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告别虎爸虎妈

更新时间:2018-6-25 20:26:54 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The Last of the Tiger Parents
告别虎爸虎妈

In first grade, I arrived at my suburban elementary school as a sort of academic vaudeville trickster. My classmates stood speechless as I absorbed thick tomes on medieval history, wrote and presented research reports, and breezed through fifth-grade math problems like a bored teenager.

当进入一所郊区小学读一年级时,我就像是个学术杂耍魔术师。同学们目瞪口呆地看着我啃下一本本大部头的中世纪历史著作,写了研究报告并获得发表;摆着一副十来岁少年百无聊赖的样子,轻轻松松就做出了五年级的数学题。

My teachers anointed me a genius, but I knew the truth. My non-Asian friends hadn’t spent hours marching through the snow, reciting multiplication tables. They hadn’t stood at attention at the crack of dawn reading the newspaper aloud, with each stumble earning a stinging rebuke. Like a Navy SEAL thrown into a pool of raw conscripts, at 6, I had spent much of my conscious life training for this moment.

老师们把我奉为天才,但我知道真相。我的非亚裔朋友没有像我这样花几个小时在雪地里跋涉,背诵乘法表。他们并没有在黎明时分专心致志地站在那里高声朗读报纸,一丁点磕绊都会受到严厉的训斥。就像一个海豹突击队员被抛进一群青涩的应征入伍者一样,从记事以来,我把大部分时间都花在训练上,就为了六岁那年入学的这一刻。

To my authoritarian father, all has gone according to plan. I excelled in school, attending Amherst College and Harvard Law School. I’ve embraced his conventional vision of success: I’m a lawyer. But like many second-generation immigrant overachievers, I’ve spent decades struggling with the paradox of my upbringing. Were the same childhood experiences that long evoked my resentment also responsible for my academic and professional achievements? And if so, was the trade-off between happiness and success worth it?

对于我那专制的父亲来说,一切都是按计划进行的。我在学校表现优异,上了阿默斯特学院(Amherst College)和哈佛法学院(Harvard Law School)。我接受了他传统的成功愿景,当上了律师。但是,像许多第二代移民中的成绩优异者一样,我花了几十年的时间与成长中的这个悖论做斗争。长期令我怨恨的童年经历是否同样缔造了我在学业和专业方面的成就?如果是这样,用幸福交换成功的代价是否值得?

The way I and other Asian-Americans of my generation answer these questions could affect American society more broadly. My generation’s academic success has sparked a crisis of sorts in our country’s elite educational institutions. For example, despite having the highest poverty rate in New York City, Asian-Americans make up a large majority of students at the city’s premier public high schools — including 73 percent at the storied Stuyvesant — where admission is decided solely on the basis of a standardized test. Mayor Bill de Blasio has reacted by proposing to scrap the test to allow more white, black and Hispanic students to attend.

我和我这一代的其他亚裔美国人对这些问题的回答,可能会更广泛地影响美国社会。我们这一代的学术成就,引发了我们国家的精英教育机构的种种危机。例如,尽管是纽约市贫困率最高的群体,亚裔美国人在该市首屈一指的公立高中里占据了多数名额,在久负盛名的史岱文森高中(Stuyvesant),亚裔的比例占到了73%——该中学入学完全取决于标准化测试。白思豪(Bill de Blasio)市长最近提出废除考试,以便让更多白人、黑人和西语裔学生入学。

Meanwhile, Harvard faces a lawsuit claiming that the university artificially caps the number of Asian students by emphasizing non-merit-based factors in admissions, in the same way it deliberately designed its admissions policies in the 1920s to limit Jewish enrollment. Harvard itself has found that its share of incoming Asian students would more than double, to nearly half the class, if it considered only academic merit in deciding whom to admit.

同时,哈佛大学面临的一项诉讼称,该大学通过在招生中强调非成绩因素,人为限制了亚裔学生的数量,就像1920年代它故意设计招生政策以限制犹太人入学一样。哈佛已经发现,如果在入学录取时只考虑学术成就,那么其亚裔学生的入学份额将增加一倍以上,接近入学人数的一半。

Efforts to adjust these imbalances may or may not be warranted, but history also suggests they may naturally abate on their own. If the children of immigrants are often preternaturally driven, a phenomenon known as “second-generation advantage,” the grandchildren of immigrants usually experience “third-generation decline.” By the third generation, families absorb American cultural values, lose the feverish immigrant zeal to succeed and cease being, in any real sense, immigrants at all.

无论调整这些不平衡的努力是否正当,历史表明,这些不平衡可能会自然而然地减轻。移民子女往往拥有超乎寻常的动力,这种现象被称为“第二代优势”;而移民的孙辈们通常会经历“第三代衰落”。第三代家庭往往会吸收美国文化价值,不再对成功抱有狂热的移民激情,他们在各种真正的意义上已经不再是移民了。

I’ve experienced this transition myself, as I’ve started a family of my own. When I became a parent, I felt the wonder and uncertainty that accompany the awesome responsibility of fatherhood. But I was absolutely sure of one thing: The childhood I devise for my two young daughters will look nothing like mine. They will feel valued and supported. They will know home as a place of joy and fun. They will never wonder whether their father’s love is conditioned on an unblemished report card.

我自己也经历过这种转变,因为我建立了一个属于自己的家庭。有了孩子之后,我感受到了与身为人父那令人敬畏的责任同来的惊奇和不确定感。但我绝对确定一件事:我为两个小女儿设计的童年,将和我的童年完全不同。她们会感觉受到重视和支持。她们将认识到家是一个充满欢乐和乐趣的地方。她们永远不会怀疑父亲的爱是否建立在完美无瑕的成绩单上。

I’ve assumed this means my daughters might someday bring home grades or make life choices that my father would have regarded as failures. If so, I embrace the decline.

我认为这意味着,女儿们某一天带回家的成绩,或是做出的人生选择,可能会被我的父亲视为失败。如果是这样,我接受这种衰落。

During my constitutional law class, Akhil Amar — the only Asian-American professor I’ve ever had — asked for a show of hands: Whose parents immigrated to the United States after 1965? I joined all the other Asian students in raising my hand, along with a few white compatriots with hard-to-pronounce last names. As Mr. Amar explained, our American story was made possible by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, a groundbreaking statute that washed away a century of laws, like the frankly named Chinese Exclusion Act, aimed at making sure people like us never became Americans.

在宪法课上,我唯一的亚裔美籍教授阿克尔·阿马尔(Akhil Amar)要我们举手示意:谁的父母是在1965年移民到美国的?我和所有其他亚洲学生一起举起了手,还有几位姓氏难以发音的白人同学也举了手。正如阿马尔解释的那样,我们的美国故事是由于1965年的《移民与国籍法》(Immigration and Nationality Act)才得以实现的,这是一个开创性的法规,冲破了一个世纪以来那些旨在确保像我们这样的人永远不能成为美国人的法律——例如有着直白名称的《排华法案》(Chinese Exclusion Act) 。

In the decades that followed, a large wave of Asian immigrants arrived in the United States. Like my parents, many of these new arrivals brought two cultural values that would carry their children far: a near-religious devotion to education as the key to social mobility and a belief that academic achievement depends mostly on effort rather than inborn ability. Many (though certainly not all, and probably less than half) also came armed with the belief that the best way to instill these values is through harsh methods that other Americans can regard as cruel.

在接下来的几十年中,大批亚裔移民抵达美国。和我的父母一样,这些新来者中的许多人带来了两种文化价值观,令他们的子女可以走得更远:其一,对教育近乎虔诚的投入是社会流动的关键;其二,学术成就主要取决于努力而不是先天能力。许多人(尽管肯定不是全部,可能都不到一半)还坚信,贯彻这些价值观的最好方式是通过被其他美国人视为残酷的严苛方法。

The results have been striking. Today, Asian-Americans fill the nation’s top universities in staggering numbers, enter elite professions like medicine at incredible rates (nearly 20 percent of new doctors have Asian roots) and generally do better in school and make more money than any other demographic slice. Although overall trends mask vast diversity within our community, now 20 million strong, as a group we’ve broken the curve on standard metrics of success.

成果是很惊人的。如今,亚裔美国人进入全美顶尖大学的人数令人咋舌,并以难以置信的速度进入医疗等精英职业(近20%的新医生有亚裔血统),而且在学校中表现更好,收入比任何其他人口都要多。尽管总体趋势会掩盖社区内广泛的多样性,但是作为一个整体,如今拥有2000多万人口的亚裔美国人已经达到了标准意义上的成功顶点。

Because of pre-1965 immigration restrictions, the third-generation stories of most Asian-American families have yet to be written. Today, many second-generation Americans like me are at a parenting crossroads: Do we replicate the severe, controlling parenting styles many of us were raised with — methods that we often assume shaped our own success?

由于1965年以前的移民限制,大多数亚裔美国家庭的第三代故事还没有被书写出来。如今,许多像我这样的第二代美国人正处在养育子女的十字路口:我们是否应该复制我们当中许多人成长期间所受到的那种严格管控——我们常常认为,正是那些方法令我们取得成功?

Amy Chua famously answered this question yes. In her memoir, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” she explained that her fanatical parenting choices were driven by the desire to avoid “family decline.” But most second-generation Asian-Americans are not joining her. Rather, studies show that we’re largely abandoning traditional Asian parenting styles in favor of a modern, Western approach focused on developing open and warm relationships with our children.

蔡美儿对这一问题做出的肯定回答十分出名。在她的回忆录《虎妈战歌》(Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother)中,她解释说,避免“家族没落”的欲望驱使她选择了这一极端的教育方式。但大部分二代亚裔美国人并不与她为伍。相反,研究表明,我们很大程度上正在放弃传统的亚洲教育方式,转而采取西方的现代方法,注重培养开放而温暖的亲子关系。

My wife is also a second-generation Asian-American overachiever (she’s a doctor, the other immigrant-parent-approved profession), and together we’re trying to instill in our daughters the same grit and reverence for learning that our upbringings gave us, but in a happy and supportive home environment. (In this effort, we’ve followed the example of her parents, whose unfailing kindness is also common among Asian immigrants, proving it’s possible to have it both ways.) We’ve also adopted the relationship-driven mind-set common among young parents today but not among most immigrant parents, who emphasize discipline. For example, before my oldest daughter was on an early-morning school schedule, I freely indulged her disregard for bedtime on a condition: The night was firmly earmarked for learning. We’d sometimes stay up past midnight, lying on our stomachs with feet in the air, huddled over a dry-erase board and a bowl of popcorn, practicing phonics or learning about sea creatures. My own father, by contrast, strictly policed bedtime, angrily shutting down my attempts to hide under the sheets with a book and a flashlight.

我的妻子也是二代美籍亚裔之中的卓越者之一(她是一名医生,这是受移民家长认可的另一职业),而我们也在共同努力向女儿灌输曾经培养了我们的教育方式所赋予我们的同一种毅力和敬畏,只不过是在一个快乐而鼓励的家庭环境中。(为此,我们遵循了她父母的例子,他们一贯的慈爱在亚裔移民中也很常见,这证明了两种方式都有可能实现。)我们还采取了当今在年轻父母中常见的关系驱动型思维,这在大多数强调纪律的移民父母中并不常见。比如,在我大女儿开始早起的上学作息之前,我会在一定条件下纵容她,任她不理会睡觉时间:只要这个晚上是用来学习的就行。我们有时会熬夜到半夜,趴在床上,脚翘在空中,挤在一块擦写板和一碗爆米花前练习拼读法,或是学习海洋生物。相比之下,我的父亲则会严格管控睡觉时间,会愤怒地打破我拿着书和手电筒藏在被单下的企图。

Studies on second-generation parenting also show that many of us are striving to cultivate individuality and autonomy in our children in a way that we feel was missing from our own childhoods. As the respondent in one study explained: “As a young adult I really struggled with what I wanted to do. I was always told that I would be a doctor and so I never had a chance to really look outside of that and if I did, it wasn’t nurtured at all.” With her own children, she said, “we try to expose them to everything under the sun and then home in on the things that excite them, what they like.”

同时,对二代移民的教育反映出,我们中有许多人正在努力培养孩子的个性和自主,某种程度上是感到了自己童年的缺失。正如某研究受访者的解释:“青年的我十分纠结于自己想做什么。我听到的总是我将成为一名医生,因此我从未有机会真正看看此外的可能,即使我看了,也并未得到培养。”对于自己的孩子,她说,“我们在尝试向他们展示他们所能看到的一切,留意可以引起他们兴趣的东西,他们喜欢的东西。”

The traditional Asian parenting model is, in theory at least, premised on imposing pain now to reap meritocratic rewards later. For much of my life, I accepted this premise and assumed there must be a trade-off between inculcating academic success and happiness. But as I’ve learned since becoming a parent, the research shows that children tend to do best, across the board, when parents command loving respect, not fearful obedience — when they are both strict and supportive, directive and kindhearted. By contrast, children subjected to hostile “tiger” parenting methods are more likely to be depressed, anxious and insecure. And while many tiger cubs run the gantlet and emerge as academic gladiators, on average, children subjected to high-pressure parenting actually tend to do worse in school. In short, a firm hand works best when paired with a warm embrace. This is the approach I’ve tried to take with my daughters.

至少在理论上,传统的亚洲教育模式是以现在的痛苦为前提,换来日后的精英地位。我一生之中的大部分时间都在接受这样一种前提,并认为一定要在灌输式的学术成功和幸福之间权衡取舍。但在我成为父母之后我了解到,这项研究表明,当父母要求一种带有爱的尊重,而非胆怯的顺从——当他们既严格,又有支持、指导和仁爱时,孩子们普遍会有最好表现。相比之下,受到充满敌意的“虎式”教育的孩子更有可能抑郁、焦虑、没安全感。虽然许多小虎崽在挑战之中能成长为一个学业角斗士,但普遍来说,受到高压教育的孩子事实上在学校表现更差。总而言之,强硬的手法最好与温暖的拥抱结合。这便是我在女儿身上所尝试的方法。

Like all parents, however, my failures stack up alongside my successes. And I know that the decision to abandon immigrant parenting principles could backfire. The striving immigrant mind-set, however severe, can produce results. Every time I snuggle my daughters as they back away from a challenge — when my own father would have screamed and spit and spanked until I prevailed — I wonder if I’m failing them in a very different way than he did me.

但是,像全天下的父母一样,我的失败也与成功并行。我知道,放弃移民的教育原则可能也会事与愿违。竞争性的移民思维,不论如何苛严,都会有所成效。每次,当我与回避了某个挑战的女儿依偎在一起时——我的父亲在这种时候则会喊叫、怒骂、打我的屁股,直到我战胜困难——我会想,我是否正在以一种与父亲迥然不同的方式辜负自己的孩子。

But I’m temperamentally unable to mimic my father’s succeed-at-all-costs immigrant mind-set, an instinct I share with most of my generation. And maybe that marks our immigrant parents’ ultimate triumph: We have become American. As part of the American parenting mainstream, I aim to raise children who are happy, confident and kind — and not necessarily as driven, dutiful and successful as the model Asian child. If that means the next generation will have fewer virtuoso violinists and neurosurgeons, well, I still embrace the decline.

但我生性无法模仿父亲“不惜一切代价成功”的移民思维,这也是我们这一代人大多都拥有的天性。这或许正标志着我们移民父母的终极胜利:我们成了美国人。正如美国教育方式的一种主流,我的目标是培养出快乐、自信和善良的孩子——而并非一定要像模范亚裔儿童那样发奋、勤勉而成功。哪怕这意味着我们的下一代中将不会有那么多技艺超群的小提琴家或神经外科医生,我依然欣然接受这样的没落。

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