The Hybrid Tiger: A book review by Bob Morris

Hybrid TigerThe Hybrid Tiger: Secrets of the Extraordinary Success of Asian-American Kids
Quanyu Huang
Prometheus Books (2014)

Why what a country can achieve depends almost entirely on the education and cultivation of its children

As I began to read this book, I came up with a brilliant idea: Have K-12 students in China and the U.S. attend schools in China. Then, perhaps, have all high school graduates serve for two years in the Israeli Army before attending colleges and universities in the United States. Of course, I haven’t as yet worked out all the logistics. That will be somewhat of a challenge as will convincing their parents.

Quanyu Huang asserts that a proper and thorough examination of the relative strengths and weaknesses of American and Chinese education reveals two paradoxical patterns. “First, if analysis is confined to students at the primary and secondary levels, there is no question that [Chinese education] is undoubtedly ‘better’ during these early phases.” In fact, he believes it is “peerless.”

In the later stages of education, however, “there is a surprising, countervailing pattern. At the highest kevels of academic and scientific achievement, the very same Chinese-educated students who in the early stages [begin italics] struggle [end italics] to have any impact at all. In fact, in terms of important postgraduate scientific research, researchers at Chinese universities and institutions have almost entirely failed to contribute anything of note.”

My reference earlier to the Israeli Army was not entirely frivolous. At least some research based on recent statistics (e.g. registered patents per capita) suggests that Israel is one of the world’s most innovative countries. Mandatory military service prior to enrollment in higher education is cited as one of the main reasons.

I was especially interested in Huang’s lively discussion of Amy Chua, author of the bestselling Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother in which she devotes substantial space to explaining and defending her personal philosophy, one she claims is “Chinese parenting.” What does he think of her and her controversial ideas? Most people do not realize that how she has raised her daughters “is alien to most Chinese families. Indeed, her harsh, anachronistic methods are out of date and [begin italics] far [end italics] outside of what is acceptable and encouraged in mainstream society in China today; it should go without saying that it’s below the standards of most Chinese-American parents.” Hua’s self-description as a “Tiger Mother” may be an accurate one of her but not of a real female tiger mother who is “always unbelievably nice to her kids. Indeed, she’s a pushover! Real tigers coddle their children, exhibiting infinite patience and understanding.” So much for Amy Chua.

Huang is an advocate of what he characterizes as “Co-Core Synergy Education,” a hybrid of two cores of education: Chinese and American. “Synergy education can make kids – not just Asian-American kids, but American kids as well – stronger…American parents and educators should identify and incorporate the most effective strategies used in Asian-American parenting and education. Likewise, education in China could benefit from a careful exploration of the strengths of American parenting and education in search for strategies that might help Chinese education produce not only successful exam takers, but also knowledge creators who might vie for Nobel Prizes and the Fields Metal.” Quanyu Huang discusses all this in much greater detail, offering specific recommendations on how to prepare all children “to thrive in the competitive and constantly evolving global landscape in which we now reside.”

Posted in

Leave a Comment