It must be the Tiger Mother’s fault

Armadillo playing piano
Typical tiger parenting?

In her essay, “The Ivy Delusion,” Caitlin Flanagan has an interesting perspective on “the real reason the good mothers are so rattled by Amy Chua.” Amy Chua is the author of “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” which I haven’t read. It seems that many have taken the book as being about how Chinese parents are better at raising their kids than Western ones which is why so many Asians get into Ivy League Schools. Chau says that is what it was supposed to be about but “instead, it’s about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how I was humbled by a thirteen-year-old.” That part doesn’t seem to make it into the book reviews.

So what does this have to do with picking a college? Well, according to Flanagan, “good mothers” (as opposed to Tiger Mothers) are finding their children are losing their spots at the Ivy’s to children of Tiger Mothers. And they’re not happy about it. After all, the colleges their children attend are a reflection on their parenting abilities and they would never subject their children to such harsh Tiger parenting.

Actually, they do, they’re just much more passive-aggressive about it. Flanagan observes that

The good mothers have certain ideas about how success in life is achieved, and these ideas have been sizzled into their brains by popularizers such as Joseph Campbell and Oprah Winfrey, and they boil down to this: everyone has at least one natural talent (the good mothers call it a “passion”), and creativity, effortless success, and beaucoup dinero flow not from banging your head against the closed door of, say, organic chemistry if you’re not that excited by it, but from dwelling deeply and ecstatically inside the thing that gives you the most pleasure. But you shouldn’t necessarily””or under any circumstances, actually””follow your bliss in a way that keeps you out of Yale. Because Yale is important, too! So important. The good mothers believe that their children should be able to follow their passions all the way to New Haven

They want the results of Amy Chua’s methods; in fact, they put their kids in high pressure academic situations, but unlike Chua who drills, pushes, tortures her kids to succeed in the same situation, the good mothers sit around and moan about how horrible the situation is without doing anything about it. Talk about giving your kids mixed signals.

And why are they doing this? Because they measure success by the US News Ranking of the colleges they get into. As long as everyone else in their social class believes success is getting into an Ivy League School, none of these parents are willing to change and will follow all of the other lemmings off the cliff, taking their over-stressed children with them.

For some reason, Flanagan also puts the blame on the Ivy League schools for accepting children of Mother Tigers. Flanagan suggests that in their rush to accept students with higher stats to make up for the lower-stats “hooked” admits, the schools are rewarding Tiger Parenting. Yet, Flanagan herself states that Tiger Parenting “can also yield some of the most extraordinary””talented, generous, capable””young people you will ever meet. ”

They aren’t admitting “little robots,” they’re admitting an elite group that has both high stats and amazing talents. Given that they are elite schools and their student population growth hasn’t kept up with the general population growth, what do you expect?

Ultimately, Flanagan sees this as an either or situation. “Chua has accepted, in a way that the good mothers will not, that most children today can’t have it both ways: they can’t have a fun, low-stress childhood and also an Ivy League education.”

But is this what a college ranking system should be about? Validation of parenting methods? A choice between success or a fun childhood? Or as Flanagan puts it “the Rutgers Solution.”

I supposed it’s inevitable that this class of parents would be measuring their worth by whether or not their child’s university is listed in the top 25 by US News. After all, such rankings are more about the value of the inputs, SAT scores, class rank, and reputation all of which combine for a statement on exclusivity success.

The funny thing about this is that I suspect the Tiger Parents are closer to pushing their children to the Ivy Leagues for the right reasons than the good parents.

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