Parenting – Paper Tigers

Paper Tigers by Wesley Yang

Paper Tigers by Wesley Yang

Hope I’m not getting too off topic from pipe cleaner crafts and phonics but ach, this article raised a lot of questions for me about the way we parent and the children we raise.  It’s not new, you may have read it, but becoming ever more relevant the more we hear about ‘China’ and how Western kids with their liberal work ethic are falling behind in ‘the important stuff’ like maths and science and aren’t going to be smart enough to compete etc etc. Anyway, take a look.

This article throws major side eye on the Asian parenting model. ‘Grade grubbing’ as it terms it, asking why, if grades are so important aren’t Chinese Americans running the USA?  Nigerian, Cuban, Jamaican and Jewish Americans are also grade grubbers too apparently.  So it seems that one issue for these kids who are taught to cram, rote memorise and keep their heads down is a lack of  self esteem. They’ve been broken by their parents and now can’t say boo to a goose. The other issue is a perceived (not necessarily true) lack of critical or creative thinking.

This seems to be where the irreverent white boys sail past. Some of it’s racism or at least prejudice but that doesn’t explain all the mediocrity, certainly not ‘the earnest, striving, middle class servility’ according to author Wesley Yang.  In the UK, intentional parenting has become something you don’t do anymore as it might offend someone. As soon as they start making your life a misery you send them to nursery so they can be someone else’s problem from 9-5. I remember my neighbour in London would shoo her boys onto the street every day after school and weekends so they couldn’t destroy her pretty house. Those boys went to prison and had children early and still live at home of course.  On the other hand I think outside of this laissez faire style of parenting, other parents have become obsessed with grade grubbing so their kids can become bankers, lawyers, accountants etc.  Is that really the best we can do? Does the world need more accountants?

Nigerians are good at studying. They are identified in a new book about cultural success stories in America as high achievers and producing a lot of number crunchers and lawyers, engineers and doctors but these generally don’t return to Nigeria  except as money men, oil and gas executives to assist western corporations in polluting Nigeria’s waterways and ensuring the continuity of corrupt government.  Good grades are great but as Yang says, scraps of paper won’t make you happy.  Nor will money alone.  We need to look a bit deeper.  Your thoughts?

One thought on “Parenting – Paper Tigers

  1. Thank you. I had missed this.
    My Korean wife and I currently live with our son in Taiwan. The ‘grade grubbing’ has been probably our most constant source of friction over the years. There is a huge cultural divide between believing an ‘A+’ is the only thing of value and believing that there are other ways to succeed in life and that life is not solely defined by grades.
    My son is often told that enjoying himself playing games, even reading for pleasure or any other thing that is simply enjoyable is a waste of time and will lead to him failing in life.
    For me it is very sad meeting people who have grown up like this.
    I had a language exchange partner who was doing a Masters course at university in a subject that he hated, simply because his father chose it for him. When I offered a choice of three articles for us to discuss, he was incapable of choosing one that interested him and had to ask his parents which one should interest him.
    Underneath, there may once have been an interesting person, but after three meetings I could no longer stand meeting with someone with no social skills or interests – whose only skill appeared to be test taking and who could not even have the most simple of thoughts for himself. Broke my heart, but firmed me in not wanting my son to be that person.

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