Forget Superman (from the film Waiting for Superman).
Maybe you’ve heard of “Tiger Mom.” That’s the alias for 48 year-old Yale professor Amy Chua, whose book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” is causing
quite the controversy. She’s been all over the media, interviewed by anyone and everyone. Time magazine did an story about her, saying that she writes a “proudly politically incorrect” account of raising her children “the Chinese way.”
A main point of Ms. Chua that catches my attention is not how she lambastes Western parenting for allowing kids to spend hours on Facebook and video games rather than work on academics, but rather her notion that we (the West) have given our children a false sense of achievement and accomplishment by constant praise, for even the most simple of things that she says
are not worthy of praise. This artificial praise, she claims, has resulted in a false ego, if you will, where kids think they don’t need to study (hard) because they are artificially content with their knowledge base.
Having been an educator for more than a decade, I’m convinced there’s some merit to Tiger Mom’s notions. But I don’t think Western parenting is the only possible culprit (and don’t get me wrong, nobody is saying Western parents don’t mean well). I believe schools are complicit too. Here’s an example: for this year’s high-stakes state tests, students were rewarded (heavily) at my school for attendance during the test, perceived effort (because we can’t check their answers), and for completing it. Rewards? Ice cream and pizza, days where the uniform policy could be circumvented, and certificates, of course. But forget the test, because there is some logic in incentive there. How about this: my school rewarded students (and they had quite the publicity campaign about this) for returning their textbooks at the end of the year. So in essence, we’re saying this: here’s a reward for bringing back the free books we loaned you, which provide you with knowledge for your future, which if you don’t return (the books) you’ll be ineligible to graduate. What’s next? Rewarding kids for smiling? For bringing a pencil?
Yeah, I know I’m ranting a bit, but my colleagues and I see a current crop of students who seem more aned more to have a sense of entitlement; who are upset if not rewarded for the smallest of things; who are, as Tiger Mom says, convinced that they don’t have to work very hard because they’re ready for the real world. After all, that chocolate bar for doing the math lesson was all they needed to know they’re ready for college and the real world. Funny, I don’t get a chocolate bar for teaching all day. Am I doing a poor job of teaching?
Mr. Franklin has been teaching for the Los Angeles Unified School District for eleven years. He has won District and County Teacher of the Year awards, as well as the prestigious Bank of America Community Hero award. Before teaching, he spent five years at Learning Forum, which runs summer camps world-wide that increase student academic potential.