Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tiger Moms

Much buzz is going around about the book on Tiger Moms. The author has had death threats by her detractors, and has been elevated to star status by her supporters. It's obviously a hot-button issue. Most hot-button issues are driven by emotions, and most emotions are aroused by our perception of our realities. We feel strongly about our kids and we feel strongly about how to raise them. Sometimes that has to do with imitating Mom and Dad, other times it has to do with precisely the opposite.

What seems abundantly clear, however, is that we don't agree on how it should be done. It's part of a bigger issue. There has been in our society a rather widespread breakdown of the consensus on morality and values that undergirds a cohesive and stable society. That's another way of saying that we're going through massive changes. There are the conservative voices like the Tiger Mom that seeks to maintain values from times past that have proven themselves effective in some ways. There are progressive voices that try to explore new options in light of values from the past that from a current perspective were not helpful. But we're not at all in agreement about the things that should and shouldn't be changed. Consequently, there is widespread experimentation with all kinds of models, and the most volatile of them all are the models we employ when we seek to form and socialize the next generation. No wonder the buzz.

So what now? I think the saving issue lies in energetic and brutally honest, but mutually respectful dialog. This morning on Good Morning America Juju Chang interviewed the author of the book Tiger Moms. Both are Korean in background, both were raised by the arch-typical "tiger mom," and each came to conclusions on how to raise their children almost diametrically opposite one another. They were straight-forward about their differences, but also respectful of one another. Each could see in the end strengths in the others' perspective, but maintained the core of their own at the same time. It left me with a sense that the dialog itself is the key to the future. We could get polarized more and more on a greater and greater number of issues until we fracture and fall apart as a society. Our political structure will follow and that is usually a rather bellicose and bloody military road, one we walked one day in our past and are still feeling the effects. We don't want to go there again. It seems the only way forward is an all-out concerted effort to rebuild a social consensus. That has to happen through this kind of dialog. It will take a long time, perhaps even 20 years, but it will not happen if we don't begin to talk to one another now.

In my humble opinion the interpersonal values that have become paramount in our society are 1) a willingness to reflect and develop as deep a sense of self-awareness we possibly can (Socrates said that un unreflected life is not worth living) 2) an eagerness to engage, to speak genuinely and energetically about what we believe to be right and helpful in society and what we find to be destructive, and then 3) be willing to listen carefully to the other, consider their opinions respectfully and reflectively, and seek to find common ground.

That's my buzz about the topic.

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