Hu Jintao, Amy Chua and the temptation of the East

In his great small book of the early 20th century, The Temptation of the West, Andre Malraux proposed that the question of the century would be: How will the Chinese adapt to individualism? The question we might ask today as President Hu Jintao visits the United States is, how will the West adapt to the rise of China? So far, I am afraid, not very well. Western people are dreaming now of tigers and dragons. Bad dreams.

Possibly only few can make the journey across the Pacific. Kelsey Grammer’s Frasier, uncomfortable in Seattle with the Hindu waitress at the coffee shop, may long for the Irish charm and camaraderie of the “Cheers” bar in Boston. But those who will be successful in this American journey will travel the path west with him because America’s future faces across the Pacific.

The dragon has landed in D.C., and the tiger at Yale. Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” has brought widespread reaction this past week. Writer Ayelet Waldman and her daughters have spent time “raging against the essay and crafting compelling and bombastic rebuttals.” New York Times columnist David Brooks called her “a wimp.”

Chua’s essay is an entertainment. In writing how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids, she says her two daughters were never allowed to: attend a sleepover, have a playmate, 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.

But her essay comes with a warning. As President Hu visits Washington today, 90 girls in just one high school in Tennessee are pregnant or have just had a baby. Nurseries are a common feature today in high schools throughout the South. So ends the American century.

Hopefully Chua’s clever children will join the committed Yale alumni who work diligently in Teach for Kentucky at least for a time, because something needs to be done, and what we have done to date hasn’t worked.

Possibly because, as Chua writes in The Wall Street Journal, “Western parents try to respect their children's individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they're capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.”


Visit Mr. Quigley's website at http://quigleyblog.blogspot.com.

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