I'd like to note first that Amy Chua was NOT 100% serious in her book. Much of the controversy was probably the result of book marketing--which has apparently worked since BHotTM is #10 on Amazon.
More importantly, I'd like to talk about how this discussion got me thinking about my own reviewing techniques. It affects you.
I read excerpts of "Tiger Mother" with an initial bias against it. I felt a lot of pressure to be the best in my teenage years, and I think it caused a lot of needless stress. But, as I was reading, something Chua wrote really struck me. It deals with the concept of expectations.
To paraphrase, Chua argues that a parent who pushes their child to be perfect holds the fundamental view that their child can be perfect. Conversely, a parent who refuses to push their child to be perfect might be assuming that their child cannot be perfect.
For me, that was a very profound insight. I realized that in reviewing the work of my fellow writers, I often soften up because I worry about pushing them too hard. The assumption I'm making is that I don't truly believe that my fellow writers can be as good as Tolstoy or Shakespeare or Woolf or whoever.
This is sort of a sad admission isn't it?
I'm trying to be helpful, but my expectations are possibly too low to ever make anyone better. At the same time, I love it when someone gives me a truly hard critique because it almost always makes me a better writer. (Don't read too much between the lines here, because it really does make me look quite bad the more you think about it.)
So, I wonder. When you all are reviewing each other's work, do you give them feedback with the view that the person you're reviewing could be the best? Is there value to holding that Tiger Mother mindset?
I want to propose an experiment, but I'm really scared it will backfire, so approach at your own risk. I'd like to ask three of you to send me paragraphs that will be reviewed publicly. But, the catch is that I'm going to review them Tiger Mother style. I'm going to assume that you can be as good as the best writers out there, and I'm going to expect that from you. I'll be very critical, and we'll see if it makes you a better writer, or if it just makes you mad at me. I'd also like to ask three of you to send me paragraphs for the opposite type of review. I'll be nice and supportive, only bringing up the good points. I know from experience that this technique also makes a writer better. So, if you're interested, send me excerpts (up to 250 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell me if you want a Tiger Mother review or a nice review, and I'll take the first three people in each category. I'll post them up on Monday and Wednesday, and I'll also post up some of my own writing for YOUR Tiger Mother reviews.