The Hybrid Tiger: Secrets of the Extraordinary Success of Asian-American Kids [NOOK Book]


Why do Asian and Asian-American students consistently perform so well on standardized tests? Why are students of Asian descent disproportionately admitted to America’s top colleges?

This informative and entertainingly written comparison of educational methods in America and China answers these questions and more, while assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each culture’s distinctly different education systems. Education expert ...
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The Hybrid Tiger: Secrets of the Extraordinary Success of Asian-American Kids

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Why do Asian and Asian-American students consistently perform so well on standardized tests? Why are students of Asian descent disproportionately admitted to America’s top colleges?

This informative and entertainingly written comparison of educational methods in America and China answers these questions and more, while assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each culture’s distinctly different education systems. Education expert Quanyu Huang notes that both Asian and Asian American students excel early on at mastering lesson material and test-taking, whereas many of their non-Asian American peers do not perform as well. The author also points out that American students generally demonstrate far more creativity and independence than students in China, where conformity and rote learning are emphasized. This is evident from the American record of award-winning innovations and discoveries. By contrast, the Chinese educational system has not yet produced a Nobel Prize winner in science.

For Americans to achieve more consistent academic success at primary and secondary grade levels, the author recommends a blend of the virtues inherent in both cultures. He says this is exactly what often gives Asian American students an edge. They have the advantage of an Asian heritage that drives them to succeed and an American culture that teaches them creativity and independent thinking. Above all, Asian families extoll the virtues of education; this attitude is a key component in the success of these students.

Drawing on his own experiences as an immigrant to this country in the 1980s, and as a parent to a son raised in the US, the author concludes by suggesting that Americans rediscover the immigrant attitudes of their ancestors several generations ago. Like Asian immigrants today, they too saw education as a ladder to success in American society. Students anywhere will thrive when their families reinforce the seriousness of education and help children develop the study and discipline habits that ensure academic success. 

From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 12/02/2013
Analyzing the achievements of Asian and Asian-American students serves as a framework for a richly rewarding examination of Chinese and American culture and parenting. Huang (Quality Education in America), director of Miami University’s Asian/Asian American Studies Program, takes pains to show how and why different cultural and parenting standards produce students with different proficiencies. During China’s Imperial age, educational performance could elevate a peasant out of his status, so it is viewed as something to “win” and becomes a central family priority, whereas Americans view academic excellence as somewhat important, but not critical to a child’s well-being. In a disarmingly open style, incorporating priceless and frequently emotional anecdotes about raising his son, Yan, as well as reflections upon his own academic and familial journey in China, Huang illuminates the different attitudes towards family, society, and education that affect academic performance. Adapting the title from Amy Chua’s 2011 book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which he calls grotesque, he proposes a synergy between Chinese and American approaches that blends rigor and creativity. His recommendations are demanding (for example, create your own homework for your children), but the rewards promise to transcend the classroom. Agent: Bridget Wagner Matzie, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
"Proposes a kinder, gentler blending of East and West…. China has yet to produce a single Nobel Prize winner in the sciences or a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.... From this stunning throw-down, Huang continues his intriguing contrarian analysis, offering a perplexed yet loving native son’s humanizing perspective on Chinese culture."

The Hybrid Tiger explains many of the differences between Chinese and American education. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. We can learn from one another.”
—DIANE RAVITCH, author of Reign of Error

“A compelling and provocative must-read for anyone interested in knowing more about the cultural intersection of Asian and American educational approaches. . . . Huang’s ambitious, accessible, and important work strongly argues that we have much to learn from each other—a lesson that transcends education.”
—Michael G. Hirschfeld, rector, St. Paul’s School, Concord, NH

“East meets West in Huang’s provocative and revealing analysis of the potential rewards of classroom cultural convergence. The author grabs the tiger by the tail to point out the opportunities available in combining inherently Asian tenets governing success with American creativity and independence. A must-read for anyone concerned with the future of education in the United States.”
—Jean Hitchcock, executive director, Signature School, a nationally-ranked International Baccalaureate charter high school, Evanston, IN
“Huang’s thoughtful praise and critically constructive observations of two widely regarded and often-replicated educational systems readily translate into practical applications for improving today’s schools. What a pleasure it is to see the personal and familial value assigned to education heralded as critical to a student's success at the primary and secondary level.”
—Thomas M. Kelly, PhD, headmaster, Horace Mann School, New York, NY

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616148522
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 2/11/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 918,388
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Quanyu Huang, Ph.D. (Miami, OH) is director of the Asian/Asian American Studies Program and an associate professor at Miami University of Ohio and the former director of the Confucius Institute. He is a specialist in Sino-American cultural and educational comparison, a columnist for the prestigious South Weekly newspaper, a guest professor at Sun Yat-Sen (Zhongshan) University, and a visiting professor of the Training Program for High School Principals at Beijing University. He is the winner of the 2007 Profound Impact Award from EHS, Miami University. Huang has published numerous books in English and Chinese, including Quality Education in America, the bestselling nonfiction book in China in 2000.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Read an Excerpt


Secrets of the Extraordinary Success of Asian-American Kids


Prometheus Books

Copyright © 2014 Quanyu Huang
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61614-852-2



Oranges growing to the south of the Huai River are oranges, but north of the river, they become zhi. The leaves of both are similar, but their tastes are very different. Why? This must be because the natural environments and climates of the lands to the south and to the north of the Huai River are different. —Quoted from Yan Tzu



At the end of the most recent Year of the Tiger, in 2011, a self-stylized so-called Tiger Mom named Amy Chua published a book in America titled Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Featuring heavily (and, perhaps, grotesquely) in this book was what the author purported to be Chinese parenting. The author of Battle Hymn devoted large sections of her memoir to describing her parenting methods and philosophy. But instead of labeling it as her own personal parenting philosophy, a style of parenting that she created, Chua boldly branded it as "Chinese parenting."

Her book created quite the firestorm in the US media; her vitriolic parenting style was foreign to American parents. However, what many don't realize is that the way Chua chose to bring up her daughters is alien to most Chinese families as well. Indeed, her harsh, anachronistic methods are out of date and far outside of what is acceptable and encouraged in mainstream society in China today; it should go without saying that it's below the standards of most Chinese-American parents. The Tiger Mom's misinterpretations and mischaracterizations have led Americans astray in understanding the Chinese style of parenting and education. Consequently, this inaccurate portrayal has served only to deepen social biases against Chinese-American parenting and education.

Amy Chua's decision to refer to herself as the Tiger Mother is a confusing choice. I am no zoologist, but I submit that the behavior of a real female tiger mother (the animal) is quite different from Amy Chua's (the human). Just take a look at an actual tiger mom. You've seen her at the zoo or perhaps on TV. Picture her in your mind, a five-hundred-pound Bengal tiger. While tigers are dangerous and feared apex predators, we aren't talking about their hunting methods. We're talking about family education. Don't imagine a tiger stalking her prey. Instead, try to imagine her with her cubs.

How does she act around them? How does she treat them?

Surprisingly, this calls up a vastly different set of traits. As a parent, a real female tiger mother is always unbelievably nice to her kids. Indeed, she's a pushover! Real tigers coddle their children, exhibiting infinite patience and understanding. Real tigers protect their young; they play with them; they lick and clean them gently and diligently. When her cubs jump on her broad head, back, and stomach, she doesn't bite or curse at them. She's patient, allowing her children to play as they see fit. The one thing we can say for sure that a real tiger mother does not do to her young? She does not hurt them.

A real tiger mother saves her fierceness for the outside world, for the dangers lurking out there that would harm her kids. She doesn't turn it upon her own children. Now think about Amy Chua. Would you say she was hurting her children through her strict parenting and ridiculous demands? I believe that most American parents (and Chinese and Chinese-American parents, for that matter) would.

Many years ago, when I was young, there was a woman in the neighborhood that we called a "tiger mom." Back then, however, it meant something very different for us. The "tiger mom" we knew truly deserved her name—not because she forced her children to abide by a very strict set of parenting rules, but, to the contrary, she always aggressively and priggishly protected her spoiled kids whenever they caused any trouble. This "tiger mom," like the real tigers in the wild, only bared her teeth at outsiders, while spoiling her own kids rotten.


Oddly, the outwardly hostile, inwardly protective tiger is generally closer to the real essence of Chinese mothers than Amy Chua's version of the Tiger Mother. Take Ms. Chua's infamous list of ten things her children were "never allowed to do." Her kids weren't allowed to participate in school plays (or complain about missing them), attend play dates, participate in sleepovers, watch TV, play video games, choose the extracurricular activities they participated in, play any instrument other than the piano or violin (and they weren't allowed to not play one of these instruments), be anything other than the top student in school for all subjects (except gym and drama, because of course those didn't matter). And, of course, A's were not only expected, they were required.

I've put this list in front of many real Chinese and Chinese-American mothers (including my own wife), and the reaction is almost universally the same: incredulity. While many of Ms. Chua's rules are reflective of the traditional Chinese belief that education is supreme (which we will discuss in great detail in later chapters), Amy Chua has adopted an imprecise, self-centered, and highly distorted version of these values.

While I don't doubt that this list may be true for Ms. Chua, and that some Chinese parents may be as strict as Ms. Chua purports to have been, you may find it surprising to hear that many—if not most—Chinese parents in China would find Chua's list disagreeable, even laughable.

Among those Chinese parents are my wife and myself. While it's true that Chinese parents are stricter than American parents in general, the complete suffocation of a child's social life or autonomy is not a true tenet of Chinese parenting. Chua's style of parenting is a particular style of hardlined, strict parenting popular in certain portions of the Chinese immigrant community in the 1970s. While it may have been the style in which Amy Chua was raised, it is by no means the norm in most parts of China.

It certainly wasn't our parenting style. Ms. Chua's list makes me laugh because it reminds me of situations we dealt with when raising Yan and how differently we approached those situations. To give you a flavor of how another set of Chinese parents approached the same situations, let's go down the list:

• Play dates and sleepovers. Very few Chinese parents would advocate isolating their children to the point of not allowing them have any play dates with other children their age. Does Ms. Chua honestly believe that Chinese children aren't allowed to have friends? While we were demanding with Yan about his grades and performance in school, it never even occurred to us to prevent him from playing with any of his friends or attending sleepovers. On the contrary, we openly and actively encouraged Yan's socialization from the beginning, hoping it would help him to learn English quickly, to relate to Americans, and to avoid isolation from American culture.

• School plays. To be honest, Yan never had much enthusiasm for school plays. The one time he exhibited some interest in a high school play, we did not have an issue with him trying out. In fact, we supported the endeavor even though he wasn't a talented singer.

• TV and video games. One of Yan's favorite pastimes is playing video games. Even as an adult, his girlfriend bought him a PlayStation 3. I blame myself. Indeed, I believe I was the one who first introduced Yan to video games. When he was about four years old and still in China, I excitedly related a story about this new video game I'd played in America. "You control a little fat man," I remember telling him, "and you have to jump on turtles, eat mushrooms to grow, and jump over fireballs!" When we could finally afford it, I proudly bought him a Nintendo to show him the game I'd told him about. While we did limit the amount of time he was allowed to play, I doubt this is that different from what most American parents do.

• Extracurricular activities. Yan has always chosen his own extracurricular activities. From tennis to soccer to violin, his after-school activities always reflected his interests rather than our preferences. The one exception was the high school wrestling team, which he very much wanted to join but we thought was too dangerous.

• Grades. Ms. Chua is not wrong in believing that Chinese parents demand excellence from their children in school, but she goes to extremes. The average Chinese parent does, of course, expect high grades. We were no exception.

• Violin and piano. The strange aspect of Chua's insistence on her daughters playing only the violin and/or piano and ascribing it to Chinese parenting is that these are not Chinese musical instruments at all. If we're discussing pure and traditional Chinese parenting, why is it that Chua's methods so doggedly insist that her children play Western instruments and exclude traditional Chinese instruments entirely?

To be sure, many of her fanatical rules defy basic reason—what is their purpose?

While Chinese parents have high academic expectations for their children, Amy Chua is not representative of the norm. Any type of educational values taken to an extreme are unhealthy. Chinese education is no different.

The idea that all Chinese mothers follow a strict set of rules similar to Ms. Chua's is misleading and ridiculous. The biggest problem here is that this is never explained or put forth clearly by Ms. Chua, who often writes in absolutes and makes inaccurately broad generalizations about "Chinese parenting."

It is a stretch to call her approach genuinely Chinese. Consider Chua's own background. Amy Chua was born and raised in the United States, in Illinois and Indiana to be exact. If Amy Chua were the recipient of any Chinese parenting, it would have been the same style of parenting her parents received. And therein lies the quandary. While Amy Chua's parents were ethnically Chinese, they grew up and resided in the Philippines. This means that any Chinese parenting her parents received, and used to raise her, was actually from their parents. Doing the math, you'll realize we're now talking about a style of Chinese parenting from the late 1920s to 1940s, at the latest. Take another look at Ms. Chua's list above. Now think about what an American parent in the 1940s would and would not have allowed. Is this hyperstrict form of parenting genuinely reflective of the Chinese parenting of today? Or is it simply a tragic interpretation of what Ms. Chua thinks is Chinese but is simply outdated?


Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother also fails in another fashion. While it describes Ms. Chua's view of how Chinese parents try to raise their children, the author largely ignores the more interesting question of why Chinese parents choose to do certain things in their own ways. While she doesn't hesitate to make generalizations, her book is surprisingly light on explanation.

In the few instances she does attempt to explain why Chinese parents do the things they do, her explanations fall woefully short of clarity. Take, for example, her description of the "three big differences" between Chinese and Western parents.

(i) "Western parents are concerned about their children's psyches. Chinese parents aren't."

In Chua's mind, because of this, Chinese parents do not feel bad demanding more from their children than Western parents do.

(ii) "Chinese parents believe that their kids owe them everything."

Because of this, Chinese kids "must spend their lives repaying their parents by obeying them and making them proud."

(iii) "Chinese parents believe that they know what is best for their children and therefore override all of their children's own desires and preferences."

Because of this, "no Chinese kid would ever dare say to their mother, 'I got a part in the school play! I'm Villager Number Six. I'll have to stay after school for rehearsal every day from 3:00 to 7:00, and I'll also need a ride on weekends.'"

I would quarrel with all three of these assertions (in my opinion, they are each overly broad, skewed, or simply incorrect), but I take particular issue with point (i), psychological punishment, which I will address later in this chapter and this book. We must face the fact, however, that there are bigger problems with Chua's arguments. After all three incredibly broad declarations, Ms. Chua declines to explain any further. The reader is left asking why? Her best attempt at an explanation comes after point (ii), where she states, "the reason [Chinese parents believe their kids owe them everything] is a little unclear, but it's probably a combination of Confucian filial piety and the fact that the parents have sacrificed and done so much for their children."

Unfortunately, after reading Ms. Chua's Battle Hymn, one is left with the impression that she simply doesn't know any more than this about Chinese parenting and therefore can't explain it to the reader. In the end, her presentation of Chinese parenting to the American public is both inauthentic and disingenuous. Who is the Tiger Mother? I submit that the Tiger Mother Amy Chua has described is not the average Chinese mother. The Tiger Mother is a creature of confusion. She is a mix of Amy Chua's interpretation of what Chinese mothers do, Western egocentrism, and plain, simple sensationalism.


China is not immune from the concept of sensationalism in parenting either. Just as the United States has Amy Chua, the Tiger Mother, China has the "Wolf Dad." The Wolf Dad claimed he'd achieved his dream of sending his children to Peking University (the best university in China) through his own system of parenting. He simply and systematically beat his children in order to educate them.

As an educational "expert," I was invited to participate in a live debate with the Wolf Dad through Tencent, one of the largest microblogs in China (similar to Twitter or Facebook here in the United States) on November 29, 2011. The vast majority of the debate observers and participants—all of whom were Chinese—were openly against the Wolf Dad's brand of family education. By the end of the one-hour debate, it seemed as though I was leading the audience to attack the Wolf Dad because the sentiment was so against his parenting methods.

Though Chua and the Wolf Dad had different parenting styles, it's interesting to compare the two. While the Wolf Dad in China advocates the use of physical punishment to educate his children, the Tiger Mother in America employed something I consider even more damaging: psychological punishment. Ms. Chua's system of psychological punishment is actually more like the way American parents raise their children than the way Chinese parents do. I will address the differences, and how they affect children, later in this book.


Not only are Ms. Chua's ideas not reflective of Chinese parenting, they are even less emulative of Chinese-American parenting. Chinese-American children are subject to a unique set of educational pressures. In particular, Chinese-American children have the potential to receive the best values of both Chinese education and American education. I call this type of cross-cultural education Co-Core Synergy Education.

There is a Chinese saying, "A mountain cannot accommodate two tigers," but I believe that in the past few decades, something very unique has been happening here in America. A hybridization, so to speak, of two different kinds of "tigers" into one has occurred and has resulted in many dazzling achievements. As mentioned previously, Asian Americans—just under 5 percent of the nation's population—have managed to occupy 20 percent of the seats in the top twenty universities in the United States, hold the highest percentage of college and graduate degrees, and make a higher annual income than any other racial demographic in the United States. Since most Chinese-American parents do not agree with and do not carry out the type of parenting espoused by Amy Chua, it's clear that the harsh educational styles of thousands of Tiger Mothers are not responsible for these remarkable successes. Instead, Co-Core Synergy Education is responsible.

Many Americans agree that a mountain cannot accommodate two tigers. Consequently, there has been much argument over whether America should adopt some tenets of traditional Chinese education. But here's my question: why should America forgo what is within reach but seek something unreachable? By doing so, Americans are neglecting the demonstrably successful and organic Chinese-American parenting and educational standards, which were developed and reside within America.

At their foundations, Chinese-American parenting and education are very different from traditional Chinese parenting and education. In addition to maintaining some of the core features of Chinese family education, Chinese-American parenting and education have also stemmed from and created two primary characteristics: the internalization of the "American Dream" and the synergizing of Chinese and American education.


Excerpted from THE HYBRID TIGER by QUANYU HUANG. Copyright © 2014 Quanyu Huang. Excerpted by permission of Prometheus Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments, 7,
Introduction: The Besieged City, 9,
Chapter 1. "Chinese-American" Education, 29,
Chapter 2. Education Can Change God's Will, 49,
Chapter 3. Developing Kids' Ambitions before Discovering Their Interests, 105,
Chapter 4. What Does "Parenting" Mean in a Chinese-American Family?, 131,
Chapter 5. The Life Union as a Model for Family, 167,
Chapter 6. Other Interesting Phenomena in Chinese-American Families, 209,
Epilogue, 247,
Notes, 251,
Index, 257,

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