A tale of choice and two mothers

Battle hymn of the Tiger Mother has gained world-wide attention and made the author of the Book, Yale law school professor Amy Chua, a household name. Chua argues that children on their own never want to work, and that western parents concerns over children’s self-esteem leads to a lack of academic progress for their children in comparison to their Asian counterparts:

“Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn’t get them, the Chinese parent assumes it’s because the child didn’t work hard enough. That’s why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and to improve from it.”

On her blog, author MayleeChai says that the debate about Asian versus western parenting styles is merely masking a wider social inequality that exists in America. Chua, Lee argues, has the money and connections to access the right schools and after-school tuition in order for their children to flourish:

“we are creating an entitled class (yes, they are smart, they go to good schools, they work hard, but they also have the opportunity to do so) and an underclass, who cannot get ahead no matter how hard they work because they simply do not have access to the best education, connections, and opportunities that the elite enjoy. This divide is dangerous.”

As if on cue came the story of Kelley Williams-Bola. The Ohio single mother was jailed for registering her two daughters at her father’s address daughters in order to get the girls zoned into a better-performing school district. By way of context it is useful to remember that schools in America suffer massive inequalities in funding. Williams-Bola worked as a teacher aid in the school district she was trying to get her kids out of. The district is highly impoverished and the school performance was sub-standard. Meanwhile the schools the girls were enrolled in, just a few kilometers away, were white middle-class schools with excellent academic performance.

What makes this case so gut wrenching awful is that Kelley Williams-Bola was just a few credits away from completing her education degree but likely won’t be able to teach due to her conviction.

But if you were looking for case studies in how culture shapes education, they are two very interesting examples.

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