As a girl or actually when I was older, I guess, I collected lions. I had a bunch of Steiff lions, in particular. Who knows what attracted me to the lion, or if I spent any time thinking about it? I liked the way they looked, and I think that was it. Later on, when I got married, I thought it was indeed surprising that I married a man with a reddish beard, so that he had a slight look of a lion. And then of course, we both love Van Morrison, so that fits very nicely with the theme, if that’s what I was looking for in a literarily significant world. I do think that I mothered as a lioness, a bit fierce and very protective at the same time. So the motif still fits, I think.
Speaking of lions, though, of course I’ve been following the whole tiger mom thing. For those of you who possibly have not, or need a refresher course, the article was published back in the WSJ on January 8. It has brought more comments than any other article to this point. And of course I think it’s on the one hand horrifying and on the other hand, a breath of fresh air. We Americans do tend to overpraise, which leads to emptiness. And yet Chua herself has had to defend herself by saying that she was writing often tongue-in-cheek. Well, that didn’t come out well in translation, did it? A delightful follow-up article has this little bit of enlightenment to add, referring to a retort by Larry Summers. I will highlight the most salient points here:
And yet even the stern intendant of traditional academic values couldn’t quite bring himself to endorse the hard-ass Asian mothering style. Surprisingly for an academic who has won almost all the glittering prizes, he challenged the idea—cherished by Ms. Chua and her admirers—that academic success as a route to a rewarding career should be the sum of a child’s ambitions.
“Which two freshmen at Harvard have arguably been most transformative of the world in the last 25 years?” he asked. “You can make a reasonable case for Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, neither of whom graduated.” If they had been the product of a Tiger Mom upbringing, he added, their mothers would probably have been none too pleased with their performance.
The A, B and C alums at Harvard in fact could be broadly characterized thus, he said: The A students became academics, B students spent their time trying to get their children into the university as legacies, and the C students—the ones who had made the money—sat on the fund-raising committee.
I too do not believe in Mr. Rogers and his I like you just the way you are. I think I’ve written about that before. Oh yeah, here, pretty much right at the start. Children of all ages need more than anything else a sense of goal. If you have already accomplished it all, then what next? And if it is all external, then there is no drive to succeed, and it will be only for the candy and never for the sake of the learning/accomplishing itself. That’s so simple. And academic achievement is possibly, as Mr. Summers alludes to, just one way of getting somewhere, but not the main event.
But maybe we can say that we should be Shabbos animals. Maybe we should be saying that for the six days we toil and struggle for the goals and then one day a week, we can look back and say we did good. Yes, we all need that, no matter what kind of animal we are. And that’s where we need to help each other reflect what we have done and whether it is indeed very good.
And I shall search my soul
I shall search my very soul
And I shall search my very soul
I shall search my very so-o-oul
For the lion
For the lion
For the lion
For the lion…
Inside of me
Oh, oh, yeah