Developing Creativity for a Knowledge Economy, play more, obsess less

Being Asian I am used to the concept of Tiger Mom.  WSJ wrote an article on why Chinese Mothers are superior.  Many of you may think these are the type of people you want to have on your team, obsessed over achievers.

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it's like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I've done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

Erin Patrice O'Brien for The Wall Street Journal

Amy Chua with her daughters, Louisa and Sophia, at their home in New Haven, Conn.

• attend a sleepover

• have a playdate

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

• watch TV or play computer games

• choose their own extracurricular activities

• get any grade less than an A

• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

• play any instrument other than the piano or violin

• not play the piano or violin.

Luckily, my mom was not a tiger mom.  She let us play which was way more fun and creative.

Guess what one of the most successful economies in the world Singapore with a large chinese influence has the Prime Minister challenging the role of the tiger mom.  The Economist covers this topic.

ONCE upon a time most of the tiny island-state of Singapore was a jungle. That is nearly all gone now, but the country is still heavily populated by tigers. These strict, unyielding felines, celebrated by Amy Chua in her book on the superiority of Chinese parenting, “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”, load their cubs down with extra homework and tuition to make them excel at school. Western parents are usually horrified at the pressure the tiger mums exert on their children to get better grades or become concert violinists, preferably before puberty. But in Singapore this style of parenting, especially among the ethnic Chinese majority, is rarely questioned.

The controversial part is

Imagine, then, the surprise when the prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, launched an attack on tiger mothers in a speech in late August to mark Singapore’s national day. Most of his remarks celebrated Singapore’s success, as usual. But then he berated parents for coaching their three- or four-year-old children to give them that extra edge over the five-year-old competition. And he added: “Please let your children have their childhood…Instead of growing up balanced and happy, he grows up narrow and neurotic. No homework is not a bad thing. It’s good for young children to play, and to learn through play.”


But the anxiety behind the comments is that hard-studying Singaporeans lack creativity and an ability to think laterally. This is now seen as a competitive disadvantage in what are often called “knowledge economies”, where innovation and inventiveness are at a premium. Are the tiger mothers, Mr Lee seems to be wondering, now putting Singapore’s future prosperity at risk?

The Knowledge Economy is the future built on top of the data centers being built now.  Would you rather have a room of anti-social over achievers or a out of the box creative innovators analyzing your data?  

Can the innovative services of the future be created by the kids who were raised by tiger mom's?  It looks like the Singapore Prime Minister has figured this out.