Q & A with Christina Ho - Author of Aspiration and Anxiety
"As a child of migrants, I’ve always been interested in intercultural relations. As a parent, I’ve been observing growing anxiety and misunderstanding about Asian-Australians and their ‘tiger parenting’."
The children of Asian migrants are often perceived to be perfect students: ambitious, studious and compliant. They are remarkably successful-routinely outperforming other students in exams, dominating selective school intakes, and disproportionately winning places at prestigious universities. While their hard work and success have been praised, their achievements have ignited fierce debates about whether their migrant parents are 'pushing too hard', or whether they ought to be lauded for their commitment to education. Critics see a dark side, symbolised by the 'tiger mother' who is obsessed with producing overachieving 'dragon children'. What is often missing in these debates is an understanding of what drives Asian migrant parents' approaches to education. Aspiration and Anxiety explores how aspirations for their children's future reinforce their anxieties about being newcomers in an unequal society.
Christina Ho is Associate Professor of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Technology Sydney, where she researches migration, cultural diversity and urban inter-cultural relations, with a particular focus on education.
Describe your new book in three words.
‘Tiger parents explained!’
What inspired you to write Aspiration and Anxiety?
As a child of migrants, I’ve always been interested in intercultural relations. As a parent, I’ve been observing growing anxiety and misunderstanding about Asian-Australians and their ‘tiger parenting’. I wanted to examine where ‘tiger parenting’ comes from and link it to wider social and political trends in Australia.
What has been the highlight for you in the process of writing this book?
It was so interesting talking to students and their parents about their wide range of experiences and perspectives on schooling. I’m always surprised and gratified by how much complete strangers open up to researchers and writers.
Tell us about your writing routine. Where do you like to write? When and how often?
I was lucky to be granted a sabbatical for writing this book. I reorganised my office for full time writing and did it every day for 6 months. I treated it like a 9-5 job. It was fantastic!
What are you currently reading?
Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman (after watching the Netflix series!)
What is in your to-be-read pile?
‘Too Much Lip’ by Melissa Lucashenko. And too many academic papers!
What message do you want to leave with readers of your book?
Asian ‘tiger parents’ aren’t crazy! They are the product of their environment. And as our governments make both migration and education more and more elitist, we will see more of a cut-throat culture emerging. Is this what we want in our schools?