At my daughters end of term dance show I was observant of the families of her Chinese classmates. I tried to catch the look on their faces (a difficult endeavour due to the number of technological paraphernalia they had brought with them to record their kids’ moves). Were there discerning eyes? Were their heads moving to the rhythm of the song reflecting hours of practice at home? I didn’t get that impression. They were only ecstatic and drooling just like the rest of us.
Amy Chua has caused a real phenomenon with her book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”. In it she proudly speaks about the iron discipline inculcated by Chinese mothers. It’s the method she used with her own daughters, and I think these lines summarize it welle: : “My daughter’s friend practice piano two hours per day. In my home after two hours we consider that the warm-up period has finished and only then we start the actual lesson”.
In some big cities like New York, the competition between mothers and the race towards creating a perfect child has turned into a real obsession. In such places, a young 6 year-old who isn’t bilingual is illiterate; at 3 years of age kids need to pass assessment tests to get admitted into nurseries. Amy Chua’s manifest is the standard for these families, who feel inferior compared to Oriental mothers and live terrified by this new Asian generation that gets scholarships and floods into the best schools.
However, a study commissioned by IBM proves the opposite. 1500 directives from more than 60 countries were asked what they considered to be the most important quality for today’s leaders. And these executives didn’t answer “discipline” or “dedication”. The top answer was creativity. And for 81%, the capacity for innovation is critical. For it’s true that discipline is fundamental to achieving objectives; but the world needs creators and entrepreneurs, not simple executors. Steve Jobs, Zuckerberg, Bezos… the greats don’t boast degrees; they boast new ideas. They have triumphed by skipping rules, defying their superiors, insisting and throwing tantrums.
The future is not for perfect children – those who are outstanding and only speak when they are asked to. These kids will step into the working world and remain seated. And the other kids, those who went out to the patio during piano class to touch the snow, will end up telling them what to do.