What profit a tiger mom if she... ?

Amy Chua hit a nerve last month. In early January, her book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," made its debut like Tom Brady dropping in on a sorority house. Book reviews and columnists leaped on the book. Local talk shows had the perfect topic to keep the blood flowing in cold weather. No one, least of all the talk show hosts, could keep from entering the fray and taking sides.

For those few who were too busy shoveling January's snow, Amy Chua is a Chinese-American mother of two, apparently accomplished, teenage daughters. She is also a Yale University law professor. Her Tiger-mother method of parenting boils down to all-work-and-no-play-makes-Jack-and-Jill Ivy League shoe-ins. Dull? Forgetaboutit!

The Tiger Mother Method [TMM] requires a parental full-court attack on the prevailing world of childhood. Professor Chua brags that her daughters were not allowed to watch TV, play videogames, have sleepovers, have playdates, get less than A grades in school or have any frothy deviations, like being in a school play or on a sports team. On the other hand, they must play either the piano or violin, and practice a minimum of three hours a day without complaint.

Chua's TMM is clearly an in-your-face rejection of the current American style of child rearing. First, American moms (and, yes, dads) have consciously or unconsciously thrown in with much of the self-esteem movement. We want our kids to be manifestly happy and we are there 24/7 with encouragement and rewards for effort and the slightest improvement. "Partial credit" at school and home earns rewards. Not so in the Chua TMM home. The only thing that "counts" is success at a very high level. Tiger Moms only care about accomplishments.

Second, American parents are guided by the caterpillar-to-butterfly metaphor. We warmly nurture the little creatures so that they will naturally discover their talents and skills and turn into these beautiful creatures who will one day fly away as free spirits. The Tiger Mom's approach is more like the blacksmith-anvil method of "pound away until you get the shape you want!" They are ready to sacrifice their children's (and their!) short term family comity and happiness for long term accomplishments. A major TMM goal is to have children who are not only highly successful, but deeply indebted to their parents and ready to stand by them in their old age. On the other hand, American parents settle for Social Security and emailed pictures from Cancun.

The indignation prompted by Professor Chua's book has been huge. While her Yale colleagues have not yet moved to rescind her faculty tenure, we are confident she has been blacklisted from the Law School dinner party circuit. But why the intense interest and outrage? Perhaps the TMM touches our national "worry button" about our children and our national survival. "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" has appeared at a moment of heightened national uncertainty and self-doubt. Many believe that America's best days are behind us. Right after the book's initial flurry of attention, the stone-faced Chinese Premier arrived on our shores, reinforcing our concerns about both our economy and our position as world leader.

Then too, there is our growing realization that our educational system is on the wrong course. Actually, the alarm bells have been sounding for two or three decades, as one set after another of scores on international assessment test of math and science have revealed American students to be mediocre or worse. Recently, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) released the 2009 test results in which 15-year-old students from 65 nations competed in knowledge of math, science and reading. But how well did U.S. students do? Short answer: mired in the middle. Of the 65 nations whose students took the PISA tests, U.S. 15 year-olds were 23rd in science; 24th in math; and 17th in reading. This was the first year that Chinese authorities allowed their students to compete, and they burst out of the gate with stellar results, coming out on top in all categories: math, reading and science.

Then there are the uncomfortable facts about U.S. youth's world leadership in out-of-wedlock births and the rate of STD infection, in obesity, anorexia, drug and video-game addictions and cheating. It is little wonder, then, that the Chua thesis hits a nerve!

This book holds the promise of provoking a serious debate about how we are raising our children and how our schools are educating them. One hopes that between the manifestos of learning-must-be-fun educational gurus and those of the newly recruited army of Tiger Moms some balance will be struck. For instance, before sending our children to the corner for their three hours of daily violin practice, we need to reassess the importance of the skills and attitudes learned playing in the school band. Team work has been the hallmark of much of America's success in business and science, and futurists assure us that intellectual breakthroughs will depend on the ability to add creatively to group efforts.

But most strikingly absent from Professor Chua's successful parenting diktat and the controversy that is swirling around it is the question, "What is success?" What is she and, by extension, the rest of us, trying to "produce"? Great violinists? Concert pianists? Or champion networkers and team players, kids whose group skills take them up the corporate or scientific ladder?

Strikingly absent in so much of our angst-ridden discussion of parenting and education is the moral goal, our responsibility to raise children with a moral compass and good habits. (Dare we say "virtues"?) In other words, children with character. Don't we really want children with the goals and habits which will keep them at their homework and piano practice and who will sit down in the lunchroom at the table with that oddball kid who the other kids make fun of and share his sandwich with him?

In other words, isn't our primary responsibility to aid the young to become committed followers of Christ?

Kevin and Marilyn Ryan edited "Why I Am Still a Catholic" [Riverhead Books, 1998] and live in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...