Exploration of Imagination

“Chinese parents believe that they know what is best for their children and therefore override all of their children’s own desires and preferences”

–Amy Chua, “Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mom”

On January 8th, Amy Chua, a professor at the Yale Law School, wrote an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.” In her piece, Chua claims that first and second generation Asian mothers are better parents than their U.S. counterparts. She elaborated on many practices Chinese and Chinese-American mothers implement on their children, such as disallowing play dates, sleepovers and participating in the school play. She even mentioned that food is sometimes withheld from kids in order to gain better performance.  After explaining all of these approaches to raising children, Chua then goes on to say that Asian children should still love their parents and have a smooth relationship. As I read her article, which is actually an excerpt from her book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” I could not help but wonder…wow, the United States methodology is so different.

I know everyone is probably wondering how this relates to globalization in regards to China and the United States, but I believe that Chua’s article highlights some very important cultural differences between the two nations. As I alluded to in my post last week, what makes the U.S. special is the fact that its innovation has withstood the test of time. What I did not talk about was what allows that innovation to come about. Sure, I mentioned enrichment programs and emphasis on funding innovate-friendly programs, but I did not mention from a mental aspect what spawns creativity. When it comes down to it, innovation is not something that is forced; rather it’s something that exists as a result of freedom of the mind. Although to many, building a tent out of sheets, or spending the night with a bunch of kids at a friend’s house seems counter productive to learning, these activities are actually some of best ways for a kid to explore imagination. This in turn leads to the ability to think outside of the box, which is what defines innovation. These experiences are what make America special.

This article was useful in that it brings to light that what allows America to continue exploring creativity is imagination. How can innovation exist if one can never take advantage of that freedom as a kid? Quite simply, it cannot. It is that U.S. youth is not stifled by expectations and a rigid schedule, but is rather allowed to experience independence of the mind at the youngest of ages. Although to an Asian parent allowing one’s kid to pretend to be a spaceman, or play laser tag with friends might seem worthless, the truth is that those are some of the most beneficial out-of-classroom experiences. They allow children to think creatively. It is not surprising that the U.S. has been able to out-innovate China for so long.

I’m not saying that the Chinese are wrong in their parenting styles, for success is found often in both China, and among Chinese-Americans. What I am saying however is that although the “Tiger Mom” may think she has parenting down cold, play dates, sleepovers, food fights and camping trips, might be what her kids are missing to be truly successful.


1 Comment

Filed under Cultural

One response to “Exploration of Imagination

  1. Ellen Moeller

    It’s funny that you mention Amy Chua because I actually saw an interview with her about her book on a talk show. As much as I can understand the desire to discipline children, I think it is wrong to stifle the imaginative sides of childhood. Play dates and non-academic activities are vital in socializing children, and it is important to remember that success in life doesn’t just come from getting all A’s. I am surprised that there is not more resentment from children toward their parents, specially for Chinese-American children living in the U.S. who watch their peers enjoy playtime activities and freedom of imagination and creativity. I understand that the cultures are different, but in the long run I think that this type of parenting is actually hurtful for a society because it diminishes from individuality and ability to work with and understand others.

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