a fact that U.S. student declined but Chinese student up. U.S. student scored middle worldwide while Chinese student scored the best in several categories (OECD, 2011). All of these incidences might trigger the sensitivity of American as well as European to the topic of parenting since they didn’t want to lose any ground to Chinese anymore. And this was the reason why the book of Tiger Mother suddenly hits in market. Analysis and Discussion The whole idea of the book was arguing how well the Chinese authoritative parenting style unleashed the talent of children, led the children have a broader view of how they could be and challenging western parenting is ever effective or not. And in fact, two daughters, Sophia and Lulu of author also demonstrated the success of Chinese authoritative parenting. They achieved many musical honors and awards, even to the academic records too (Chua, 2011). They beat down their Western mates and showed to the world that Chinese-parenting


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was brilliant. However, the down side was they had to play music 3 hours per day, no exception even though in travelling. They had to suffer from blame and yell when they got A grade but not A+ in school. They were not allowed to loosen themselves, no playtime and no pet at all. And these precisely were U.S. media and critics challenged the author in terms of ethics and well-being of children. Many American readers criticized her parenting method was insane; some even asked “What is the love, the acceptance?” to the author Amy Chua in a TV show (Time, 2011). But as Amy Chua said, “Chinese parents were likely to sacrifice their time, money and even the reputation in order to provide the best to their children” (Chua, 2011, p.68). Achievement or love? This was a never-ended argument between Chinese and western parenting. However, this might not be the only fact and theory conveyed in this book. While people was arguing which style was better, there had a specious assumption lied behind – They assumed “Chua’s Chinese parenting and western parenting are fundamentally different”. Is this truth? Are they really come from two world of thought? When we go deeper into the whole idea of the book and examine carefully to the mindset of author. We would discover another hidden agenda and belief which implanted in this Chinese American. The fact was there had no necessary to argue which parenting style is the best if they came from same source of idea, neither Chinese nor western. Because there had only one dominant ideology in the world, all the value and behavior no matter Chinese or western were influenced by this ideology. That dominant ideology was a well-known “Empire of Liberty”


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created by United States of America (Westad, 2005). Apparently, the author Amy Chua deliberately showed how well she implemented Chinese authoritative parenting style on her daughters of two extreme temperaments. However, when we take the daughters’ perspective, we will find that conveying parenting idea was only the mean, a packaging to cover a value of “American Liberty” in which obedience to the authority will lead to suffer and dead-end while rebellion resulted in freedom, glory and victory. The big daughter Sophia was obedient while the small one Lulu was rebellion. Sophia listened to her mother very well and tried to follow every order and command made by Amy Chua. Even though her mother called her “garbage”, she didn’t fight it back but took it (Chua, 2011, p.57). She never criticized or disrespected her mother. Mother want her to play piano in Carnegie Hall, she practiced eight weeks hardly to win the competition and played in Carnegie Hall (p.121-129). Mother want her to get the A+ in school, she dared not to get the A. But all of this obedience in returns to crying, suffering and repression. She never had any playtime. She repressed her stress and teeth on piano keyboard (p.57-65). She spontaneously runs back to home every day for practice but still being yelled and unappreciated by her mother (p.234). But Lulu totally unaccepted the authority figure of her mother. She was freeze to dead outside the house but didn’t want to compromise with her mother (p.19-22). She insulted and embarrassed her mother in public and quit playing violin (p.167-176). She yelled and fight for getting a home dog. However, these deliberate challenge


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and rebellion didn’t bring her any tragedy. Conversely, this style of rebellion and assertiveness resulted in two dogs in home, a warmth hug and hot chocolate after freezing, and no violin anymore. Besides she could play the tennis as she wish. This intense contrast showed a fact that Amy Chua was not encouraging the traditional virtue of Chinese. Filial piety, respect, patient, ritual and collectivism (Sivananda, 2010; Ebscohost, 2010), all of these Confucianism beliefs showed in Sophia were totally discouraged and wrecked by author, not saying to reveal the value of traditional Chinese parenting. Instead, Chinese-American author demonstrated a pure concept of American originated from the independent war of 1776, via the Civil War of 1861 to the current politics of U.S. government in recent years (Wood, 2003), which is “value of liberty”. This “value of liberty” led American to win their land in the independent war by against the Great British Empire (ibid.). This “value of liberty” led them to free the black slave and earned the title of honor and pride in the world. This “value of liberty” led them to fight whichever countries he wants to fight with a perfect excuse. And this, “value of liberty” precisely showed in the revolution of Lulu and intensively exaggerated by the so-called pro-Chinese-parenting author as she mentioned this meaning many times in book, “Okay, Lulu. You win” (p.22, p.182, p.185 & p.207). This was obviously leading people admire the value American holds. American assumes that only the rebellion can lead them to freedom, and only the freedom can result in a better future. And the consequence of following Chinese-value would only


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result in this way: As Sophia complaint tearfully to her mother as, “Mommy I did everything you say. And I make one mistake and you scream at me. Lulu doesn’t do anything you say. She talks back to you and throws things. You bribe her with presents. What kind of “Chinese mother” you are?” (p.192). However, it was unfair to claim that Amy Chua had intended to sell the “American Dream”. Not saying that she is Chinese American, even to us – China Chinese are more or less influenced by American nowadays. We realized a certain degree of American value unconsciously. For example, we always want to up from the society division. We want to become rich. We want to have our own identity and outstand ourselves. We concern our privacy as well as the human right. All of these beliefs seem belonging to the “Universalizability Principle” proposed by Immanuel Kant (Mitchell, 2011). However, we have to ask ourselves, “Is there had an absolute universal law of ethics in mind?”If so, “Is it liberty? Is liberty universally adapted by human that everyone urges for?” It may be, or maybe not. But the immediate fact we know is American has deliberately advocated this “liberty” belief in this century. Instead of direct domination, American has enslaved the world through the culture, media, economic and even language. What we watched the most is Hollywood film; what we play the most is Facebook; what we speak the most is English, especially is American English; what we eat the most is McDonald, what the currency we trade the most is U.S. dollars. American never stopped their colonization outside the North


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American continent since 1890s (Westad, 2005). In fact, they reformed the classical colonization, which conducted by army or force into an indirect form of colonization which is neocolonialism or called postcolonialism (Krishna, 2009; Young, 2001). The story of Tiger Mother actually told us how powerful and implicit of American’s postcolonialism. What author Chua did and thought was greatly altered by the American value as well as western philosophy. She was assertive and dominated to his family and husband as expressing a degree of feminism (p.31, p60, p67). The achievement of her daughters was only a mean to lead her outstand from others. This was individualism originated from Greek philosophical idea, such as ontology, metaphysics which emphasis the value of existence (Mitchell, 2011). She unconsciously accepted the liberty as the only universal ethics as she tolerated the rebellion and revolution of Lulu but ignored to praise the filial piety of Sophia. She concerned the outcome and profit more than the process, as she focused on how many level or grade her daughter could achieve or how much honor they could bring to the family. This was exactly the capitalism of west. Although we couldn’t claim this was the intention of author to convey the value of American system and belief, it is undeniable to the presence of American’s postcolonialism everywhere. Notwithstanding the liberty was utilized by U.S. as one of the excuse to assimilate and dominate others. The term liberty or democracy itself should not be misunderstood and mixed with the “liberty” advocated by U.S. government (Westad, 2005). Ideally, liberty is


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trustworthy and fabulous. It is full of tolerance, love, empathy and respect. Despite the intention and value, the author of Tiger Mother, Amy Chua showed these virtues to her daughters at the end of the book. She allowed Sophia to meet boyfriend. She let Lulu learn whatever she wants to learn. She didn’t control their schedule anymore and even accepted a day Sophia and Lulu will leave her too. Although Chua insisted these compromises were influenced by the western belief, actually it was in opposite to the American liberty we mentioned previously. What Chua did are exactly the “innate liberty” lies on the unconditional and universal mother-love to their children. Thus, the best definition and model of “liberty”, “virtue” or even “parenting” are imprinted in our mind before we born. As its nature of universal and innate, there has no point to ask whether your parenting is better than mine or vice versa. Conclusion and Implication Conclusively, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was a book to let us review what the best parenting method to children is apparently. However, in a deeper sense, it also revealed the sadness to the people of 21 century. Hundred years before, we still could fight against with the deliberate enslavement or colonization of empires. But in this era, by the rapid evolution of technology, there are nowhere safe. We are exposed to the invisible army of nominative countries every minute through their culture, media, economic and even religion (Young, 2001). The most ridiculous is we are being assimilated but we never know. Today,


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we still protest; we still assert the human right; we still speak out; we still argue the dichotomy whether Chinese or American is better. We all naively think our value and standpoint is unique and independent. However, all of these so-called civilized acts were hardwired by the ideology of dominated country, such as United States in fact. As Amy Chua failed to aware of her unconscious American mind, most people failed to realize that “American value” is the one and only ideology in the world. Perhaps the success of American dream is what we jointly expected and constructed. As Sophia said to her author mother after reading the book, “Lulu obviously the heroine. I’m the boring one readers will cheer against. She’s the one with verve and panache.” Human like dreaming, love heroic story. And American dream precisely brings human dream and hero. This may be the reason it never fade out, at least in this civilization.


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Reference Chua, A. (2011). Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Penguin Press HC. Confucianism. (n.d). Retrieved from EBSCOhost. Krishna, S. (2009). Globalization and Postcolonialism: Hegemony and Resistance in the Twenty-first Century. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Mitchell, H. B. (2011). Roots of Wisdom: A Tapestry of Philosophical Traditions. Wadsworth. OECD. (2011). PISA 2009 Results: What Students Know and Can Do: Student Performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science (Volume I). Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org Sivananda, S. (2010). Confucianism. Chinese American Forum, 25(4), 14. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. Tradingeconomic.com. (2011). United States GDP Annual Growth Rate. Retrieved from www.tradingeconomic.com. Tradingeconomic.com. (2011). China GDP Growth Rate. Retrieved from www.tradingeconomic.com. Time Magazine. (2011). The Truth about Tiger Mother. Time press. Westad, O. A. (2005). The Global Cold War. Cambridge University Press. Wood, G. S. (2003). The American Revolution: A History. NY: Modern Library. Young, R. J. C. (2001). Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction. Wiley-Blackwell


Review of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother