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Mark Steinberg

Mark Steinberg

Posted: January 19, 2011 06:52 PM

Yale Law professor Amy Chua has written an article that has everyone up in arms. It argues that the child-rearing methods of Chinese mothers are superior to those of the Moms of America.

Among the list of Professor Chua's "don'ts" during the rearing of her own children was allowing them to attend sleepovers; to get grades beneath an "A"; and to play any instrument other than the violin or piano (no exclusion for the viola or forte-piano).

It's hard to argue with Professor Chua, both because she's a Yale Law professor and because she's very likely got a gun in her desk drawer. I'd suggest, however, that there are more ways to skin a kid than skinning a kid.

I grew up in a nurturing home in Chicago. By "nurturing," I mean a home in which the kids were force-fed. When we came home with anything less than a "C," my mother shoved brisket down our throats. When we asked to sleep out--in the alley behind our house or at Child Protective Services--we could expect the next morning to down, as she stood over us, seven pancakes, a liter of scrambled eggs, three bagels and a pork chop (we were non-observant).

In essence, we were penned geese, and although my mother never acted on the threat, we were in constant fear that when we were asleep our livers would be harvested for foie gras.

My mother also made us do everything by the clock. If we reached the table a couple of minutes late, the time was subtracted from our belching timeout. If we ended one of our fourteen hour practice sessions early, we were forced to stand in the corner and read aloud volume one of Julia Childs' Mastering the Art of French Cooking, including the index. If we looked at the TV, she handed us two frozen orange juice cans, made us swallow the contents, then refused to let us connect them with a piece of string. And that was when the TV wasn't on.

Admittedly, she got results. We learned to play instruments early in our lives. I won a full scholarship to the Phoenix University School of Music for my rendition of the Vivaldi Piccolo Concerto in C Major. My brother threw up during his audition with the Provo Symphony but was saved by the fact that there was a hole in the Jews harp section. And while my self-esteem--which Professor Chua regards as a highly overrated concern of American parents--couldn't be detected by an atomic microscope, I did regard myself as a sure thing in some future Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest.

All of which leads me to Professor Chua's next challenge: elucidating the superior methods employed by Chinese women in handling their spouses. These rules, I'm guessing, while more sophisticated than those she applied in rearing her children, are doubtlessly as meticulously defined.

For example, a toilet roll would have to be installed so that the sheets came off the top. The penalty for failure would be proofreading a law review article in which she argues that China's censorship laws are a highly effective tool for getting people to come to the point.

Another rule might be that her spouse, Yale Law Professor Jed Rubenfeld, is not permitted to mispronounce her name. A transgression would require Jed to stand up at a faculty meeting and ask that his colleagues thenceforth to refer to him as Professor Chua. And to pronounce it for them.

Finally, Professor Rubenfeld (or, if given a partial reprieve, Rubenfeld/Chua) would be required to drive their two children to their hourly therapy sessions, and would be forbidden to tell his wife what the kids said to their therapists. A slip on this one would carry the most serious penalty of all:

Rubenfeld/Chua would have to explain this crap to his mother.