Nature Versus Nurture: The Debate Rages On

It seems the world of ideas is in the throes of one of its periodic visitations on the subject of talent, success and parenting. This latest wave is all about tough love. Just in the last few weeks, the term ‘tiger mothering’ has entered the popular lexicon in a quite spectacular way following the publication of a memoir of mothering by Chinese-American author Amy Chua. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is, according to a New York Times review, “a diabolically well-packaged, highly readable screed ostensibly about the art of obsessive parenting.” The book has created a flurry of debate about raising successful children. The writer, a Yale professor, has even received death threats on account of her book (here’s an excerpt). Read some responses to her book here, here and here.

In 2009, NYT columnist David Brooks also wrote - controversially - on childhood and talent. Inspired by two books - The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle and Talent Is Overrated by Geoff Colvin - Brooks described the ideal childhood of a hypothetical literary genius. As well as the usual (reading, mentors, practice and so on), it seems this wunderkind would benefit from some tragedy: “It would also help if one of her parents died when she was 12, infusing her with a profound sense of insecurity and fueling a desperate need for success.”

Top UK literary agent Caradoc King has just published a memoir called Problem Child. In a promotional piece in The Guardian, King argues that a miserable childhood isn’t necessarily such a bad thing. “You could argue,” he opines, “that a conventional happy childhood is rather disabling because it doesn’t prepare you for the real world where the family unit isn’t there making life so good.” It seems King may have been dusting off his Philip Larkin.

The Children’s Book Festival is being held at the Wheeler Centre and the State Library of Victoria on Sunday 3 April from 10am to 4pm for kids who love books and their parents (regardless of their parenting philosophy).

Update: the Raising Children network is a leading Australian online parenting resource. Their website has lots of good advice for parents, including here, here and here.

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