One of my friends raised her kids in the Lower Merion School District, in a Philadelphia Main Line community. (Kobe Bryant went there.) She used to tell me horror stories about the "helicopter parents," like the ones who insisted on getting their kids into the other kindergarten class - because more of that teacher's students ended up going to Harvard. (Really.)
But this takes it to a whole new level:
BEIJING - The book spawned a genre, selling more than 2 million copies in China on the premise that any child, with the proper upbringing, could be Ivy League material.
Now, eight years after the publication of "Harvard Girl," bookstore shelves here are laden with copycat titles like "How We Got Our Child Into Yale," "Harvard Family Instruction," and "The Door of the Elite."
Their increasing popularity points to the preoccupation - some might say a single-minded national obsession - of a growing number of middle-class Chinese parents: getting their children into America's premier universities.
Because government policy allows families only one child, many parents in this rapidly developing country feel immense pressure to groom their sons and daughters for success and, in the process, prepare a comfortable retirement for themselves. They fervently mine the expanding volumes of child-rearing manuals - "Stanford's Silver Bullet," "Yale Girl," and "Creed of Harvard" - for tips on producing what the Chinese term "high quality" children.
"Harvard Girl," written by the parents of one of the first Chinese undergraduates to enter the university on a full scholarship, chronicled Liu Yiting's methodical upbringing that instilled the discipline and diligence necessary for academic success. The tome has a place in many urban households with high school-age children, and new parents receive the book as a present from family and friends.
"Going to Harvard means that the way they raised their child was successful," said Yang Kui, publisher of the bestseller. "People are willing to copy and learn how they did it."
The book, which features a photo on the cover of Liu posing with her admission letter to Harvard, espoused unconventional techniques to turn out an Ivy-caliber child. Liu's parents challenged the young girl to hold ice in her hands for as long as she could bear it to improve her endurance and made her jump rope every day for increasingly longer periods until she won a school contest.
They put toys out of her grasp when she was a baby to make her work harder for them, timed the girl's studies to the minute as soon as she entered elementary school, and made her do school work in the noisiest part of the house to develop her ability to concentrate.
The techniques might make some Westerners cringe, but they hardly raise eyebrows here.