It is common to hear professors at UC Irvine encouraging their students to pursue their passions to wherever it may lead. But in reality, how many of us Asian American students actually consider this? If your childhood resembles anything of mine, these are a few things you are never allowed to do:
- attend a sleepover
- have more than one play date a week
- choose an extracurricular activity besides one that has to do with orchestra
- indulge in too much television.
Asians are known to raise a certain type of stereotypically successful kids, particularly in the math and music department. I always wondered why my Vietnamese parents pride themselves in being so rigid in subjects that require a lot of staying indoors and practice. Asian parents like my own could have a little more faith in their children. Parents consume themselves in the chance that their child will not make it in the competitive world without a strategic and proven formula to follow. However, a new method to raise successful children may have been discovered. The four “Tiger Women” have already embodied this new breed of inspired females, who have combined strict Chinese academic ethics with bold Western innovations, topping their fields in the world’s fastest-growing major economy, China.
Amy Chua, extraordinarily successful author of The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, delves into the exemplary stories of China, which holds the highest amount of self-made female billionaires in the world! Chua dubs these four female tycoons as the Chinese Tigresses after their monumental success in integrating Western entrepreneurship into the dynamics of their business applications. Accumulating more wealth than they could ever fathom growing up in a patriarchal society, these women were liberated from China’s bland education system by being given a chance for an American education. Tigress Zhang Xin describes her rags to riches story starting with how miserable she was as a child, and how her mother drove her very hard in school, describing a generation that “didn’t know how to express love.” More frequently seen in Asian American families, the magnitude of one’s parent’s love is never truly translated with the added societal pressures on academic success.
Among the mothers that came to the United States, Zhang, a Tigress who found passion in the West, noticed a change in the attitudes of her professors. They encouraged students to think, emerge themselves in history and philosophy; subjects requiring emotion she was not used to. Zhang found herself falling in love with European culture at the University of Sussex, a place where her raw skills could be exercised without the overbearing parental provision that we are used to, telling us to “stay home and study more.” With her architectural savvy and innovative designs, Zhang shot to the top of the real estate elite, producing some of Beijing’s most iconic structures. In hindsight, Zhang quantifies this reoccurring ‘Asian’ parenting as a persistent problem in China. “Going forward, we need people who can invent. The reason China doesn’t have a Steve Jobs is because of the education system. China does not train enough people to think.”
Zhang has experienced these countries whose cultural traditions sit and build on entirely different sides of the spectrum. Asian culture demands utmost respect and obedience while American tradition views a “C” on an exam as grade level performance. In my opinion, China needs to express love in a more tender and obvious way while America could pull back on the self esteem boosting that lead to ungrateful children. A cultural tug of war of existing ideas will find a balance between the two as ethnic mixing becomes more prevalent.
In a sense, we are all the same. Women like my own mother find themselves in the same dilemma these Chinese Tigresses feel when deciding how to raise their Asian American children. It is up to our generation to pilot how our Asian heritage will be perceived for the years to come. Future children must be inspired, so this new breed can possess the Asian study habits of endurance and repetition without having their parents and teachers scare them away from making mistakes or asking stupid questions.
All parents can do is wish to leave a legacy through their children hoping that they will become happy, healthy and self-reliant. America and China represent two cultures that have different ways of achieving this. As a Vietnamese American student, I feel that the potential of our generation is limitless given the tools we are equipped with, and the first hand experience of age old values will transcend our society into an exciting era of bold, tradition-breaking developments worth being apart of.