By William Markiewicz

Sitting in a cafe, my friend began to tell me about a new book by a Chinese woman professor, Amy Chua "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." I understood that she is a true 'Tiger Mother': none of the children's school grades could be below A or, better, A+. All their time was exclusively consecrated to studies. No rest days, no holidays, no games, no meetings with friends. One unknown person overhead our discussion and bragged that in his own family his children are educated in the same way -- the grades must grow higher and higher. I didn't participate in the conversation mostly to avoid dragging it out but I already had my own opinion that I knew I wouldn't keep to myself.

If the goal of life is happiness -- what else should it be -- then the principle of living is not to grow beyond yourself but to find yourself. A friend of mine quotes Confucius, saying, "When you do what you like, it will never be work." Then, to avoid useless effort, one shouldn't be superior in ALL the disciplines, but only in those to which your natural talents lead you. Well trained children may become members of a very well functioning society but only outstanding individuals make outstanding societies. Individuals who are good in everything are like well-trimmed soldiers -- each a portrait of the other. This kind of society is less solid than we think -- any historical tremor may make them fall like apparently healthy looking trees with roots weaker than we can guess. Good roots need to be not only strong but elastic to sustain tremors, and rigid education blocking joy of life from childhood contributes to the collective sclerosis. Therefore I would propose that we not only control children but also observe children to discover what they are most individually inclined toward and encourage those directions. There are children who are less expressive to the exterior world, or maybe, children who are rather indifferent. To those last I would suggest some test to find themselves on the long and hard pathway of life.

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