Yale law professor Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, has received a great deal of criticism — and, to be fair, book royalties — since her controversial parenting memoir’s publication in January. Many observers criticized her harsh, so-called “Chinese” parenting style as excessive, even abusive.
You can criticize all you want, but you can’t argue with success. Above the Law has confirmed that Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, the oldest daughter of Amy Chua and fellow YLS professor Jed Rubenfeld, received her Harvard acceptance earlier this week. Sophia has already made up her mind that Harvard is where she’ll attend college. (Can you blame her for wanting to trade New Haven for Cambridge?)
UPDATE: Please see the update added to the end of this post. Sophia hasn’t officially accepted her Harvard acceptance (as her Yale professor mom insisted to the Yale Daily News). She is also considering Yale.
Some readers of Amy Chua’s book wondered whether it was premature of her to “end a parenting story when one child is only 15,” in the words of Elizabeth Chang of the Washington Post. Well, now we know how the story ends — very, very happily. As I previously observed, speaking from my own personal experience, “to Asian parents, sending a child to a top college is the ultimate vindication.” And colleges don’t get more “top” than Harvard (which is #1 in the current U.S. News rankings; but even if it weren’t this year, it would still be #1 in the minds of many Asian parents). [FN1]
Of course, it shouldn’t be shocking that Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, who’s now 18, got into Harvard….
Harvard College is ridiculously selective. According to the Crimson — the paper for which I used to write, even though I don’t agree today with all of my youthful scribblings — Harvard was more choosy than ever this year: “Harvard College today offered admission to a record low 6.2 percent of the applicants to the class of 2015. This group of accepted students was selected from an application pool of nearly 35,000 students—more than applied in any previous year.”
Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, however, is no ordinary applicant. She’s not only beautiful and brilliant — in Amy Chua’s memoir, she alludes to her daughter’s academic prowess — but she’s also extremely talented. As we all know by now, Sophia made her Carnegie Hall piano debut at the tender age of 14. That’s extremely impressive, even by Harvard standards.
Sophia’s also a superb writer. The defense of her mother that she wrote for the New York Post is well-executed — smart yet conversational, plus thoughtful and funny. But Sophia’s essay about her Carnegie Hall performance, excerpted in Tiger Mother, puts the Post piece to shame. It possesses eloquence and elegance not often found in the writing of people twice or three times Sophia’s age.
Finally, Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld had one other significant factor in her favor with respect to Harvard: legacy status, as the daughter of two Harvard-educated parents. Amy Chua graduated from Harvard College in 1984 and Harvard Law School in 1987, and Jed Rubenfeld graduated from Harvard Law School in 1986. (He went to Princeton for undergrad.)
Of course, given her beauty and brains and piano talent and writing ability, Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld could have gotten into Harvard without that extra boost. Her admission to Harvard is unsurprising and richly deserved.
Sophia: On behalf of Harvard graduates everywhere, Elie and I congratulate you on your admission to Harvard and your wise decision to matriculate. We are honored to have you in our company. Go Crimson!
[FN1] Even though Harvard hasn’t always been #1 in the college rankings — unlike Yale Law School, which has topped the law school rankings since their inception — Harvard is often #1. It was #1 when I was applying to college back in the early nineties, and it was #1 during my four years there.
UPDATE: In an email to the Yale Daily News, Amy Chua stated that her daughter got into both Harvard and Yale but has not yet reached a decision. Given that Chua is a Yale professor, it makes perfect sense for her to characterize Sophia as agonizing between Harvard and Yale — it’s the diplomatic thing to do. And maybe Amy Chua would like Sophia to stick around, so she as Tiger Mother can show up in her daughter’s dorm to cook and do her laundry (like the Asian parents infamously described by former UCLA student Alexandra Wallace).
But based on what we’ve heard from sources who have spoken to Sophia, we’ll put it this way: we’ll be very, very surprised if Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld ends up sticking around in New Haven.
FURTHER UPDATE: On her blog, Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld writes that she is “seriously considering both Yale and Harvard.”
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother [Amazon (affiliate link)]