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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Caution! Tiger Mother bites

I was raised by very strict, Chinese immigrant parents, who came to the U.S. as graduate students with practically no money.  My mother and father were so poor they couldn't’t afford heat their first two winters in Boston, and wore blankets around to keep warm.  As parents, they demanded total respect and were very tough with my three younger sisters and me.  We got in trouble for A minuses, had to drill math and piano every day, no sleepovers, no boyfriends.  But the strategy worked with me.  To this day, I’m very close to my parents, and I feel I owe them everything.  In fact, I believe that my parents having high expectations for me – coupled with love – is the greatest gift anyone has ever given me.  That’s why I tried to raise my own two daughters the same way my parents raised me.
That is taken from Amy Chua's web site. Ms. Chua shocked the sensibilities of all right thinking Americans in her first book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, when she seemed to suggest that achievement was more important than self esteem. The point she was making is that success most often accrues to those who try and those who try hardest are unsurprisingly the most successful. Of course when she cited her own parents as successful parents many including the usually level headed Martha MacCallum of Fox News managed to make it an argument between Chinese parenting and traditional American parenting techniques. Chua, who is on the faculty of Yale Law School, was generally dismissed as a simple but well meaning serial child abuser who succeeded despite an abusive childhood.
Now the Tiger Mother has struck back with The Triple Package and this time she's an un American racist. With her husband, Jed Rubenfeld who is also on the Yale Law faculty, Tiger Mom has has identified 8 groups in America that " are hitting it out of the park". Those groups are Jews, Indians, Chinese, Iranians, Lebanese, Nigerians, Cubans and Mormons.
"Indian-Americans earn almost double the national figure (roughly $90,000 per year in median household income versus $50,000).."Although Jews make up only about 2 percent of the United States' adult population, they account for a third of the current Supreme Court; over two-thirds of Tony Award-winning lyricists and composers; and about a third of American Nobel laureates."
The authors identify 3 traits common to these groups. (1) “a superiority complex—a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality”; (2) “insecurity—a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough”; and (3) “impulse control” or put another way self confidence, perfectionism, and self-discipline.
Chua and Rubenfeld don't acknowledge it and neither do their critics but they are very close to the concept of the Marginal Man postulated by sociologist Robert Park (1864-1944). In Park's words Marginal Man was a
cultural hybrid, a man living and sharing intimately in the cultural life and traditions of two distinct peoples; never quite willing to break, even if he were permitted to do so, with his past and his traditions, and not quite accepted, because of racial prejudice, in the new society in which he now sought to find a place. He was a man on the margin of two cultures and two societies, which never completely interpenetrated and fused.
He was also a chronic overachiever. Think along the lines of Frederick Douglas or Bernard Baruch.
Rather than critique Chua's scholarship or conclusions her critics have resorted to calumny by reducing her to a stereotypical Chinese mother who is imbued with racial superiority and un American elitism. Savor this banal barb from Hector Tobar writing in the Los Angeles Times
More than two centuries ago, our Founding Fathers declared that all humans are born with the same inherent potential. Ever since, having the phrase "created equal" in our Declaration of Independence has been one the coolest things about being an American.
Now, married Yale law professors Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld have stepped forward to say that being "created equal" doesn't matter. Instead, their controversial (and sometimes cringe-inducing) new book, "The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America," argues that our cultural background largely determines our fate and the fate of our progeny. Whether our kids get into Harvard, for instance, or end up laboring for minimum wage.
For God's sake, man, at least learn history before you attempt to rewrite it. "Same inherent potential" Und es ist geschrieben? Where is it written? The Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson not by Nancy Pelosi. Would Tabor care to argue that the NBA just recruits taller player because they hate short people? My point is there is no reason to question the authors' commitment to America or to pretend that ability does not count. Chua and Rubenfeld do not argue that cultural backgrounds predetermine success but rather the behavior those groups demand is the reason for their success. Has he not noticed that those who shoot up and sleep around are more apt to be going to jail rather than to the Ivy League? He deliberately misreads both the book and the Declaration of Independence to impugn the authors.
It's not that the Tabor review is an outlier. To Tabor's poorly reasoned assertion of elitism let's throw in racism courtesy of Anna Holmes writing for Time.
But isn’t this just the same old racism — barely wearing new clothes? Racism has always come in a variety of costumes and cloaks. Put another way: bigotry, intolerance, discrimination and violence can be as covert as they are overt; can owe a debt as much to the seemingly reasonable intellects of academies and legislatures as the Neanderthal ranting of the ugliest segregationists and supremacists...
And it is the wink-wink of the modern-day Republican party insisting that “yes, you built that.”
It's covert " bigotry, intolerance, discrimination and violence"? Evidently Neanderthal rantings are alive and well at Time. The "trouble" with The Triple Package is that it forces its readers to think about race in a way that is uncomfortable to many. If its assertions are correct, or worse yet, become widely accepted the country will have to rethink the benefits of minority set asides and affirmative action and all the glowing adjectives it promiscuously applies to single moms.

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