“Battle Hymn” draws criticism

February 3, 2011

(photograph courtesy Yale Law School)

In a January 18, 2011, New York Times op-ed column, David Brooks declared, “Amy Chua is a Wimp.” I have worked with Amy Chua on several occasions and want to proclaim resoundingly and emphatically that Amy Chua is not a wimp!


(image courtesy Amazon.com)

Brooks was responding to Professor Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and her unwillingness to let her daughters go on sleepovers. He thinks she is afraid to have her daughters confront challenging social situations. As a parent of two daughters, this writer suggest that Amy places a lesser value on the popularity of her children than do many Western parents. In his view, Amy was just wise before her age. In any event, Louisa, the younger daughter (and presumably Sophia, the elder, as well) has met challenging social situations, in that she is concertmaster for a prestigious youth orchestra; and both girls were compelled to deal with the social dynamics of a classroom in an elite private school.

Chua and daughters

(photograph courtesy The Wall Street Journal: Erin Patrice O'Brien)

After writing two books applying macro analyses, World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability and Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance -- and Why They Fall, Amy has given us an intimate portrayal of the family life of a Yale Law faculty couple for which we are most appreciative.  Amy gives us a glimpse of not only her family but also of her marvelous Samoyeds which not only could lie on her to keep her warm at night in this miserable New Haven winter but actually compel her to exercise—they run her!

My critique has nothing to do with her parenting style, for the highest honor this writer has received is to have finished twenty-third on the 1962 state examination for Latin IV (Vergil) in the state of Indiana, but his Mother had her “Tiger” moments, even though she was from Arkansas. Rather Amy fails to address the “nature” component in the nature-nurture controversy.  Far before they received the gift of her tough love parenting, they were genetically blessed. How many kids have two law professors for parents, and even more exceptional, how many have two Yale law professors for parents -- two Yale law professors who have published books simultaneously. Their father, Jed Rubenfeld, has just published his second novel, The Death Instinct. You know the girls are exceptional, because Amy reveals in her epilogue (Coda) that she consulted with them, and they approved of her writing about them.

(photograph courtesy The Guardian: by Lorenzo Ciniglio)

A remaining question I have is whether Chinese American parenting can yield different outcomes. What happens if altruism, rather than music, were the parents’ highest value? Could they produce another Saint Francis or a Dorothy Day using Amy’s parenting techniques?

The purpose of this blog posting is not to announce the publishing of the Battle Hymn. The book has been widely touted from the Today Show (January 11th) to this week’s cover of Time (January 31st), and Amy has even been interviewed by the Yale Daily News (January 18th).

(photograph courtesy Time Magazine)

Rather it is to encourage you to pick up the book and read it. It is a delightful, quick read, and affords a great break from reading substantive law. Amy’s wry wit makes it go down like chocolate!


                                                                                                        -----Daniel Wade

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