26 abril, 2011

Children do know what they want

In these days of “political correctness”, when we certainly watch our mouths (more than our actions), it is no surprise that Amy Chua’s provoking article Why Chinese mothers are superior started a firestorm.
Published in January of this year, the polemic and controversial article has raised nearly 9,000 comments. No wonder. Starting from the title, Chua, a Yale Law Professor, brags about what in the US has been called “the model minority”, contrasting Chinese parenting and Western parenting.
She opens up her paper with this sentence: “A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids.”
Successful kids? Wow, that’s quite an adjective for a kid, isn’t it? I mean, if there are “successful kids”, there have to be “unsuccessful kids” as well, and to condemn, from childhood, any person to “non-success” (I don’t want to say “failure”) seems to me criminal.
And, what is –for heaven’s sake- a “successful kid”? The quiet one, the studious, the A-grade student? And the rest of the kids? What is success anyway? Money, recognition, fame? Who says? The consumer society? How is it measured? With what standards?
We still view success as the one-fits-all shirt that we should all wear, without considering that, fortunately, we all come in different sizes. Great men such as Jesus, Gandhi, and Mandela have been great because they were different, none of them fit into the current “success” parameters.
Sadly, we idolize the wrong people, we celebrate appearance, we are bewildered by superficiality, when greatness lies in the heart, in our works, and in the love we profess to others.
One among the many comments made about Chua’s article caught my attention, namely, the commentator said that it’s a good thing to force the little ones to do certain things because children don’t know what they want (??!!).
Gee, this is like saying that developing countries need dictators. Children do know what they want, but, and this is the tricky part, sometimes what they want is not what their parents want, that’s a whole different thing. I still have the same interests that I had in my childhood, I’m still the same girl who pretended to be a teacher.

To judge people by their size, age, culture, social economic status, gender, etc. is a mistake that we as educators can’t afford to make. Once, a teacher told my son Jordi, who is and has been particularly small for his age, that he had no say in class because he was “too small”; when I went to his school to pick him up, he came running to me with teary eyes and a choked voice due to frustration and feeling powerless. He told me: “You know, Mom, I may look small on the outside, but I’m big on the inside.”

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