Talk about hype. Honestly, everyone’s been abuzzing about Amy Chua’s memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Her brash, hardcore, take no prisoners approach to parenting is giving more indulgent parents plenty to think about. Because, after all, her parenting somehow must have something to do with your parenting, right?

Well, not really. First off, Chua freely admits that even her parenting might be considered extreme by many Chinese parents. She discusses her style as being more in line with “immigrant style” parenting (even though she’s really a second generation Chinese American, and thus not really an immigrant). And, while one of her daughters is a concert level pianist, no doubt due to her obsessive hovering that rivals any Hollywood stage mother, even Chua admits that she might have gone too far. While her first child was a total pleaser, obedient, and a real achiever, her second daughter actively rebelled and actually won the battle. Guess who’s singing the victory battle hymn in her household now?

What I have noticed, at least in my Facebook circle, is some discussion regarding Chua in relation to schools and educational approach. The assumption seems to be that Chua, being so rigid and only interested in A’s, must only be in favor of a traditional, rote education. Well, I read the book (unlike many of the people commenting on it), and there’s hardly anything about the daughter’s academic education contained in it. She mentions school as a place for her daughters to spend part of their day, earning top grades, and then coming home and practicing their respective musical instruments. You see, Tiger Mother isn’t really about raising academic geniuses, it’s about trying, only partially successfully, to raise musical prodigies.

She does write, albeit briefly, about her daughter’s private school, complaining about the special events which demand extreme parental participation. You know what I mean: buying particular cultural items, preparing ethnic foods for festivals, doing tons of work while your child just gets to show up. Her complaint was, to my mind, perfectly valid; the kids should have to do all the work, not the parents.

Despite the paucity of school related material in the book, that hasn’t kept moms I know from starting to question not just their own mothering, but their children’s school’s academic approaches. What is better, progressive or traditional?

Perhaps a better question to ask is if truly traditional education exists in Los Angeles private schools at all. Outside of super religious schools, which might be viewed as traditional and rigid, most private schools here seem pretty forward thinking in terms of academic methods. While my daughter’s school, Mirman, is known for being more “traditional,” I think people are just looking at the uniforms and work load (not as heavy as everyone assumes), not at the teaching methods, which are quite hands on, imaginative, and the opposite of rote learning.

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