I am officially tired of hearing about the Tiger Mom phenomenon. If our students’ test scores in America were not so dismal, relatively speaking, no one would be paying attention. Everyone is responding out of fear—that we’re being left behind, that we won’t have the tools to compete, that the tiger children will scoop up all the jobs. Some of this fear may be well founded. No one knows what will become of the children who mark A instead of C on standardized exams that arrive too frequently and without relevance to students’ lives. Students hate the tests. Most teachers see them as obstacles to the true teaching that could be happening and the learning that can’t always be measured by an exam created by some distant company that is being rewarded quite nicely financially, thank you very much. Tests are tests. They’re snapshots. They don’t tell the whole story. And the fear will merely fuel the race to create more tests, purchased by administrators with business degrees or by former educators who have been out of the classroom too long and have forgotten that progress can’t always be squeezed into a standard deviation.
To be clear, I don’t support tiger parenting: the relentless pursuit to land at the top with little regard to reflection or playfulness. I also don’t support the other extreme, the so-called helicopter parents who protect and build self-esteem at all costs, which turns out to be flimsy because the esteem is unearned. Both extremes seem, to me, to emphasize outcomes over process, success over joy, and winning over understanding.