BEIJING - Amy Chua, a Chinese-American law professor at Yale University, aroused some heated debate last year about the Asian style of education -- setting off arguments not just in the U.S, but also in China. Her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother went to the top of the best-seller list.
Now she has a rival, Xiao Baiyou, a successful Chinese businessman, who proudly recounts how three of his four children were accepted into China’s most prestigious university, Peking University, known popularly as Beida. Xiao has nicknamed himself Wolf Dad, ready to take on the American-born Chinese Tiger Mom.
But while Chua’s book sparked some lively debate about parenting, Xiao’s “My Beida Children” has set off outrage in China. Whereas Chua advocates absolute majestic authority in front of children, Xiao believes “in the most traditional and primitive old methods” in disciplining his children. He oppresses his children by constant scolding and, if necessary, physical punishment.
Madame Chua claimed that she used to insist her daughters play piano every day. When her daughters didn’t master a piece of music, they were obliged to practice it after dinner, late into the night, forbidden to drink water or go to the toilet. Xiao goes further. He summarizes his educational philosophy in a phrase that makes a catchy rhyme in Chinese: “Beat your children every three days. They’ll definitely get into Beida.”
Looking strictly at their final academic results, both parents do seem to have achieved what they call success. The elder daughter of Amy Chua performed at Carnegie Hall and was offered admission by both Harvard and Yale at the age of 17. Three out of four of Xiao Baiyou’s children entered China’s most prestigious university. They are all said to be well-balanced in every way, as well as talented in arts.
Some say that entering Beida or Harvard does not necessarily equate with success, just as not entering doesn’t mean failure. I for one think that we should not be obsessed about what the concept of success implies. Winners have a thousand features, but losers have only one face. Rather more to the point is whether or not the educational methods of the tiger mom or wolf dad are to be duplicated.
Picasso disguised as Einstein
Confucius said “Educate accordingly and individually.” The importance of teaching is to adapt to the student’s capability so as to get the best out him. No doubt, there is some rationality in these two Chinese parenting philosophies. Some stones can be cut and polished to become beautiful sculptures, though others just chip even with the lightest touch. Rotten wood cannot be made into beautiful artifacts, nor can a potential Picasso be forced to become an Einstein.
Do children have the freedom to choose their own path? Are children only subject to what their parents consider worthwhile achievements? A liberal education not only refers to the educator’s freedom to educate, but also the student’s freedom to learn. The purpose of education should be about giving one freedom.
In Chinese the word “democracy” literally means “The people are the boss.” Mr. Xiao turns the word around and claims that “I’m the boss, you are the people.” In other words, his children have no choice but absolute obedience towards him. The philosophies of the Tiger Mom and Wolf Dad are savage.
Of course the two books have both become hits, due in part, to brilliant marketing. Still, there are plenty of parents who identify with their ways of parenting, or who try to gain some wisdom out of the books.
If one looks more closely into the Chinese background of the Tiger Mom and Wolf Dad phenomenon, one would probably understand that it’s related to the fact that all of China today is being overrun by wolf culture.
The essence of wolf culture is to regard the society we live in as a jungle. Parents are educating their children to become like wolves, and this is even more the case for the least privileged. They know their children, not being from powerful or rich families, won’t survive in the ruthless and unscrupulous competition if they do not behave like wolves.
Who doesn’t wish success for his own children? However, from what I have read, Xiao’s children behave more like silent lambs than fierce wolves. They don’t know the taste of freedom, nor do they have the courage of rebellion. This is exactly the favorite species of all dictators, past and future.
Read the original article in full in Chinese
photo - Ernop