The news hit the cyber world last week. A new memoir, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” by Yale Law School Professor, Amy Chua upstaged all of us wimpy American parents. One commentator noted that Chua “didn’t let her own girls go out on play dates or sleepovers. She didn’t let them watch TV or play video games or take part in garbage activities like crafts. Once, one of her daughters came in second to a Korean kid in a math competition, so Chua made the girl do 2,000 math problems a night until she regained her supremacy. Once, her daughters gave her birthday cards of insufficient quality. Chua rejected them and demanded new cards. Once, she threatened to burn all of one of her daughter’s stuffed animals unless she played a piece of music perfectly. As a result, Chua’s daughters get straight As and have won a series of musical competitions.”
Another piece of news crossed my desk: the increasing growth market for designer babies who are conceived by artificial reproductive techniques, often with eggs from tall slender blondes and sperm from various genius sperm banks. The embryos are implanted into “gestational delivery devices,” primarily women in India. After their birth, the babies are placed in the hands of their well-to-do adoptive parents, often Westerners with fertility problems.
I’m not surprised at such news. Being human and having creative energies means we push boundaries, from conception technologies to child rearing practices. The refusal to say, “we will go no further in our exploration” has led to fabulous developments in science, medicine, art, travel and physical comfort. It also makes us seriously dangerous on occasion.
Wisdom says, “Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD do something.” I don’t think children should be reared with that kind of pressure and I am very concerned about this designer baby development. Both practices make children into assured commodities, not adventurous blessings. Both practices, I think, will lead to the idea that children are disposable when confronted with less than perfect outcomes. That crosses a moral line for me.
However even as I write this, I wonder how many things I take for granted as good seemed so wrong when they were first introduced. Then I wonder even further, “How many things do I assume are good are really not good, but I don’t want to eliminate them because they bring me comfort?”
I write at my computer. I particularly like both the spell-check and the auto-correct features built into many word processing programs. Two things have happened as a result. First, my poor typing habits have become far worse. I discover this when I work on a machine that has not already figured out my bad habits. Second, I who used to be quite a good speller, no longer take the time to figure out how to spell a word I might not use routinely. I simply type an approximation of the word and know the handy spell-checker will generally offer an accurate suggestion.
Does more good come from this than bad? I suppose. Most of my documents emerge reasonably correct. But I sense a loss of discipline, a carelessness that may wander over to other parts of my life. A loss of soul.
Our technologies seem designed to distance us from our souls. When we lose our souls, or can’t find them in the midst of this quest for the perfect child, the perfect paper, the perfect anything, we lose touch with the moral essence of us called conscience, provided by a Holy God to guide us, instruct us, correct us, and remind us of grace and forgiveness.
That loss of soul will eventually bring us down. Without an awareness of a Holy God who seeks to bring us to holiness, technology and techniques are going to destroy us.