Art and the tiger mom

Dear Artist, These days everyone and her sister is reading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. Guys are reading it too. It’s an in-your-face description of the draconian methods Chinese women who live in Western cultures use to help their young children to excel. Here, for example, are some of the things Amy’s daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do: — attend a sleepover — have a playdate — be in a school play — complain about not being in a school play — watch TV or play computer games — *choose their own extracurricular activities — get any grade less than an A — not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama — play any instrument other than the piano or violin — not play the piano or violin. Amy puts in unbelievable hours helping her kids get straight As. She shoves them out onto the concert stage before bra-time. In Amy’s words, “What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, which is why it is crucial to override the children’s preferences.” While all the other parents are asleep at the switch — letting their kids play and have fun and get yanked around here and there — Chinese kids are quietly taking their place as tomorrow’s excellent people. Question: Does all work and no play make Wong a dull boy? The argument might be that Chinese kids become technically efficient automatons who have stunted feelings and only a vestigial sense of joy. Funnily, the Chinese and mixed-Chinese kids I know seem pretty normal and full of fun, but that may be just an illusion. Amy’s kids seem to be mostly in rebellion until the penny drops that they are truly superior, in full entitlement mode and upholding the family reputation. The Chinese mother sees value in music because there are standards to aim for. The demands of Mozart, Bach and Chopin must be met. But what about the visual arts? The Chinese mother sees little value in painting classes because the results cannot be measured. So much of art as taught in the Western world seems to be arbitrary. “Fooling around” is not often in the Chinese curriculum. It’s a different cup of noodles in Asia, of course, where millions attempt to learn academic painting and a few thousand succeed. In the painting studios and classes of China, hard work, hard apprenticeship, long hours and focus prevail. By the way, according to Amy, you don’t have to be Chinese to be a Chinese mother. Best regards, Robert PS: “At the Winner’s concert where Sophia performed, as I watched her deft fingers fluttering and tumbling up and down the piano like real butterfly wings, I was overcome with pride, exhilaration, and hope. I couldn’t wait for the next day, to work more with Sophia, and to learn more music together.” (Amy Chua) Esoterica: Has the Western world gone too far into permissiveness? Are our demands for freedom, self-reliance and individual expression taking us into a Neverland of mediocrity? More important, are we convincing ourselves that what we do is okay when it’s not?   The legacy of demanding parents by Loraine Wellman, Richmond, BC, Canada  

“Three Pears”
original painting
by Loraine Wellman

There is another side to the Tiger Mom story — Tiger Mother Son of a Bitch by Derrick Lin tells about his own miserable experiences. He even tried to commit suicide when he got a “D” in college chemistry. He states, “Tiger parenting was supposed to make me a success. Instead, it destroyed my personal life and any chance for a meaningful career.” We need to think very carefully before imposing unrealistic standards on children. When there are 33 (or more) in a class, how can everyone be #1? Years ago, when I was teaching, I had a very nice little girl in my class. She worked hard, was a good friend, very pleasant and cooperative. But, while doing her best, she was usually at the C or Cplus level. The father of this adopted child said, “I will not have an average child!” I often wonder what happened to her as she grew up realizing that, even at her best, she just wasn’t good enough for his standards. There is 1 comment for The legacy of demanding parents by Loraine Wellman
From: Judy — Jul 07, 2011

I love your work! It’s so inspiring, I wish I was you (for the day anway!)

  Art rejected not only by the Chinese by Kelley MacDonald, Tiverton, RI, USA  

“Moonrise over the Sakonnet”
acrylic painting, 6 x 8 inches
by Kelley MacDonald

I caught an interview with Amy and she laughingly said most Americans were missing her point in her book. It was all about how SHE did it, and she felt she took it too far! There’s got to be a happy medium. With my own children, looking back, I wished I’d insisted they stayed in things till they were proficient enough to have pride in those skills before they rejected them. How many people have I heard say they played the piano as children, but gave it up as soon as their Mom let them — and are sorry they did? A lot. And the Chinese are certainly not the only group who reject Art as a profession for their children. My own family did all they could to discourage me! I see now that they did it out of love, out of a sense that we all must be able to provide a living for ourselves. They never met a successful artist — never went to a museum, or even entered a gallery. I think they actually never saw a piece of original art till they were in their 40’s! Mill worker family in a depressed area. I thank God for Higher Education, and the ‘requirements’ college placed on receiving a Liberal Arts degree! I never would have stumbled into an Art History class, which became my major, and which required Studio classes for graduation! There are 4 comments for Art rejected not only by the Chinese by Kelley MacDonald
From: Bill Hibberd — May 27, 2011

Very sensitive painting Kelly.It’s impact denies it’s scale. Nice.

From: val norberry vanorden — May 27, 2011

how many Chinese mothers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? None. “It’s okay, I’ll sit in the dark”.

From: Laurie Sain — May 27, 2011

I’m glad you “stumbled” into art, too! But I do have to put a word in for those who were pressured to practice piano, and quit only later: I don’t regret it at all, even though my mother and teacher had me aimed at Julliard. Didn’t mind playing, but everyone forgot to ask me if I liked to perform, which I hated. I even sold my childhood piano, finally a few years ago, and haven’t missed it since. So there has to be a fine line between creating discipline by doing it sometimes when you don’t want to, and forcing discipline to override the fact that it isn’t what you need. Same as in painting: the line between “I’m a little intimidated and want to stop” and “I don’t like where this is going and want to stop” is pretty thin.

From: Ken Flitton — May 27, 2011

I agree about the painting. Can’t believe it’s that small. Also stopped piano at about nine and still regret it. BUT there were things about time I didn’t understand, and no-one ever explained them to me including lady teacher. Repeat the ptg on large scale and watch it sell!!

  Cruel punishment by Maritza Bermudez, Wheaton, IL, USA   I have enclosed an impressive video. But look at the kids’ faces — they must be 4 or 5 years old. I wonder if their parents let them play??? Give paint and brush to a 2-5 year old and they will create incredible works. Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up” (meaning painting art) — or like I say, until they take up something else. My grandkids have all been painters since the age of two. In school they are exposed to music, gymnastics, art, singing, etc. Then they go on to develop what they want. But forcing kids as per the list this author published is cruel punishment! There are 11 comments for Cruel punishment by Loraine Wellman
From: Jean Burman — May 26, 2011

I’d hate to be a child in North Korea. Or a mother for that matter. These children are not children… they are robots trained to perform to some elitist ideal to satiate the ego of the communist state. How sad [and cruel]I wish I hadn’t watched this.

From: Jackie Knott — May 27, 2011
From: Lyn Barrett-Cowan — May 27, 2011

Years ago, when I was a painter, I was asked to teach a 10 year old Chinese boy how to paint with watercolours. I taught him basic painting techniques by bringing pears and apples, simple things for him to learn to see shapes which make up the visual image of the item. I over heard the mother screaming at him to practice. I took her aside and asked her to next time she wanted to scream at him, to lock herself in the bathroom and put a sock in her mouth. I had taught him the basics and that is would take him a life time to be an artist. I also guaranteed her that if she continued to scream at him, he would refuse to paint. After that conversation good weather finally appeared and we went out side to paint. He painted me under the table, and he was only ten years old. I have since moved and have lost track of David, but I hope he is still interested, and working. I rest my point.

From: Laurie Sain — May 27, 2011

I don’t know — the middle girl looks like she’s having fun with it!

From: Patrick — May 27, 2011
From: Susan Kellogg, Austin TX — May 27, 2011

I thought they seemed engaged, and pleased with themselves. I wish someone had given them smaller guitars…they could hardly spread their fingers apart to make the chords. I cannot imagine what what went before nor can I know what will come after.

From: Cristina Monier — May 28, 2011

I live in Argentina and I know very well the song Lucciano Pizzichini is playing and I must say that it is riddled with false notes, the kid is amusing but Andrés Segovia he is not.

From: Harriet Faith — May 29, 2011

Sadly, these guitar players, while smiling remind me of primates that are taken from their mothers at only a few days old, and forced through abusive methods to perform in television commercials and films as “character actors.” It is totally unnatural behavior for the monkeys and despite how it seems to the audience, their lives are miserable. I can’t help but think the same is true for these children. It looks like completely unnatural behavior for a bunch of 4 year olds. The synchronized head tilting and the rigid smiles are not cute, they are creepy. And by creepy, I do mean the parents are the creepy ones for forcing their completely dependent small children to perform like monkeys. Those children have no say in the matter and I am sure they are badly punished if they don’t do what their parents want.

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — May 31, 2011

Not that it changes the point, but these children are not 4 and 5: they are 7 and 8. And I agree that the middle girl is enjoying what she is doing. Hard to say about the rest. I’d say they are trying hard, the way kids do at that age. Not sure Americans should judge, given all the kids whose lives are structured to the last minute. Our pressure may be in sports or other areas, not sure we can be smug about it.

From: Ed Grunzel — Jun 03, 2011

There seems to be a uniform bobbing up and down, like they are imitating someone they’ve seen playing music– and they’ve all seen the same performer. Which makes me think they were coached to look like they were digging in to the groove, so to speak. On the other hand, most kids enjoy being the center of attention. These children might have been plucked out of a class or classes of hundreds, as much for their stage presence as for their youthful musicianship.

From: Mia Lasky-Fortnum — Jun 03, 2011

I hope we aren’t too quick to declare the children Stepford Kids. Cultures differ. At least the girls aren’t swaddled in black and hidden away.

  When the robots take over by Judith Desveaux, Kingston, ON Canada   I heard an interview with Amy Chua. I believe in balance in life. Forcing children into thinking boxes defined by “me” limits their ability to grow into rounded individuals. Yes, our society is too permissive which also limits their ability to reach potential. Based on news from China it seems that technical accomplishment may be held in greater esteem than respect for humanity. Although we are too permissive here, I haven’t heard of children being rounded up for sale to the highest bidder, people being imprisoned for their views, or food being poisoned for profit. This speaks to me of a philosophy toward life that is too clinical to be creative. My daughter was encouraged to try whatever she was interested in but always reminded that we can’t excel in everything we try to do. As a result she did try and found her centre of excellence. Today she is well educated, culturally aware, flexible to change and new ideas and comfortable with herself. She learned to use her brain for more than rote. Although she didn’t always get A’s, she did well at school. I’m proud that she sees the grey in life, not just the black and white. Her eyes are open to the world around her, not just to the package. While I’m sure Ms. Chua thinks she did a good job raising her girls, I think her methods are only up to laboratory standards and abusive. Play and investigation are part of what makes us human. If the robots take over, it’s time to leave. There are 3 comments for When the robots take over by Judith Desveaux
From: Jan Ross — May 27, 2011

I agree wholeheartedly with Judith! As the mother of two daughters, we tried numerous activities from ballet to downhill skiing. While my older daughter, a cum laude graduate from high school and private university excelled in academics, she learned to enjoy sports, travel and healthy competition. My younger daughter, also an excellent student, would rather participate in sports and became a Professional Show Jumper (horses), but loves to read. Well-rounded adults have more options for enjoyment in life without feeling the need for perfection.

From: Laura — May 27, 2011

Why are we picking at Asians? How about hockey mothers, peagent mothers, cheerleader mothers…right here in our neck of the woods?

From: Maritza Bermudez — May 27, 2011

We are not specifically picking on Asian mothers. We are having a wonderful commentary discussion on Robert’s letter about an Asian mother who restricts her children so they excell. No sleepover, no play date, no schoolplay, no instrument except piano or violin! Give me a break. I’m a grandmother of 7 kids and have enjoyed going to their school to see them sing, dance, sports, etc. One of my grandkids is a “genious” putting together difficult Legos!

  The culture of control by Melinda Collins, Redwood City, CA, USA  

“Yellow hills”
acrylic painting, 16 x 16 inches
by Melinda Collins

It is true that many American parents are too busy building their children’s self esteem falsely by over praise of small achievements. However, one might ask whether the other extreme, as portrayed in the description of Tiger Mom parenting, leads to a society like that of China, where cruelty and oppression are commonly used instruments of governmental control. The beautiful artifacts of China’s past are more appreciated in the West, while modernization at the cost of ancient beauty and the environment is the current model of Chinese urban development. Certainly, Amy’s children will be outstanding and successful, something all of us want for our children. But I do wonder about their emotional development, empathy with others and true self-worth that could survive a failure in some aspect of personal achievement. Perhaps all will be well with them, but I would not want to live in a world full of little Amy Chuas. There are 3 comments for The culture of control by Melinda Collins
From: Casey Craig — May 27, 2011

Nice painting Melinda!

From: Brian Bastedo — May 27, 2011

Well said Melinda. I really love your colours in this painting.

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — May 31, 2011

Going to disagree with your comment about Amy Chua: we need to be careful about judging her, as she has said that her intent in writing was to point out how limiting the approach to parenting she was taught is, with a bit of humor. But am going to agree with others about your painting: I really like it, the mesh of patterns and colors that is both landscape and story. Lovely.

  Soothing mother’s ego by Claudio Ghirardo, Mississauga, ON, Canada  

“40 years later”
original painting
by Claudio Ghirardo

While I do appreciate what you are writing, I am for one in total disagreement with this method. I once taught an art class of kids, ages 6-9; there was one girl who was Chinese who never smiled in class. One day I managed, through a painting, to get her to smile and take pride in her painting of a dog. The girl was 6. The mother looked at the painting and said, “This doesn’t look like a dog to me,” and the girl’s smile vanished quickly and I could see insecurity set in. The problem with this method is two-fold: — The pride the mother takes in is not that her child is doing so well but that she, the mother, takes pride that she was able to accomplish this feat. That she managed to get her child to be the best. It soothes the mother’s ego, not the child’s. — When this approach is taken to art, all that happens is that they learn a set formula, the way something should be done. There is no room for experimentation or imagination, just the proper way to do something. I know one Chinese artist who moved to Canada recently and, while I think he is extremely technically sound, his work lacks creativity and spark, and it just looks good. Keep in mind that Picasso was taught by his father to be an academically sound artist with all the basic understanding of colour, light, drawing, perspective, and so on. But he only became Picasso when he rebelled and turned his back on everything his father taught him. PS: In China and Japan, the rate for teen suicide is high due to the pressure put on them to succeed. There are 2 comments for Soothing mother’s ego by Claudio Ghirardo
From: Anon — May 27, 2011

There is another view to be considered. You will often see in the States that children are brain washed in a different way. Girls to be beautiful and sexy and boys to be sport jocks. Methods are not as harsh, but extremely powerful and also overriding dignity of the individual. It’s far better to be a child here, but there is still lot of room for improvement. I am shocked at a detergent commercial airing on TV where a father tries to destroy daughter’s inappropriately short skirt, but the mother washes it with the advertised detergent and sends the daughter out dressed as a s… There are many examples like that and most people think that’s cute.

From: c. jehring — May 27, 2011

I agree with Anon. Advertisers send a lot of bad moral messages while brainwashing the consumer adult and child alike. Parents need to spend time with their child in order to share family values. Children still learn from their parents’ example.

  Craziness to follow by Karen R. Phinney, Halifax, NS, Canada   Like a lot of others who read this, I’m sure, I was horrified to read this letter and the newspaper article. I guess it depends on what you think is “the most important thing in life.” Is it to be skillful and succeed at all costs? Or, is it to find your joy, your bliss. I think there can be a happy medium in this. Sure it is important to have skill in what you do, but it can be emphasized without making childhood a form of slavery. No sleepovers? No choice on extracurricular activities? Or TV or other “time wasters?” Wow. Really sounds pretty grim to me. Surely there is a middle ground. I think kids respond to being made to work hard sometimes, and then give them some play as a reward for working hard. And we all need down time, adults, too. I cannot help thinking that those kids who are dominated into performing for the parents’ satisfaction are going to wind up some day resentful and frustrated that they had so little say in the way their lives turned out! It has been shown before–parents who didn’t want Johnny to be an artist, for example, but a doctor or lawyer, end up with a mid-life crisis, and a lot of craziness can follow.   Stick to practice and build character by Laurie Sain, Lander, WY, USA  

watercolour painting
by Laurie Sain

My German mother sounds pretty Chinese. I remember specifically at nine years of age, I enrolled in a YWCA ballet and tap dancing class. I didn’t practice the first few weeks, and finally my mom said, “Look, we paid money for this, you wanted to do it, but if you’re not going to practice, there’s no point in continuing. What’s it going to be? I practiced, and at the final public performance I ended up all alone in front of the line of other little girls because none of them practiced, and they needed someone to lead them. Did I end up a ballerina? Naw. Didn’t like it that much once I learned a little how to do it. But I am an accomplished horsewoman because I learned to practice, and as a playwright I set myself assignments on my own to learn how to write characters, scenes, comedy and drama. Then I put it all together and ended up with some pretty good plays, which, yes, were produced. Now I’m painting, and I seem to have forgotten all that work stuff. So this letter is inspiring: time to put in more of my 10,000 hours at practice stuff before I attempt to do “art.” There are 2 comments for Stick to practice and build character by Laurie Sain
From: Darla — May 27, 2011

What “attempt to do art”? That wonderful painting sure looks like art to me.

From: Anonymous — May 27, 2011

Thanks, Darla! It’s one of the ones I still like looking at — I’m glad you like it, too!

  Waldorf school teaches trust by Linda Saccoccio, Santa Barbara, CA, USA  

“Rite Of Passage”
oil painting
by Linda Saccoccio

If kids are taught properly, as in an alternative school like Waldorf, learning is fun; they want to go to school and love the richness of the curriculum. At least that has been my daughters’ experience. They are incredibly self-motivated and do not have enough hours in a day to do all the creative projects they now drum up for themselves. Of course Waldorf does not permit media for the younger kids — no TV, movies or computer until perhaps the teen years. It’s the ideal and each parent does their best to uphold it. Also, healthy food with very little sugar is advised. Limiting media and sugar help to keep children healthy, calm and creative. One of my daughter’s best friends has a Chinese mother, not unlike Amy Chua. She has had her daughter in and out of Waldorf over the years, with a mix of home schooling. She had her in public high school for Freshman year, but next year will home school again. Her daughter has excelled in violin for sure and many other areas. She is bright and energetic and eats healthy food. Our experience of her is that being oppressed is causing her to suppress as a coping device, and to do things on the sly that her mother does not allow her to do. So although she will be ahead of the game in many areas of academics and music, she is learning to survive by stuffing her feelings to a degree and by rebelling quietly. What else can she do? I am afraid what I see is a lack of respect and trust when a child is controlled this way. Although I wish my daughter would practice more, I am only willing to give her gentle nudges and support when I see the opportunity. It’s not my place to herd my kids. That doesn’t mean I am allowing no rules or discipline. My rules come from guidance towards respect, health and joy, as well as leading with an eye for their natural talents and inclinations. Trust seems to me to be an important factor that allows kids to self-regulate, and when a child has no room for choice, there is little room for developing trust and honesty. Which would you choose? Extreme achievement or trusting human beings who know themselves? There is 1 comment for Waldorf school teaches trust by Linda Saccoccio
From: David — May 27, 2011

Waldorf schools have their own nutty extremes! My son went to one for 6 months when he was 4 or 5, pre-kindergarten. This was a period when when he loved to draw, dragons, jets, tanks, all the stuff boys love. But he was discouraged from doing that at Waldorf because they believe kids should only make ‘color shapes’ at that age! What nonsense! Waldorf has a set of beliefs on how best to mold everyone … but we all don’t fit molds! Squelching creativity at that young age is wrong wrong wrong.

  Submission not needed by Decker Walker, Stanford, CA, USA  

original painting
by Decker Walker

It may seem that the key issue is between disciplined development of skill and creative free expression, but maybe a more fundamental issue is between accepting given rules and inventing new ones. Disciplined mastery of skills is probably necessary for expression of the highest order in any art. Mastery of skills makes fluency, but it only makes expression possible. Expression does not come automatically. Furthermore, master performers may or may not create and invent within the rules of the game. Mozart had a hard task master in childhood, mastered the skills of classical music, stuck pretty much to the rules of the classical music game as he found them, and managed to play wondrous music within those limitations. In this accomplishment he excelled at skills many young musicians of his day also achieved to a considerable degree. But Mozart, unlike most other hard-working, disciplined students who mastered the performance of classical music, also composed fantastic new music within the forms and rules he learned so well. Many of our greatest artists–Bach, Beethoven, Dante, Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Rembrandt–wrote new rules and expanded the forms they inherited. For me, the test of the Tiger mom’s approach to child rearing will come when we see whether those she rears give us new forms of beauty in addition to replicating established modes. Finally, I doubt that the achievement of mastery requires submission to the will of a parent or teacher. Surely many people, young and old, achieve mastery from efforts they freely give and feel are amply rewarded by the intense pleasures and satisfactions they get from learning and performing. In this case freedom and discipline unite. Surely we should prefer this to the arbitrary imposition of discipline by an authority figure. Or are we put on Earth to carry out others’ dreams?   A spiritual connection to the universe by Carol Lemieux, Salem, MA, USA  

“Synergy 6”
mixed media painting
by Carol Lumieux

Think about how different the world would be if children were taught to meditate, to learn about who they really are and to identify their talents and gifts and develop those to the fullest. If children could be taught to live from their spiritual connection to the universe — very different from religious ideology — and from who they truly are, fully responsible for their choices and how those choices impact others, the human race would not be on a collision course with its own demise. I agree with the Tiger Mom that it’s important to teach children through rigorous training and to insist on the best from them, but we would have a much saner, productive, safer world if people were genuinely taught to understand and develop who they are, rather than who and what their parents would like them to be. With this kind of start, future generations would be living in a much saner, balanced, productive world. We would not be controlled by the need to maintain a huge military force or go to war to resolve conflicts, or by the threat of rape, incest or murder. The driving force in people’s lives would not be about accumulating and hoarding great wealth and power that would then allow them to influence or dominate others. And we would not be ruled by those who would allow the destruction of our planet — our home — for their own profit. There is 1 comment for A spiritual connection to the universe by Carol Lemieux
From: Laurie Sain — May 27, 2011

Agreed, Carol — I’m just now, at 58, refiguring my definition of “goal” from a “thing” goal, like getting into an art show, to a “being” goal like connecting to the universal through whatever it is I do as an artist and a person. Not only is it more gentle on our whole environment, it makes me more at peace and ehlps me trust that, whatever the process is, it is there and I’m part of it.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Art and the tiger mom

From: K. Ann Price — May 23, 2011

You are going to get blown out of the water with the comments on this one. Lol.

From: marvin Humphrey, Napa Valley — May 23, 2011

The attainment of true satisfaction (fun) is the result of hard work and perseverance. To improve and excel at whatever we do should be an unceasing goal.

From: June Underwood — May 23, 2011

I can’t wait to hear what comes from this posting. Some discussions are more fun than others!

From: Daniela Sydney Australia — May 23, 2011

There are two extremes, the parents who think any discipline imposed on children is akin to abuse and then the ones who honestly believe their children are play dough for them to mould regardless of any individuality of the child. I have no respect for either type of parent and often wonder why the most important job in life (raising children) has no requirements of sanity on the part of parents.

From: Marlene Jackson — May 24, 2011

Ms Chau’s child rearing is too extreme but in my 21 years of teaching mainly art in high school, I’ve seen that successful students are happy students. The Asian students knew that it was important to practice a technique to improve their skills while many of the others thought that it was a waste of time and wanted to immediately start on the final product. The Asians had the ability to focus while many of the others wanted to chat and were easily distracted. Most of them did very well and were happy with their results though, of course, about the same number were as gifted as the rest. But I’ve had a number of other talented students who didn’t have the discipline to improve their skills and therefore didn’t achieve what they hoped to. Their potential was wasted and they weren’t happy. The parents of the Asian students were very concerned that their children achieve in order to have a good future and their children respected this. I’ve seen too many overindulged, undisciplined, and unmotivated, and thereby unhappy young people, especially in the last 10 to 15 years, to know that something is very wrong with the way Canadian children are raised and hope the pendulum swings back toward the Asian method of child rearing. Love and discipline have almost always been a winning combination.

From: Chris Everest — May 24, 2011

I’d settle for my grouchy teenager acknowledging I’m even alive ! and yet I consider her a fine girl with the same rights and privileges as any other human being.

From: Bobo — May 24, 2011

Anyone grow to love teens more, who only remove their cell phone from their ear to give you the finger… and that’s just the girls?

From: Sheila Minifie — May 24, 2011

Having taught teenagers at art college and university, undisciplined students were hard if not impossible to motivate. Those students that came from a more disciplined, supportive (though certainly not repressive) background got stuck in, were able to listen, to learn, to express themselves more confidently and skilfully.

I fought hard for the former who had too little confidence in themselves and who I felt were actually deeply fearful. This was reflected in wildly unrealistic ambitions, which they felt could be achieved by the waving of some magic wand. I believe they appreciated me fighting (sometimes with them!) on their behalf. On occasion, I got through. When that happened, it was magic. With the latter I could relax more because we were on the same page. Agree wholeheartedly with you Daniela.
From: Robert Sesco — May 24, 2011

Unfortunately, since the time of Einstein everything has become ‘relative’; moral relativity is the norm, art value is now relative, and most any qualitative evaluation assumes the ‘relative to who is doing the evaluation’ framework. I find it amusing that teachers have come under fire in the last decades for ‘merit’ pay, as they assume newer responsibilities for dealing with behavioral and motivational problems, and yet parenting remains the Golden Calf, or perhaps the White Elephant In The Room, that remains untouchable. Why there are no Parenting Academies that expose parents to effective ways of parenting so that we can break the repeating cycles of abuse and ignorance is laughable. Parenting can be improved, it is not inviolate, it is not relative, but it is not politically viable, nor will it garner the support of those who most need it. “No one is going to tell ME how to raise MY children.”

From: Darla — May 24, 2011

So, everybody — How would you like to be one of those kids for whom everything not forbidden is mandatory? That really bothers me about many kids today — many of them don’t get any time to have unsupervised play unless it’s in front of some kind of screen (TV, computer or game).

Of course parents have to teach their kids the value of practice and discipline. But you also have to let them make some of their own decisions (and mistakes) as they grow older. They need to know how to work for a goal, but also how to think for themselves, choose their own goals and even enjoy life. They need to know they are valued not solely for their achievements. By the way, Ms. Chau also tore up any homemade cards that she deemed inferior from her daughters, and made them redo them.
From: Deborah Elmquist — May 24, 2011

There was research done in England some decades ago (I apologize that I can’t remember the name of the research study) on 100 individuals who excelled in life activities. They were Olympic gold medalists, brilliant musicians, dancers, etc. They found they all went through a four stage process to their success. The early stage was PLAY. Children were introduced to the activity in a playful, no stress manner allowing them to engage in the fun of it. After that, if they were truly interested, they continued by taking lessons, followed by a mentorship with a professional. This model makes sense to me because it allows the child to gravitate to their strength with the added desire because it was fun. In the western culture, I believe, parents go overboard and sign their kids up in too many activities all at the same time. Like good food and wine each activity should be savored slowly and one activity at a time.

From: Susan Avishai — May 24, 2011

There’s a (probably apocryphal) story about the 10 Commandments having been offered to many religions who took a look and then turned them down. Then they were offered to the Jews who said, we’ll try them first and then decide.

So I agree in theory with the Chinese mother who makes the argument that you can’t know much about anything until you do it, and do it seriously. Where I take issue is denying the child in other areas that are just as important to living a full life: social interaction with peers, fun, experimentation, occasional stumbling and learning to get back up, doing things one isn’t so good at because it’s still enjoyable, and time to veg. It’s about balance as much as it’s about success.
From: Nicole Hyde — May 24, 2011

Balance and moderation.

From: Susan Easton Burns — May 24, 2011

Balance is more important than excelling at anything. We always seem to forget that we are spiritual beings in this world. Wanting something so bad that you forget to feel is not honoring the spirit we were born with. Balance.

From: Robert Sesco — May 24, 2011

Balance and Moderation assumes a midpoint. That midpoint is what is in question. That midpoint is ‘relative’ to the individual, at the moment. The wino who decides to drink only two bottles of wine instead of four today is exercising some form of balance and moderation. Those who successfully ‘give up’ something for Lent now go back to their balance and moderation. The discipline of the military man, our warriors, fail miserably in the test of balance and moderation. Discipline has its spectrum from smaller dessert portions to entering the convent. Balance and moderation are for those who cannot fathom the discipline necessary to achieve a difficult goal. Balance and moderation applies to one’s life until the will to achieve ‘unbalances’ one’s life toward the desired goal. It is not for everyone, just as everyone has not the will to be a warrior, nor a parent, nor an accountant, nor a CEO, nor a Saint. Whenever the concept of balance and moderation arises, ask yourself where is the midpoint, the fulcrum, for the balance? Asking children to pass standardized testing seems to be causing a lot of stress. Why is that? Because the level of that standard is in question. Some feel it is too low, some feel it is too high. Some feel that all testing lowers self-esteem. The point between Discipline and Balance, an art form indeed.

From: Barbara Boothe Loyd — May 24, 2011

Once I had an art student from Taiwan who could hardly speak English when he immigrated. He was a spectacular draftsman in 7th grade. I presented him with the art award at the end of the year. In September the following school year, he came to see me early one morning bearing gifts. He said his parents would not allow him to study art any more, that he needed to take more math. I told him I understood and that I felt his parents were watching out for his future interests. But, losing him as a student was regretful.

From: Pseudo Tiger Mom — May 24, 2011

I am a Canadian born Chinese woman with two kids, ages 14 and 10. I think I understand both the Tiger Mom philosophy and the Western Mom philosphy, which tends to focus on protecting the child’s self esteem and individuality. I strive to take the best of both approaches for my kids. Most importantly, I try (not always successfully) to take the road that is best for my kids and not the road that is easiest for me. We are lucky – both kids are mentally, physically and emotionally strong. Because of this, I push them to meet a standard of excellence for things that I think are important for their futures. I believe that because they are bright and fully capable, they should strive to achieve straight A’s in all school subjects. I clearly tell them that marks less than A are unacceptable and essentially equivalent, for them, to failure. This takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears for everyone. They have be organized, plan ahead, study, review and work. We have the pain of having to do the monitoring, reviewing, checking and nagging when we could instead be relaxing and saying nothing. I wonder if some parents simply find it unpleasant to have to do this much monitoring. We run the risk of pushing our kids so hard that they resent us or feel they are never good enough. We try to manage this by constantly acknowledging every success, celebrating great report cards and telling them they are always loved. I also wonder if some parents would rather not have to take the risk of having their kids be unhappy with them and just want to be “friends” with their kids.

Our kids also play competitive sports and one of them is also an artist. This same standard of excellence is encouraged by us in those endeavours as well. If they are clearly not skating hard in a drill, they hear about it at home. If they aren’t listening to their coaches, we give them heck about it. If my daughter complains that she can’t draw people, I tell her it’s because she never practices. We don’t deprive them of playdates, sleepovers or any other regular leisure activities that most Canadian kids enjoy. But, I will tell them if their effort is insufficient. With their school marks, I am crystal clear with them that anything less than 80% is not good enough. It’s not good enough because they have the capacity to do more. It’s not good enough because they need to learn the value of excellence won through diligence. It’s not good enough because they’ll never get into university with anything less. It’s not good enough because the world can be a tough place and you have to be tough enough to survive. If it hurts their feelings to be told that 77% on the math test is a crappy mark, well too bad. It will hurt a lot more when they can’t get a decent job and a nice place to live. Right now, they are both straight A students who have very active social lives. They seem happy and well adjusted. Time will tell if this approach is the right one.
From: Jackie Knott — May 24, 2011

Ah, the Tiger Mom. Harsh discipline can rob an individual of any self motivation: they have no idea what THEY want out of life. Passion? There is none ….

At the permissive end of the spectrum we have young adults who never develop the appropriate discipline to carry out goals. There is a broad medium of child rearing dependent on the individual. And that is where parents of well adjusted and accomplished adults excel. It’s finding that balance where a child will bloom in independence and self assurance. I spent twenty-four days in China last fall. My daughter works in Beijing and we had this conversation before Amy Chua’s book was talked about. I asked her about the vibrant economy and how the US has this dread of Chinese superiority. Paraphrasing, this was her evaluation: “The Chinese can copy anything but they must be told. They lack innovation and the free thinking necessary to develop new technology. You see how crowds, scooters, and bicycles move with such ease in heavy traffic? They are used to going with the flow and can’t think outside accepted norms.” I was impressed by some of the work I saw in art galleries (several cities) but interestingly, they were sequestered into one art district, one gallery after another competing against the one beside it. Then, I walked around the corner and saw a hundred copies of the same work in a sidewalk shop. Individualism, self discipline, innovation, passion, desire … those things can’t be imposed or taught by rote.
From: Wilhelmina Persigetti — May 24, 2011

In the US, I think, there is a not uncommon and peculiar idea of social democracy. It leads to the strange notion that all opinions are created equal, which is nonsense. It also leads to the notion that there is something suspect about people whose performance (in almost any arena) is superior. But while this idea is held in abeyance where native born (US) Americans are concerned, it is more obviously simmering near the surface with regard to obvious foreign minorities. [I am not one, by the way.] While no one would suggest that Americans of Asian extraction (to pick one minority) should encourage their children to play video games, slack off their homework, and leave their bedrooms in a shambles, there is (I believe) a largely unspoken but nontheless widespread resentment that such people do not in all ways assimilate to the lowest common denominators in (US) American culture. Thank goodness they don’t. We have all the TV besotted couch potatos we can carry!

From: Robert Sesco — May 24, 2011

Dear Psuedo Tiger Mom,

WOW! Probably the best commentary I’ve read from a practicing parent who understands the difference between parenting and befriending, who understands the enormous potential of their children, who invests their most valuable commodity – their TIME – in their children, and love them enough to prepare them for a world that will not worry about bruising their self-esteem once they are out of the nest. Right or wrong, with love and boundaries, children thrive. Your example shows a way. Continued success to you and your family.
From: Dwight — May 24, 2011

As kids in my neighborhood we played football in the street sans adults, shot baskets in the driveway sans adults, played marbles on the school ground sans adults, got in snowball fights sans adults, and sometimes fought our own battles sans adults. We made the rules sans adults. That’s not to say we were without adult oversight, but did we ever learn a lot sans adults.

From: Bill Skuce — May 24, 2011
From: Suzanne — May 24, 2011

I recently returned from a graduation at Carnegie Mellon University. I knew one graduate well. She achieved top honors in both majors and for both degrees she obtained in the four years there. What I value most about her education from middle school, when I met her, and following is that her parents allowed her to excel at what she was most interested in, encouraging her interests that have now turned into passions. I know there were some tears at times when she wanted to be on the computer instead of finishing her homework and that her parents were pained when she tried something and failed but she learned and learned a lot and her future, Harvard and Cambridge, is promising. The value of hard work was never doubted but respect for her essential character was – Tiger Mom promotes all of her values, her efforts, her pride in lieu of the essential nature of her children. She does not trust them to do well with love and encouragement and does not trust herself to believe in the value of goodness working hand in hand with hard work. Everything I have ever read about Amy Chua and her children and husband is all about her – she is a narcissist whose sole value in life with her kids is about the efforts she has made on their behalf. Their natures? Pmphf! Their desires? Bah! Play? What a waste of time to Amy Chua so, therefore, to her children. Maybe they have achieved a great deal in their individual lives, these kids, but maybe who they are isn’t who they are at all but rather a reflection of what their mother deemed valuable. And Ms. Chua is quite smart, yes? She has made quite a living off of justifying her harsh and intolerant education of her children.

From: Robert Sesco — May 24, 2011

Suzanne, I agree with your position that natures must be taken into account. I would have gone to art school out of high school instead of getting a liberal arts education had my parents taken my true nature into account. But they allowed me to make my own decision, and I made it because I wanted to continue to play football in college. With hindsight I believe this was an immature decision. The principle that many overlook is that children are immature, and puberty or a driving license or an acceptance into a university does not automatically bestow adulthood nor good judgment. Maturity manifests from deeds, the exercising of good judgment under calm and duress, the number of responsibilities under obligation, assimilation into the existing culture, self-sufficiency, etc. Children are not young adults. Even certain adults are not mature. I believe children need boundaries and guidance with respect, as you say, for the expression of their natural proclivities. Unfortunately children come with no Owners Manual. We bring our own varying levels of maturity to the task of parenting, along with our own issues and baggage stemming from the parenting we ourselves received. Many do not view children as autonomous, but as extensions of themselves. Parenting receives help, ie. Dr. Spock, Dr. Phil, Medieval Protestant theology, Wahhabism, etc. Centuries of Generations have come and gone, and yet we still debate the proper manner in which to nurture our children. Either we believe that there is a right way to raise a child, or we believe there are an infinite number of right ways. If the former, why can’t we codify it? If the latter, then Mrs. Chua is as right as anyone. If we believe there are a handful of right ways, then how many are there and what are they? I think parents, if shown examples of loving methods, if given options from which to choose HOW they will raise their children, if shown how to identify a child’s nature, we could break our cycles of ignorance and abuse. If ever there was a justification for social engineering, this would be at the top of my list. Give huge tax breaks for completion of Parenting Academy, which exposes new parents and existing parents to options for handling childrearing in all of its complexities; this is not a dictatorship course, this is an options course. I feel loving parents will opt for the best course of action, allowing for a child’s natural inclinations, but without examples from which to choose, without the education as to why certain methods are desirable, we repeat the mistakes generation after generation. I now understand that I am, and have always been, an artist. I ignored this from the age of 18 until I was 55. I had little occupational guidance but was given values, good judgment, tough love, and the ability to survive as an adult. I am now immersing myself in activities that vibrate with my natural inclinations. Art oozed from me all these years. I wish I had been conscious of my nature, and had been vibrating with conscious delight during the bulk of my life. I wonder if guidance wouldn’t have helped, or if I am enjoying my life more now as a result of what has gone before.

From: Bianka Guna — May 24, 2011

Hard work will never make up for “the gift” of “creativeness” …While the Chinese kids work hard to resolve math exercises, or to to play the piano/violin forced by their parents/teachers ,they lack inventiveness, original thinking, sparkle…These ones cannot be achieved only from hard work: becoming a doctor doesn’t mean you are compassionate, solving some mediocre math problems doesn’t make you a brilliant mathematician or scientist …and playing an instrument correctly doesn’t make you an Arthur Rubinstein.

From: Gail Nagasako — May 24, 2011

I think I may have written you before on this but I was an “unschooling” mother and a very accepting parent. Permissive? Absolutely not. Permissive is where a child gets the idea his/her rights and preferences override everyone else’s. My son grew up to be a kind, generous, hard working, thoughtful, loving and financially successful young man. I think both extremes are harmful, no matter how “well intentioned” the parent is. After all, isn’t our own integrity worth something? Do these kids have any life of their own?

From: Mike Barr — May 24, 2011

Much food for thought on this one and your Esoterica hit the nail on the head.

I quick scan (if that’s possible) of the world’s millions of artists will reveal that mediocrity is not only acceptable but applauded. Actually, those who excel through effort and sacrifice should be happy about this because excellent art is really beginning to stand out from the crowd!
From: Kimberly Kent — May 24, 2011

Interesting, but overkill.

From: Paula Timpson — May 24, 2011


True happiness is in freedom to simply ‘Be~’ a child In life, the laughter of a child is worth more than gold… Painting is passion of Joy!
From: Michael Mayer — May 24, 2011

Have you got to the point where one of her daughters has a breakdown and runs away screaming at her tiger mom?

From: Lauri Copeman — May 24, 2011
From: Ignacio Rosenberg — May 24, 2011

I have to say that it does probably as much good as harm. Instilling a sense of discipline and regime for learning and applying yourself Is good. I’m struggling learning Japanese because I don’t have that hardwired tendency to sit down and study. Case and point: I’m answering this email instead of doing it :)

At the same time, you have to let them socialize. People with straight A’s may get the better jobs but won’t survive in an aggressive politic-infused business world without that knowledge. They have to try things, get into fights, make mistakes, that’s the other 50% of life and you need as much of that as understanding quadratic equations.
From: Jim Lorriman — May 24, 2011

The early Greeks practiced “everything in moderation” and they did pretty well. It wouldn’t hurt if both we and the Chinese had a look at this.

From: Silvia Williams — May 24, 2011

I taught for 34 years and saw first hand the damage lack of discipline does to the learning process in children. While undisciplined children can’t learn, I think that Miss Chua greatly exaggerated the list of don’t for her children. Wonder if she ever let them take time to be creative?

From: Ruth Rifka — May 24, 2011

Amy Chua inspires me to scream, to throw paint around, to make a big mess. To have some harmless fun . Afterward, I will be a good girl and brush up on technique and be very diligent and properly reverent, and yes, even respectful of established Chinese wisdom.

Thanks again for putting artists in touch with their truer selves Whatever that is. Somehow, you always seem to provide a clue on the general direction to take.
From: Anonymous — May 24, 2011

Life experiences tells me that this writer is one-sided. Controversy sells. Mothers who believe this biased story is going the wrong path in demanding their kids to be perfect. As an artist-teacher, I have experienced parents holding off their kids from doing art and pulling their kids from creativity in visual arts, but favoring music instead. Although this is happening to some, however, there is a turnover in the next decade to be “creative” with their hands.

From: Claudia Roulier — May 24, 2011

I think that we hare getting away from individualism, by all this group “think” and group “do”, children are taught to do things in groups and go along with the group (go along to get along) and find group solutions while different ideas and individual solutions are frowned on. We aren’t taught to be self-reliant we are taught to look to government for all solutions we are taught dependence we are taught fairness in outcomes not fairness in beginnings with no guarantee on outcome (individualism). In fact we are given excuses as to why we can’t do things without government or for ourselves. We are told how to think through political correctness, we see it in movies, in politics, in ads, we see it everywhere. We worship environmentalism, it is our new religion. I think that we could all use a little “tiger mom” in our lives.

From: Frank Maguire — May 24, 2011

I think that children need their Dream-time.

From: Roger Walsh — May 24, 2011

Interesting article, my experience in mainland China is that the art scene is exploding………..check the prices and most are right out there in terms of painting expression!

At a recent exhibition in a leading local gallery I was interested to see obvious mainland extended Chinese family in the thick of it. This will be a great new opportunity for very creative local artists to benefit from, but never assume any are “Amy’s daughters or sons”, so go big and go bold!
From: Lillian Kennedy — May 24, 2011

Oh my, you have touched such a nerve. My art training involved criticism without known goals: we were just “put down”. While that doesn’t work, it seems to me that training within a specific tradition helps some people to learn discipline and technique, but I have come to believe that feedback that focuses primarily on the positive aspects of someone’s work leads to the fastest growth of authentic style and mastery. I try to always point out things that I might change and give the reasons why I would make those changes if it were my work. I clarify that their motives and ultimate vision may be quite different from mine. All this doesn’t get one very far without determination and inner desire for expression. Then again, I’m interested in work that is alive and excellent not rote.

From: Rick Rotante — May 24, 2011

I am certainly not one who is reading “Tiger Mom” but I am fully aware that they exist in America and around the world. Two good points made is they DO excel more than other kids and yes we are too permissive with our children. Dr. Spock got it wrong when he declared we shouldn’t ‘force’ our kids to learn things they would otherwise not bother to learn. “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” ” Idle hands are the devils workplace.” But there is a something else at work here. Culture! We in America are the first “leisure” society in history. Prosperity was so abundant we actually had time…for ourselves to play and not work. I grew up in this quasi-affluent world. We were expected to go to school and eventually get a job, get married and have two point four kids and raise them in a suburb somewhere. The Chinese have been invaded over the centuries and have invaded others and since their culture goes back longer than we here can imagine, there is this built in idea that they should inherit the world. After all they were here first. Americans, with all that means, shouldn’t be at the top of the heap especially after only three hundred years which is a proverbial drip in the bucket of Asian waters. Life has dealt them a bad blow, but of course when you a waring nation, the rest of the world takes offense as we are beginning to learn here. Chinese children come from an oppressed society where you were made to appreciate all they may have. It’s ingrained in them from birth. And the parents know this and push harder than most. We, on the other hand, are born with the idea that we don’t really have to work for much because we are or were the most prosperous nation in existence up until recent events. That was made obvious after world war two. But many young folk today don’t remember that war and what it afforded them in today’s society. My parents wanted to shield us from the horrors of the times they went through in Europe and maybe they were wrong to do this. If we had an appreciation of those times, maybe we would have been Tiger Moms today.

I feel for the Chinese kids yet I feel worse for American kids, because they won’t get the satisfaction of really working for what they get. We give all to them.
From: Adrienne Kleiman — May 24, 2011

Are you familiar with Jiang the “Father of the Yunnan School”? He was one of the premier Chinese Artist who first arrived in Minneapolis for this first exhibition outside the People’s Republic in 1984.

Times Staff Writer Los Angels Times Sunday September 24, 1989 wrote” Stallions and monkeys would take form as the 6 year-old Jiang Tiefeng worked his chalk across the walls of this home in China’s Zhejiang Province.” “I just liked drawing,” the bespectacled artist, now 50, says simply, in Mandarin.” “Fortunately for Jiang, his creations were rewarded with praise instead of a spanking.” I first discovered Jiang in 2000 and purchased one of his original works. I recently received an updated appraisal, which has now tripled in value. I guess that might be one measurement of success for Tiger mom!
From: Rick Posner Ph.D. — May 24, 2011

Interesting that I have been hearing more frequently from Chinese educators that they fear that they are turning out “trained seals” who don’t know how do anything creative or meaningful with their lives. Be like them? Good luck America!

From: Brigitte Nowak — May 24, 2011

My kids are now young adults – 22 and on the cusp of 20. When they were young, I told them that they could choose whatever activities they wanted to try, but that they had to choose one that they would work at to the best of their abilities. They chose sports, and I ended up with one nationally ranked badminton payer and a provincially ranked gymnast (both since retired). They also learned to experience the pressure of competition, the camaraderie of being part of a team, a sense of achievement, the agony of defeat, knowledge of their own strengths and weaknesses, the desire to improve on their weaknesses, and a strong sense of self-worth. While I have my own issues with “judged sports” (gymnastics), they did learn to excel at something with fairly arbitrary rules of excellence, and this is something they have been able to translate into their other endeavours. They’ve developed good work ethics, reasonable time-management skills, and self-reliance and self-discipline. And they had down-time, went to sleepovers, participated in non-competitive activities. As has been previously noted, it’s all about balance.

From: Yasmin Sabur — May 24, 2011

I enjoy reading your letters, but you’re way off base on this one. Starting with this sentence “It’s an in-your-face description of the draconian methods Chinese women who live in Western cultures use to help their young children to excel.”

All Chinese mothers who live in Western cultures don’t use these methods. This a book written by one woman. Her methods can’t be applied to an entire group of extremely diverse people. Economics, culture, politics, all play a part in how we raise our children and what our family values are. China is a vast country, and there are many different ethnic groups of Chinese people in Western countries. Your letter points up the need of Western peoples to educate themselves on other countries and cultures.
From: Sangeeta Ghose — May 25, 2011

Wow, this is some insight about Chinese parents, or Chinese mother to be precise, because the father also listens to the mother of the house. He better! I have lived in china for 2 years now. They are giving birth to single little emperors, who have to excel in the traditional ways – academics, music, computers, occasionally sports and other art forms. The mothers spend hours pushing, cajoling, making rules, and for the kid to concentrate on the designed /decided subject for excellence, they will not let the child waste time on mundane things, like playing silly games, and joking around with other kids. The household helper (aayi) is also instructed to follow the rules, she will be ready to feed the child, and even clean their bum, so that they can do something more important with their hands, and focus on their mission.

In almost every single grade at the international school, top 5 kids are either Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, from Singapore or India. Be it class academics, arts, sports, drama, music. Americans & Europeans rarely make it there. Let me also add that they are allowed to be mediocre or low in grades because they are expats, and apparently they are going through a lot of adjustment to make life livable in China! The real reason is that they have never learned compete in the Asian way. Thanks and Regards, Shenzhen, China
From: Frances — May 25, 2011

I think guidance and encouragement are key. However looking at children as individuals with individual talents is also key. I think if one is good at something it is a great confidence booster and one goes on to bigger and better things. We can be too lax in letting children not aim for higher things. They are capable and all play or self indulgence is not good but a bit of boredom often sparks creativity. Plays, music, art, writing all require a modicum of quiet and reflection and not all out activity. Love is the other key. If it is done out of love for the other not self then that helps.

From: Rick Rotante — May 25, 2011

I greatly believe in the “Yin/Yang theory. Oddly this is an Asian theology. It’s a pity Ms. Chua doesn’t practice this philosophy. Balance in life is what makes it all plausible and enjoyable. There is a time for everything and everything has a time. We need work as well as play activity and rest. As artists we all know this to be true. Society has seen the results of too much work, too much drive, too much ambition. This is why the world is in the state it’s in now. We are being fed that we need more of everything. We can’t handle what we have now effectively. Oddly, Americans work more hours than any other culture on earth, including the Japanese. We happily give our employers 60 to 80 hours a week without any objection. We won’t need any “Tiger Moms” pushing us in the coming future. We will do it all by ourselves. We have already lost the fundamental beliefs in the Yin/Yang theory. Success, money, fame, wealth have become the catchwords in everything we do, even sports. Athletes don’t play for sport anymore; they play for money, fame, prestige. We don’t do anything anymore…for the fun of it, for the pure pleasure. It saddens me.

From: Searcy D King — May 25, 2011

Too permissiveness? Yes … Into a Neverland of mediocrity? Yes … Convincing ourselves that what we do is okay? Maybe… All of this is irrelevant because it’s our differences that make the earth tapestry beautiful. Why do we insist on others doing things our way. Can’t we honor and respect our differences? Why can’t we take what we like and leave the rest? Homogenizing everyone and everything makes for a dull world, and yes, that includes our art.

From: Tatjana — May 26, 2011

Searcy, you are my kind of person. For me, there is nothing duller than a my-recipe-for-life letter. Good luck to Amy Chua and all the parents out there! The fact is that only a small fraction of all children will become the elite. Most parents will, in any way they can, raise the class of people that will carry the world on their backs. Very few will be able to do what really interests them, as they might have been promised as children. But people are resilient creatures that have the ability to make their lives some kind of a success, regardless of the upbringing.

From: Eileen Keane — May 26, 2011

Although I don’t want our children to become automatons, I think it would be beneficial if we expected better of them. How will they ever learn to aim for the stars if they are not expected to try their hardest to get there?

From: Michael Epp — May 26, 2011

“At the Winner’s concert where Sophia performed, as I watched her deft fingers fluttering and tumbling up and down the piano like real butterfly wings, I was overcome with pride, exhilaration, and hope.” — Amy Chua

What was Sophia feeling, I wonder? Does anyone care?
From: Brigitte Nowak — May 26, 2011
From: R. Redus — May 26, 2011
From: Susan Holland — May 26, 2011

While I was so troubled by the regime Amy Chua speaks of, I declined to comment earlier, I also reflected on my own lacks in the realm of self-discipline. I wish I had been tamed earlier in some ways. But there is a balance. I sought to reach that balance in teaching my own elementary school classes, using different projects to require different disciplines: for instance, I used loads of colors and big sloppiness to teach by experience the need to learn paints’ limits (too much/ too little). But I used repousse copper work to teach defined, rigid rules to make the material behave. My kids asked for oil painting instruction. This I taught college style: I required a finished line drawing and a fninshed value drawing before the paints were brought out. I required a build up of values and tones on the canvas board before I allowed free use of all the colors. The children were fascinated, and learned a lot about painting and famous artists with this segment, and were very proud of their paintings. Some of them were elegant. Some were dead. (like my paintings are.)

I marked for “improvement and finishing of assignment” on most of my projects. The oil painting one I marked for following directions. It all was a good idea — the free stuff and the rigid stuff. Can we do both and still have fun???
From: Johan Sandstrom — May 26, 2011

Maaarvelous..why look at others art…you art flirt? Johan Sandstrom,
From: Ruth Howard — May 27, 2011

karen, i covet your style. so glad i looked!

From: Maria Jones — May 27, 2011

To me Karen’s talent is clearly in her photography and sculpture. They both posess an element of mystery which leaves the viewer wanting more. The paintings feel like I’ve seen them before, many times over

From: Francesca Bastarache — May 27, 2011

I can really relate to Karen so I just wanted to share with you that I love your pastel painting of the clouds.

From: Audrey Cooper — May 27, 2011


I’m in love! I want to paint just like you.
From: caroline Jobe — May 27, 2011

wow, your art is already really original, the peacock photo is a testament to that. fabulous work!

From: Teyjah McAren — May 27, 2011

I remember teaching a young Tiger Mom’s daughter who was incredibly harsh on her daughter because the only talent she seemed to have was artistic, so said Tiger Mom. She told me to give her daughter even more homework (I was already famous for giving lots of homework as a Late French Immersion Teacher) as she believed the only way her daughter would succeed in life was by pushing her even more. When I pointed out how very talented her daughter was in the Arts, she gruffly said “That is useless”. Her daughter was a strong B+ to A in most subjects, but had difficulty in Math with a C to C+ average and all this while acquiring a third language! She took her out of her one social activity and hired a Math tutor. I tried to point out the gift that Art was and could be for her daughter to no avail. I often think of her and hope she kept her wonderful spirit and her art alive.

From: Stephen Oliver Amsden — May 27, 2011

Karen ,who keeps falling in love with other artwork, needs other artists to tell her how good her work is. Karen, your paintings are wonderful! The one you call “Fiery Shrubs” is my favorite. Keep working and be inspired by other art. Use some of their ideas if you want because their work, no matter how good it is, has been done before.

From: sue ecclestone — May 27, 2011

Dear Karen, I understand very well your problem. A number of years ago I ran an art school and hired excellent artist/teachers to work for me. Of course I chose the teachers whose work I admired. Soon I felt I had totally lost my personal voice and direction. I fought hard against copying others’ style but it wasn’t until I stopped attending the workshops that I got back on track.

However I look at your work and I see a consistency of feeling, design and movement so I don’t think you have truly lost yourself. Just do as Robert suggests and you’ll be fine!
From: Barbara — May 27, 2011

I believe you are an experimentor! Loving to try different things. That is the creativity gene at work…Creativity is is what art is all a bout. But loosing your own identity by taking on someone elses style is the problem. Robert is right that you need to respect your own talents…and you certainly have them! Incorpotating others tecniques into your own style is respecting your need to grow and experiment. Retaining yourself in your art is your maturity as an artist. Never stop experimenting,but love your own work.

From: Sharon Blythe Hope BC — May 27, 2011

Oh My Gosh- if the published painting are Your style why would you want to change it as they are beautiful!! My sister had the same problem though. She took so many workshops that after a while she had forgotten what her unique style was. Thank goodness she ‘sucked back and regrouped’ and is back on track.

From: cushla moorhead — May 27, 2011

Karen, I think your work is glorious. Do keep going.

From: Doris Olsen — May 28, 2011

Karen’s artwork shows great energy…certainly a plus! Oprah said life is all about energy! I just couldn’t find a place in the paintings to “be there”….for my eye to rest…a center of interest. Liked the sky painting best…maybe make one edge more outstanding than the others…a barn has a center of interest….a tree can be lit on one side by the light…a flower arrangement can have a center of

interest….even abstracts are more interesting with a center of interest! Think about this when you view other paintings…learn by them but don’t lose your energy!
From: Ib — May 28, 2011

Seeing the work of Karen Jones makes me want to throw in the towel.

From: Jim Shepherd — May 29, 2011

I like your work and in general I love almost every new art form, every media and most artist. Unfortunately when I am on the computer (like now) I am not painting and painting is what I love more than anything else. My motto is “never let your paint dry, keep it loose and just go with the flow”.

From: Dot Keller — May 30, 2011

limit medium for a time

From: Phillipa Seljuk — Jun 03, 2011

Whether we like it or not, there seems to be a widening gap between the available work and the available workers. This will naturally devolve into a competition. If someone wants to insure that their child have meaningful, materially rewarding, and satisfying work, they had better prepare them to compete. I hate the idea of competition as a life strategy, but am seeing it burgeoning everywhere. The days of “finding oneself” are quickly evaporating. Increasingly to be without focus is to be without anything more than hope or luck.

From: K LEICHERT — Jun 21, 2011

I’m 46, and just getting a handle on both my job and being a painter. The answer has been periods of intense focus with an equal amount of daydreaming, playing and free intellectual searching. When I was a child we were required to do some unpleasant, disciplined work, memorization and study. The rest of the time we did as we pleased – not organized or accompanied by authority. This way we had the ability to both dream and translate dreams into tangable effects. Now we seem on the extreme of both – endless entertainment and gadgets along with driven competition and activity.

As for painting, I learned much from both formal study (learning mathematical perspective / shade and shadow) and sitting in a field looking at whatever caught my eye or even, heaven forbid, doing nothing at all.
From: Judy — Jul 07, 2011

Very nice work, inspiring! I wish I was you.

From: Andre M. Smith — Jan 20, 2012
From: Andre M. Smith — Jan 20, 2012
From: Andre M. Smith — Feb 04, 2012
From: Andre M. Smith — Feb 10, 2012
From: Andre M. Smith — Feb 11, 2012
From: Andre M. Smith — Mar 16, 2012

Some words penned in response to the thoughts of a student writing elsewhere . . . I would not normally lock horns and try to best a junior in high school; I’m hoping you do not read my words here as such, for they are meant for you only as a provocation to further thought to your ideas well-presented. You’ve written that you “used to get frustrated when I had to practice violin and I really didn’t want to . . .” Do I read correctly that you no longer “get frustrated?” If so, that’s a remarkable advancement. As a musician myself I want to ask you, Why do you practice violin and not another instrument of your choosing less frustrating, for examples, flute, harpsichord, tuba, or tabla. There is a vast — and I do mean vast! — repertoire for each of those, and many other, instruments that could challenge you unendingly for the remainder of your life. Instead of spending hours at your chosen instrument (whichever it may be) in the drudgery of isolated practice, why not spend more of your time in practice with music ensembles of various kinds. This can yield a discipline and advancement of a uniquely different kind. If you are studying formally with a violin teacher I’m quite sure he will confirm the well-founded idea that, as a performer, playing an instrument is one kind of challenge but playing an instrument WITH PEOPLE is significantly more so. A musician in isolation is a musician limited. And herein lays one, only one, of the transparent contradictions of the way Professor Chua has taught her two daughters to approach their instruments; opportunistically solely for unartistic purposes. A fundamental flaw in the approach to music of Amy Chua — an amusical hack with no known talent for an art of any kind! — is that she has decided it’s perfectly acceptable to pervert one of the greater of the fine arts for use in ulterior purposes. In the example of the Chua family, so-so slogging through masterpieces of music was used to impress others when applying for admission to university. (Would Professor Chua dare to advocate this openly with religion, physics, good grammar, or issues of national interest?) The whole idea that her elder daughter, Sophia, played a debut recital in Carnegie Hall is an early example of the pervasive blight of résumé bloat on which social climbers like Amy Chua have advanced themselves; a blight to which the Chua daughters were introduced early by two parents who know well how to tweak the system to gain unearned personal advantage. Carnegie Hall,, includes three auditoria in its building: Stern Auditorium, Zankel Hall, and Weill Recital Hall It was in Weill that Sophia performed as only one among a cattle-call string of young pianists that day. Do you doubt what I write here? Compare the architectural design,, behind Sophia with that of the architectural design at the rear of the stage in Having been a performer, myself, in both Stern and Weill over many years you have my assurance that Sophia performed her piece in Weill. Debut recital in Carnegie Hall! Indeed! You have written about your parents that they are “less extreme than Chua I’ll admit, but a lot of her memoir is satire and exaggeration.” Don’t be deceived by quick-change artist Professor Chua. She has spent more than one year trying to convince readers of her text that she is some kind of nouveau belles-lettrist who did no more than exercise a writer’s license to engage her readers. In truth she meant what she wrote until her hypocritical posturing as an authentic Chinese mother — born in Illinois to a Filipino father, neither speaks Chinese nor writes Chinese script — came back to haunt her with a ferocity that caused this self-styled Tiger Mother to recoil into improvised doublespeak. Amy Chua is a complete fake! All young musicians should be given only two music instrument choices to pursue in life, Violin or Piano. All else is useless waste. Any adult giving such advice is one woefully ill-informed. As a bass trombonist, my instrument has been my first class ticket from person-to-person, school-to-school, city-to-city, studio-to-studio, and stage-to-stage. With the kinds of preparations the Chua daughters were given will they ever perform, as I have, with Richard Tucker, Birgit Nilsson, Roberta Peters, Herbert von Karajan, Leopold Stokowski, and the two-thirds of The New York Philharmonic who were my schoolmates for five years in Juilliard? Forget it! Mercifully, I was never besieged with a Tiger Mother or Tiger Anything to motivate me. Yes, I too sometimes was bored with scales and chords. Yes, sometimes my imagined future seemed an unattainable fantasy. Yes, I did sometimes fall flat on my face in public performance (as did my teachers before me and also their teachers before them). Life went on and continues to do so. You’ve written that “At this point (as a Junior in high school) about 35% of the pressure to do well comes from my parents and the other 65% is complete self-motivation.” From the subtlety of your writing I suspect you’re cutting yourself short with that 65%. You appear to be much more highly motivated than your objective perspective about yourself can show you at this early time. The violin? I advise you to seriously reëvaluate what you believe is your relationship to any instrument of your choice; if, indeed, the violin has been your choice and not that of someone else. If the violin has been your choice, stay with it through all the coming stormy weather of doubt and seeming incompetence. If it is not, drop it in preference to another more to your liking and its fitness for your physicality. (If it’s the tuba, tell your parents that someone other than I recommended it!) Good Luck! Cordially, André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard) Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy) Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University) Formerly Bass Trombonist The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York, Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall), The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

From: Andre M. Smith — Mar 20, 2012

Q: You insisted your girls also have hobbies so they wouldn’t become “weird Asian automatons.” So you chose classical music. You didn’t want them doing crafts which “go nowhere” or playing drums which “lead to drugs.”

A: For me classical music symbolized refinement and hard work and delicacy, and a certain depth. Both the piano and the violin are capable of producing such beauty, something more meaningful than watching TV or doing Facebook for 10 hours. __________________________ The most extraordinary feature — among many extraordinary features — of the Amy Chua debacle is that no one in authority in New Haven has yet to pull her aside to tell her that she being a Professor of Law at Yale simply isn’t working well for the good of the University. This woman is a COMPLETE moron! That she has been able in her book to unite any music instrument whatsoever with deleterious external behavior harkens back to at least somewhere in the nineteenth century when it could be said openly and quite sincerely that Negroes have an innate sense for rhythm and most Italians pass their days in song. Just from what source(s) this half-baked Professor has discovered a relationship between drums and drugs is unstated; and I’m quite sure will so remain. Also, this buffoon refers to crafts that “go nowhere” thereby ensuring that her two daughters will have had no experience designing and building to completion with their hands any project of their choice. Her blanket statement about crafts discretely omits details about what she believes any of these cul-de-sac pursuits are. But, moving back to the smoke heads and autoharpoonists with which Professor Chua believes the field of percussion music is suffused . . . She who advocates classical music concerts (which she is not known to attend), Mandarin language (which she does not speak, read, or write), and an aggressive pursuit of piano and violin (while being unable to play either) has chosen as her target, from the full palate of the world’s instruments the innocent drum. She can tell it to Stravinsky, Hindemith, Bartok, Kodaly, Copland, Khatachurian, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Ives, Janacek, Smetana, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Sibelius, Schubert, Schumann, Wagner, and her beloved Mozart and Haydn. You might want to set aside a few minutes to see how the staff junkie in this performance has kept everyone else intact. But for us, taking the Professor in her stride let’s look at some of the world’s examples she may have a dread fear one of her daughters may emulate. Boston Symphony Orchestra Dallas Symphony Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra School of Timpani HHS Winter Percussion-Dublin 2-12-11 Swiss Top Secret Drum Corps New York Philharmonic Orchestra London Symphony Orchestra Berlin Philharmonic Bolshoi Theater Percussion Ensemble Shanghai Percussion Ensemble Paris Percussion Festival Los Angeles Percussion Quartet Chicago Symphony Orchestra Charles Owen, The United States Marine Band and The Philadelphia Orchestra Evelyn Glennie (deaf since the age of twelve!) Elayne Jones Max Roach Gene Krupa Saul Goodman (Long may his memory endure!) Gerald Carlyss (student of Saul Goodman at Juilliard) Victor Firth (student of Saul Goodman at Juilliard) Fred Begun (student of Saul Goodman at Juilliard) Howard van Hyning (student of Saul Goodman at Juilliard), conductor of The New York Tympani Choir Phil Kraus (student of Saul Goodman at Juilliard) Richard Motylinski Danny Villanueva _______________________ With time and space I easily could list one-hundred more, but these few will prove the point. Got the message, Professor? On any matter dealing with the fine arts you are, to put it discretely, outclassed. _______________________ André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard) Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy) Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University) Formerly Bass Trombonist The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York, Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall), The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.
From: Andre M. Smith — Apr 06, 2012

There is a recurring theme without solid core that continues to recycle on the question of Amy Chua and her style as a mother. J.G. (unfortunately anonymous, as are most of the endorsements of Professor Chua) has written I think it’s easy to take cheap shots at Chua, but it’s hard to argue that the average American child needs less discipline, less direction or less respect for others. It might seem amusing to mock her (her “cushy job” and “hottie husband”), but harder to actually consider the points being made in a non-defensive way, without trying to paint yourself as the “cool mom” who prefers three martini playdates? p.s. It seems ironic that an Asian-American female who went to Williams (fulfilling a fantasy of Chinese parents everywhere) would paint her parents as laissez-faire and herself as moderately motivated. Posted by: J.G. | January 18, 2011 at 02:31 PM I, for one, have no interest whatsoever in her “cushy job” and “hottie husband.” Nor do I have any objection to her having become a millionaire from the sales of her book and that she will be well on her way to becoming a multimillionare once the planned translations of it into thirteen of the world’s languages have been completed. My uncompromising objections to Professor Chua are two-fold: her abuses of young children pursued to further her own narcissistic urgencies and her deep commitment of abuse of the art of music – of which she seemingly has no knowledge whatsoever – for reasons having nothing to do with that art. My shots at her are far from what J.G. calls “cheap shots.” They do in fact go to the heart of the problems with her that remain my chief concerns. J.G. and most of his fellow travelers in their tepid defenses of Professor Chua continue to focus on her inherited emphasis of the sorry state of public education in The United States. What else is new? As with most of the ringing endorsements of Amy Chua, those from J.G. are clearly from a mind not wholly engaged. He has written ” it’s hard to argue that the average American child needs less discipline, less direction or less respect for others. In his tangled syntax I’m quite sure he means – at least I’m hoping he means – it’s hard to argue that the average American child does not need more discipline, more direction or more respect for others. J.G. has written further, “p.s. It seems ironic that an Asian-American female who went to Williams (fulfilling a fantasy of Chinese parents everywhere) . . . “ Again, but this time TWO thoughts from nowhere! What has Williams College to do with Amy Chua (Harvard, A.B. ’84)? And since when has Williams even been on the “fantasy” palate “of Chinese parents everywhere?” Professor Chua usually receives the quality of defense she deserves. André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard) Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy) Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University) Formerly Bass Trombonist The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York, Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall), The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

From: Andre M. Smith — Apr 09, 2012

I checked Asian. I had heard it was harder to apply as an Asian, so as a point of pride, I had to say I was Asian. In almost every list, pride (Latin, superbia), or hubris (Greek), is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins, and the source of the others. It is identified as a desire to be more important or attractive than others, failing to acknowledge the good work of others, and excessive love of self (especially holding self out of proper position toward God). 1) Tiger Sophia, you may have checked Asian which does have a “tax,” however you also got big bonus points for being a legacy many times over. The upshot is that you had help getting in unlike these Asian Americans below who live at the poverty line and don’t have Ivy League parents with deep pockets. 2) By checking Asian when, actually, you are of mixed race, you have taken a spot away from those who don’t have the benefit of applying to a less competitive race slot. Thanks to you, someone who[se]life could be completely changed did not get a spot. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. Matthew 25:29 Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, the daughter of a mother of mixed Asian ethnicity of no known religious involvement and a secular — whatever that means — American Jewish father ostensibly has been raised as a Jewess in an atheistic family positing itself as . . . ? When she applied for admission to Harvard she descended into a pride of Asianness to avail herself of an ethnic quota advantage. This duplicitous young woman is, indeed, her mother’s daughter! __________________________ André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard) Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy) Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University) Formerly Bass Trombonist The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York, Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall), The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

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Fried Green Tomatoes

oil painting, 8 x 10 inches by Leighann Foster, Boerne, TX, USA

  You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013. That includes Jim Kissel of Canton, MI, USA, who wrote, “Has the Western world gone too far into permissiveness? Perhaps. I do observe greater and greater demands for ‘rights’ while ignoring responsibilities.” And also Adolfo McQue of Cape Town, South Africa, who wrote, “The photo in Time magazine of Amy Chua with two tame tiger cubs says it all — a smug egotist using her children for her own fulfillment.” And also Jane Walker of UK, who wrote, “At my daughter’s very musical school, the Hong Kong Chinese often win music scholarships and do well. Compared with their less pressured English colleagues they tend to play rather mechanically, however perfectly in terms of technique and accuracy. Interpretation is something the tiger mum cannot so easily give.”    

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

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