Anyone can be a genius, if you put in 10,000 hours of practice

Sunday, January 16, 2011 Leave a Comment

By now, you've surely heard about the article the Wall Street Journal ran last week called "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior," by Amy Chua. Mama Chua attributes the Chinese mother's ability to produce above-average children to a strictness and iron will that American moms just can't manage.

Chinese mothers, she says, never let their kids have sleepovers or playdates, choose their own extracurricular activities, or practice either the piano or violin for less than 3 hours a day. American moms are far too concerned with hurting their kid's feelings, so they give them way too much freedom to play video games, choose a silly sport like soccer, and then quit it when they get bored.

The article was funny.

Apparently, and probably because it ran in the WSJ, many parents took it as a personal affront. So this week, a Jewish mother ran her rebuttal: "In Defense of the Guilty, Ambivalent, Preoccupied Western Mom."

Mama Ayelet Waldman says western moms just know how to give each, unique child their own unique parenting. Funny stuff.

But I really liked "Mother Inferior," where mama Hanna Rosin says:

"What privileged American children need is not more skills and rules and math drills. They need to lighten up and roam free, to express themselves in ways not dictated by their uptight, over-invested parents. Like Ms. Chua, many American parents suffer from the delusion that, with careful enough control, a child can be made perfect. Ms. Chua does it with Suzuki piano books and insults, while many of my friends do it with organic baby food and playrooms filled with carefully curated wooden toys. In both cases, the result is the same: an excess of children who are dutiful proto-adults, always responsible and good, incapable of proper childhood rebellion."

Forcing your child to practice violin 8 hours a day, the same song, stanza by stanza until they get it perfect, won't make them like it, but it will lead to a mastery of technical skill. Like Malcolm Gladwell points out in the book "Outliers," to be truly successful in a field - be it hockey, or piano, or computer programming - the key is to put in at least 10,000 hours of practice.
Did you read them? What are your thoughts?