Wednesday, February 02, 2011


Oh hey. I just want to drop "Amy Chua"'s name to boost my internet traffic of nine billion peeps to 90 billion (for some reason, poetry alone ain't doing that traffic boost). Anyway: Yale prof Amy Chua. Chinese mothering. Many of you no doubt have heard of the controversy (though did you know she's Filipino-Chinese?). This leads me to this photo of an "extra credit" homework Michael recently did to create a mock front page of a newspaper addressing Orwell's Animal Farm:

Amusing, no? The Galatea Times? The superimposition of an article on the beef-packing industry with the novel's narrative. But here's the thing: Michael was the only one in his class who did the extra credit aspect to the homework.

Why is that? Why was my son the only one who did the extra credit component? Why did he ask me after he turned in the exercise why he had to do it when nobody else did?

At first, I was at a loss on how to answer his question -- remember that we're still structuring his post-adoption "New Normal" and the hubby and I are trying to instill the importance of a good work ethic and the value of education. But how was I going to answer his question -- by saying that other families didn't care as much about homework?

Then the Chinese-Mother-Tiger in Moi reared and said, "Let me give you a tip: unless you're a straight-A student, always try to do all the extra credit assignments."

As I write this, Michael is a solid B student, which is actually impressive given that he's in arguably the best middle school in the area and is in 8th grade within two years of having been previously in Spanish-only 4th grade (2nd grade if you consider the math skills with which he entered the U.S.). Was my Filipino mothering too tough? I don't think so. But I suspect that it is indeed tougher than how many parents do their parenting.

But it also relates to this: why was my son, coming out of Spanish-only crappy orphanage schooling, able to be in 7th grade Honor Roll at a U.S. public school within a year after he got to this country? Sure, he and I homeschooled for a summer beforehand -- but I don't think the answer has to do with my great parenting/teaching skills. I think it has to do with the degradation of public education: e.g., how merit has been diluted by simply-finishing-homework as a grade subsidy!

Still, I'm no Amy Chua. Look at the above image again. If Chua had tossed back at her child a handmade birthday card as not being good enough, she probably would have told Michael to re-do the above mock newspaper, too. It's a bit sloppy, there's white space where there shouldn't be, and the playing around of fonts for the headlines is not realistic. But he did spend all of Sunday morning (when he could have been tossing a football about) doing the project, and I chose to respect his time and effort. Here's my take on being the best:

It's not, as Chua says that (many) Chinese parents understand, that Most things aren't fun if you're not good (read: best) at them. The key is simply that children (all humans) should always be encouraged to attempt their best.

There's a big difference. If Michael did his best effort and he only came up with a mediocre result because, in a particular subject, that's all that he truly was capable of, that'd be fine with me. Because. He. Still. Gave. His. Best. Effort.

Of course, it's no coincidence that someone who always puts out hir best effort may end up being the best at it. But not all the time. Life is not a goal (to be the best). Life is more of a process (attempt one's best). Therein, btw, goes the link to poetics! Anyway:

Got it? Okay. Learn from me: I'm an expert at this you know. After all, I've been a parent for nearly two years!

Labels: , ,