Monday, May 9, 2011

You can't be a tiger mother when you can't feed your children

In her article for The Nation on Mother's Day ("It Takes a Village, Not a Tiger"), Katha Pollitt nails it on the head.

All of these discussions about tiger mothers. attachment parenting, whether to home school or send to private school or use cloth or disposables, and various other parenting topics obscure an absolutely critical issue:
"Your ex may have run off with your best friend, your apartment may be too small, you may hate your job—but you are still a white-collar, college-educated, middle-class person. And that makes all the difference for your children. The biggest barrier to educational achievement today is not any of the things the media talk endlessly about: poorly prepared teachers, badly run schools, too many tests, low standards. It’s child poverty—which, like poverty in general, has just dropped out of the discourse."

Pollitt shares facts from the National Center for Children in Poverty: 
  • One in five families is food-insecure (they don’t have enough food for everyone in the family at least some of the time).
  • Poor children are more exposed to secondhand smoke (32 percent vs. 12 percent of nonpoor children).
  • They are more likely to have low or moderate levels of lead in their blood, lack health insurance and dental care, and have asthma.
  • They are more likely to have missed five or more days of school for health-related reasons.
  • Poor kids are more likely to have “definite or severe” emotional, behavioral, or social problems; be obese; get insufficient exercise; be diagnosed with ADHD or other learning disabilities; and have mothers who are in poor health.
  • They are also more likely to have moved in the last year (causing disrupted schooling), have a parent in prison, or have spent time in foster care.

Pollit points out that the "parenting wars" are not about children in general; instead they are about each person's own child.

The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother focuses exclusively on how Amy Chua could create the perfect children (to become superstars in adulthood). I do not recall any mention of or focus on community service or a desire to direct her children's attention to people outside of their own family. Granted, they did travel widely as a family, but they appear to have done so in a highly privileged fashion.

But whether Chua is a "good mother" or not effectively obscures the most important issue of all: our children are suffering, and not enough people are paying attention.


  1. Great brings up things that have struck me about the media for a long time. There's so much focus on relatively superficial things, while ignoring the grand scale.

  2. Thanks. Yes, it's true. The media pulls us into this battle with each other, while ignoring the more important issues. Same with politics.