I finally got around to reading Amy Chua’s stirring defense of the “Tiger Mom” approach to parenting. For those unfamiliar with her parenting techniques, she sums it up for you:
Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:
• attend a sleepover
• have a playdate
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• watch TV or play computer games
• choose their own extracurricular activities
• get any grade less than an A
• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin.
Chua proceeds to justify this approach both in this article and in her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. On the surface this strict approach seems to work. Her children and a staggeringly high proportion of Chinese-American school children perform remarkably well in school. Furthermore, her comments about western parents’ obsession with the self esteem of their children are not completely off the mark.
Let’s assume that this strict approach is the best way to ensure that a child achieves academic success (ignoring for the moment that I was permitted to do all of the things that her children were not and I still managed to earn a Ph. D). Setting aside any reservations one has about this almost totalitarian style form of parenting, my question is: and then what? In other words, after ensuring that your kid gets that Harvard degree, what have you done as a parent to make sure that they are a well-rounded human being? In case I’m not clear enough about what I’m alluding to, let me phrase it this way: is the goal of life to simply get a great education, achieve academic success, and then land a good job? Is that all there is? Does it strike anyone that there seems to be a few things missing from the priorities established by the likes of Chua? Maybe she addresses these concerns in the book – I wasn’t plopping down $12 to download it to my Kindle – but this seems like an awfully shallow approach to human life.
Which leads me to another story, also a couple of weeks old (I’ve been busy). Representative Gwen Moore of Wisconsin spoke in favor of continued funding of Planned Parenthood, implying that in the absence of Planned Parenthood we’d have more children eating Ramen Noodle soup and mayonnaise sandwiches. The gist of her comments were that it is better to be aborted than to live a life of such drudgery. Again, I will leave aside the personal note that I eat instant noodle soup – in other words the stuff that’s even cheaper than Ramen – just about every day. For the moment we’ll agree with Rep. Moore that eating Ramen is a fate worse than hell.
Her comments reveal much about the pro-abortion mindset. Life simply isn’t worth living if you don’t have the material comforts. I mean, if we can’t at least have some bologna, ham, and cheese sandwiches every now and then, what’s the point of continuing with one’s existence?
Sure it might be easy for a middle class whitey to pooh-pooh the inconveniences of growing up in dire poverty. I can’t possibly relate to the experience of those who grew up with material want, even if I was hardly an heir to the Rockefeller fortune myself. But I’d like to think that most people would choose life over death, even if that life was one of relative poverty. On the other hand Moore – and other pro-aborts have expressed similar sentiments – think that the dread future of munching on white bread smeared with mayonnaise is the worst thing imaginable. Frankly, I think a doctor taking forceps and crushing my skull while I lay in my mother’s womb would be much more discomforting, but again I’m just a heartless tea bagger, so what do I know?
It may seem a bit odd to pair Chua and Moore, but they both represent the same side of our materialist culture. What I mean is that both seem to value human existence only by material worth. For Chua, having her children succeed in school, presumably so that they might land materially rewarding jobs, is her overarching goal as a parent. Certainly my daughters’ future education is a prime concern of mine as a parent, but it’s only one of many things keeping me up at night. As for Moore, she thinks abortion is a necessity to avoid the unpleasantness of not having all that one desires materially. Again, I know it’s easy for one who isn’t materially deprived to decry materialism, but there is more to life than accumulating stuff and achieving academic and professional success. Certainly we should strive to better ourselves academically, and as parents it is certainly important to provide some level of comfort to our children. But I’d like to think that the most important values I bequeath to my children are related to family and faith. And if we have to share some Ramen Noodles along the way, so be it. It’s actually pretty tasty.