David Brooks has an interesting reply to Amy Chua's "Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother." Chua wrote that she pushes her kids hard to master skills such as mathematical calculation and musical performance, harder than other American mothers do. Brooks notes that there has been some fussing against her for being too hard on her kids. He, by contrast, is critical because she does not push her kids enough to learn the harder, social skills.
The book read by all first-year students at Centre this year was John Pomfret's Chinese Lessons. Pomfret first studied in China in the early 1980s. His fellows students remembered the worst days of the communist terror of the Cultural Revolution, and the long gray years of forced collective action afterwards. Pomfret was surprised to find that Chinese people were not inclined to do things collectively - they were much more individualistic than the supposedly individualist Americans, whenever the government let them be.
Putting these two stories together, I see Chua's fascinating piece differently than I did at first. I read her willingness to push her children to strenuous individual achievement as a feature of being closer to the immigrant generation than most Americans are. Now, though, I think Chua's particular kind of achievement push is more Chinese-American than it is just immigrant. She pushes her kids to individual effort, where other upper-middle class American parents push their kids to team achievement.
And the great ecology of America benefits from both kinds of skills, and both kinds of parental pressure.