January 9th, 2011 | Uncategorized

Yale Law prof talks Chinese mothers

Think your childhood was hard? Yale Law School professor Amy Chua’s two daughters were never allowed to “choose their own extracurricular activities,” “play any instrument other than the piano or violin” or “not play the piano or violin.” In an excerpt from her book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” published in the Wall Street Journal Saturday she details how her strict parenting techniques, similar to those of other Chinese mothers, has led to the success of her children.

In the article entitled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” Chua says that Western parents are concerned about their children’s self esteem, while Chinese parents are not. As a result, Chinese parents will push their children to perfection – criticizing, not praising, an A-minus. As for a B, there would be “a screaming, hair-tearing explosion” followed by dozens of practice tests. Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. Anything less than perfect is deemed a result of not working hard enough.

Chinese mothers often like to exert control over every aspect of their children’s lives.

“Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, ‘Hey fatty—lose some weight,’” Chua wrote, whereas “Western parents have to tiptoe around the issue, talking in terms of “health” and never ever mentioning the f-word.”

With over 1,700 comments, many of them negative, the article is generating an uproar among readers who find many of Chua’s opinions over-generalizing.

In the comments, one argued: “Most of these kids with traditionally Chinese parents seem completely miserable. The emotions I discerned between them and their parents? Fear.”

Another commenter wrote: “By the time I finished reading this article, I was shocked it was written by a Yale Law Professor. I thought the WSJ ran out of staff journalists and had to hired a freelancer from the Newsday to fill up the page. “

  • JoeJackson

    Only white people can be racist. If someone who is not white makes ludicrous generalizations about people based on “race” then it is not racist. Just remember that.

    And before you get too upset about this article, read her book about globalization. It’s bad because it threatens the dominance of certain groups… like the Chinese in the Philipines. Having the Chinese in charge there is good because they are better people than the natives. This again is not a racist position because only white people can be racist.

  • JoeJackson

    Also — the law school is really in favor of freedom of speech blah blah blah.

    But the students cannot put on the traditional skits mocking the faculty, because it would hurt the faculty’s feelings to have people speak openly about embarrassing things everyone already knows about. This is not a limitation on the freedom of speech.

    Just trying to head off misunderstandings.

  • MikeC

    I’m sure that the Yale Law School is proud that one of its chaired professors is chronicling her wild racist views and child psychological abuse for the world to see. Nothing like bigotry to promote your world-class institution.

    I was embarrassed and horrified to read that piece.

  • MikeC

    Her children’s future psychiatrist will name his yacht “The Amy Chua,” after its benefactor.

  • JLCalbears


  • JoeJackson

    MikeC, you are not paying attention. She is not white. She cannot be racist. If she were white then it WOULD be racist and the YLS p.c. police would be all over her. But she is not. So don’t try to stir up trouble.

  • River Tam

    I just finished reading this piece… and loved it. As someone who was raised by an immigrant (non-Chinese) mother, I agree with the philosophy behind Prof. Chua’s parenting, if not all the particulars of her method.

  • Sarah

    Who knows, maybe she’s just trying to ruffle feathers. I’m much more embarrassed by the quality of her writing. Perhaps her parents should have mixed some bedtime reading in with those math drills?

  • JoeJackson

    Sarah: You are such a racist. Only white people can write.

  • River Tam

    > Perhaps her parents should have mixed some bedtime reading in with those math drills?

    Magna at Harvard Econ, JD Cum Laude at Harvard Law, Execute Editor at the Harvard Law Review, associate at CGSH, tenure at Yale Law, and three published books.

    I think her writing is a-okay.

  • Goldie08

    “Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, ‘Hey fatty—lose some weight.’”

    And chinese daughters, upon reaching a certain age, can choose not to help or support their aging parent. I bet chinese mothering is a big contributor to the resentment many chinese young adults feel towards their parents – so much resentment that china is considering a law that would make it a crime for someone NOT to support his or her parents in old age.

    That being said, I believe that the chinese style of mothering does produce results – smart successful children. That are also insufferable dweebs with some deep issues.

  • BillJ

    Isn’t child abuse grounds for faculty dismissal at Yale–tenured or otherwise?

    What if, inspired by other-culture husband-wife relationship norms, a male faculty member were abusive toward his wife, then for monetary gain proudly boasted about the ‘successful’ outcome of his abusive methods (more cooperative and compliant wife) to the world for others to emulate. Would that male wife-abusing faculty member be retained by the university?

    I hope to see Yale uphold its humanitarian standards and show consistency in properly dealing with Amy Chua the coming weeks.

  • 11

    I was almost sold on Amy Chua’s argument for her style of parenting, until I found out that it produces people like River Tam.

  • River Tam

    See, that’s the sort of critical thinking that only a western mother can produce.

  • y09


    Re: racism
    It all depends on what your definition of “racism” is, but the folks who claim that minorities can’t be racist define racism as an institutional discrimination + the societal power to produce consequences as a result of that discrimination. Minorities can still be prejudiced against other groups, but they can’t be racist because they don’t have the power to turn their discrimination into any societal consequence.

    Not saying I necessarily agree, but just thought you might care to know the other side of the argument.

  • yashuo

    Amy Chua’s kids are going to have a hard time in college. IMO she doesnt understand the importance of sprezzatura among Ivy undergraduates.

    If she were Shanghainese she might have, but I am guessing she is Flip Fujianese/Cantonese by background.

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