Homeschooling parents, in particular, will want to read what Amy Chua has to say about parenting Chinese style, in a new book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” excerpted on the WSJ Online. Chua is the author of “Day of Empire” and “World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability.” In the lashing she gives Western-style parenting, Chua echoes the gist of my case against The “Meghaan [McCain] Millennials,” and their parents and pedagogues, only I called the malady “the progressive, child-centered worldview”:
From “Shafting Boys” (http://www.ilanamercer.com/phprunner/public_article_list_view.php?editid1=158):
“For decades now, America’s educators have insisted that learning be made as natural and as easy as possible, when it is neither. To this end, content-based, top-down teaching was replaced with pop-culture friendly, non-hierarchically delivered flimflam. But as classicists such as E. D. Hirsch Jr. have pointed out, effective, analytical and explicit instruction is very definitely not a natural but a highly artificial, often-unintuitive process.”
From: “Your Kids: Dumb, Difficult And Dispensable”: “Millennials are a generation of youngsters that reveres only itself for no good reason. They have been unleashed on America by progressive families and educators (Democrat and Republican alike) who’ve deified their off-putting offspring and charges, and instilled in them a sense of self-worth disproportionate to their actual worth.”
Chua is kinder. I love the way she rolls her eyes at the idiotic insistence among parents she knows that learning be made fun. Nothing that is worth learning is fun. I began to have fun once I mastered logarithms (yeah, I did not go to school in North American, but in Israel), for example. Before that, I worked like hell and nothing was much fun.
At getting my daughter to conform I was less successful than Chua, for some reason. I believe that her Canadian peer group, raised in such an opposite atmosphere, contributed to my uphill battle. Still, quite a bit did rub-off, such as a devotion to high standards, quality literature, art, etc. My daughter read Voltaire before I did.
Do read Chua’s daughters’ funny response to the condemnation their mother has received. Humor is not something that abounds among parents these days; they take themselves and their sullen offspring so very seriously.
UPDATE I (Jan. 20): I agree entirely with the thoughtful comments made in the Comments Section to the effect that the genetic variable (IQ) has been conveniently omitted in the Chua equation. Calling a child “garbage” in a pique of rage is indeed horrible, although even uglier is the way children in this country regularly mouth-off to the their parents, and the way parents cower in awe of their deified brats.
The parenting pop-instructors would say that old grandpa ought to have, rather, framed the child’s behavior as garbage. Also crap. If a child swears at his mother, and a father puts the child in his place—even being spontaneously angry—this serves as a very good lesson. It teaches the child something (on the meta-level) about dad vis-a-vis mom (dad will not tolerate the berating of mom; dad cares deeply about mom; dad is devoted to mom). There was nothing a child feared more, back in the days, than, “I will tell your father.”
I think the point in all this is that discipline (very firm, never violent), hierarchy, (rather than friendship), boundaries, and parental authority have to be maintained. Pop-psychology must go. Leave aside the academic drilling that Chua has done with her obviously talented girls—her style of parenting is simply natural in traditional (if advanced) societies.
With my daughter, my efforts entailed a lot of deprogramming of the ideas implanted in the progressive schools. Once she returned from school and ceremoniously informed me that, because she’d be 16 soon, the teacher said her mother would not be able to tell her what to do.
Me: “Who pays for the roof above your head?”
Daughter: “You do.”
Me: “Who pays for the food you eat, and everything else in this home?”
Daughter: “You do.”
Me: “When you grow up and make a home and have children of your own, will you think it right that they do as they please while living under your roof?”
What followed was a very libertarian discussion about property, all the while emphasizing/demonstrating love and devotion. Never again did I hear the argument advanced in the school that a child could do as she pleased on property paid for by others, even if they loved her dearly.
I like to believe that reason triumphed over the progressive ethos inculcated at school.
I do agree with Chua that this kind of (natural, old-fashioned) parenting results in more independent kids.
UPDATE II: The scientific research is behind H. Schmidt: Like it or not, intelligence correlates significantly with socio-economic achievements. So what if you are called a racist, Robert, for pointing out that the aggregate IQ on the African Continent is rather low, and that this fact correlates with the state of the continent? Aggregates do not rule out a huge variety in the human condition. That’s why we are here individualists.
UPDATE III: The fact that Hugo has not “seen” evidence of aggregate IQ values in Africa does not mean such date is not readily available and quite conventional. One would imagine that if by dint of a miracle Hugo was able to locate this evidence, he would find it compelling. After all, has he not just asserted for biological determinism? Until then, Hugo is happy to advance the left’s blame-the West voodoo science vis-a-vis Africa. Or advance circular arguments, as if multiple regression analysis does not allow an analysis of underlying variables. Sowell tried to rule out the significance of group variations in intelligence with the inter-individual variance angle. But why would inter-individual variations in intelligence and group variations in intelligence be mutually exclusive concepts? They are not.
Of course, when you try as hard as possible to do PC science and eliminate “measurement bias of western IQ tests for Africans,” you can get better numbers, as a study by Conor V. Dolana and Han L.J. van der Maasa did.
Perhaps we should switch to talking about “emotional intelligence.” Give me a break!
UPDATE IV: Myron, the social sciences are only as good as the scientist doing them. This is the exact discussion I had with John Derbyshire a few weeks back. I was dismissive as you are here; he rightly corrected me, pointing out that these sciences are now infested with affirmative action, agenda-driven sorts—feminists, minority activists, etc.
Rather than reflect/describe reality, many of the new crop of approved scientists are more concerned with raping reality with the aid of political constructs. These people, published in “peer-reviewed journals,” are intellectually incapable of thinking on any level of abstraction. (I’ll give you an example a little later.) Whatever you think of Steve Sailer’s opinions, always expressed in a calm, rational manner—the man’s intellectual faculties are impressive. When the social sciences are practiced a-la Charles Murray, they deserve the utmost respect.
Good, civil debate, y’all.
UPDATE V: I obviously disagree with Jay about Amy Chua. To appeal to the alleged motivation of a person in judging his or her output is tantamount to an ad hominem argument. In other words, invalid. Let’s stick to arguing the substance of Chua’s case.
Consider: minus the academic emphasis, most men and women who grew up in the US during the 1930s through the 1950, for example—only a couple of decades back—were treated by their parents the “Asian” way.
This generation consists of the nicest, stablest, sweetest people ever, for the most. The older the American, the lovelier he or she is. You who protest Amy Chua, and raise your kids to believe they are so precious and priceless (“Our Children”) have the most horrible kids, usually. Rude, self-centered, hubristic millennials who behave as if the world orbits around them. I’ve watched your brats carry on in stores, inconsiderate and oblivious to all but themselves. No one wants to be around them (and that’s the mildest sentiment they elicit). I watch your kids as they move into entry level jobs at my fitness club and in other places: They are lazy losers, who look down at their superiors, and are doomed to live-off their delusions and off YOU, their parents.
I am sure Amy C. has the most delightful girls. Look at how they’ve responded to the attack on their mom: with such verve, intelligence and humor. They shall inherit the earth.
The nicest young woman I have had the pleasure of interacting with of late is the young South Korean lady who fronts the desk at the dry-cleaners I patronize. What a gem. Clearly, she has received the upbringing you all shun. She’s deeply religious, industrious, a math college student (having admitted that there are no American girls in her class), and because she has not been brought up to possess the kind of pathologically voracious self-esteem researches now link to anti-social behavior—she is a wonderful conversationalist. Yes, imagine: a young person who can converse with ease and intelligence about issues other than himself!
Not having been brought up within the American PC strictures, she delightfully blurted out the other day: “You from Israel? You Jews are also super smart, right?”
Yes, this young lady, so manifestly a product of the Chua maternal guidance, has inquired about my origins, accent, work, and is genuinely curious about The Other. The dull, American rude youngsters who’re employed at my fitness club (and elsewhere), look right through patrons, are discourteous, act as if the work is below them, and are usually fat and slow.
This is a general impression; not a scientific one, by far. However, I’ve been saying this for a long time now: American youth have been severely compromised by progressive parenting and pedagogy.
UPDATE VI: Schmidt’s “philosophy” reminds me of Angelina Jolie’s, encapsulated in her reply to an Anderson Cooper interview question. Why do Africans butcher, mutilate, and rape their compatriots with clockwork predictability?, the host wanted to know. Why do grown, Sierra Leonenean men hack off the arms of little Sierra Leonenean girls and rape them to shreds? Why is this repeated en masse in Uganda, Sudan, the Congo, Rwanda, Somalia—you name them?
Jolie offered a tautology: It’s “‘from the violence’—’they had their limbs cut off from the violence.’ Or if you find this redundancy meaningless, she whipped another bunny from her hat: blame ‘drugs, perhaps.’”
An Objectivist should cleave to reality. Human action is the ultimate adjudicator of moral and intellectual worth. Societies are only as good as the individuals who comprise them, individuals only as good as their actions. Call it intelligence or, if you are a liberal, call it something else; but the fact remains that societies in which individuals are more likely to spend their time destroying stuff and killing one another are “less intelligent” than societies in which individuals are less likely to pillage and plunder.
Schmidt prefers to levitate in someplace other than reality, pretending that it is a matter of chance that some people (most on the African continent) still plan life in accordance with “ancestral” wishes, practice animism, voodoo and superstition, while others gave rise to the ideas of Confucius and the Enlightenment. “Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be Will Be).”
Back to Chua. Joy Behar interviewed Amy Chua in a most hostile manner. This is a partial clip. I watched most of the interview. Chua should not back down (she did quite a bit). Behar has her own TV show and she’s slow, borderline retarded. That’s what Chua’s up against. At one stage, Behar scolded Chua for scolding her daughters for presenting her with an excuse for a birthday card. I had done a similar thing to my daughter. Apparently, that’s a sin. You are not supposed to instill in a kid a sense of obligation and duty toward a parent. This could only damage that budding, all-consuming ego. That’s the apparent (American) consensus against which Chua is up.
Again, call me a Chinese mother. On one occasion when my birthday card had been scribbled at the last minute, I made my hurt and disapproval known. Behar said to Chua “You make it sound like this was all about you.” Amy got defensive and fudged the answer. She ought to have said, “Yes, a mother’s birthday is all about her. This is a lesson for a child that his mother is important and also needs a show of appreciation. If a child can learn to do this, he has learned a lesson in altruism.”
What did old-fashioned Jewish women used to say? Watch how your suitor treats his mother. It’ll tell you a lot about him.
UPDATE VII: Via TIME Magazine:
Most surprising of all to Chua’s detractors may be the fact that many elements of her approach are supported by research in psychology and cognitive science. Take, for example, her assertion that American parents go too far in insulating their children from discomfort and distress. Chinese parents, by contrast, she writes, “assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.” In the 2008 book A Nation of Wimps, author Hara Estroff Marano, editor-at-large of Psychology Today magazine, marshals evidence that shows Chua is correct. “Research demonstrates that children who are protected from grappling with difficult tasks don’t develop what psychologists call ‘mastery experiences,’ ” Marano explains. “Kids who have this well-earned sense of mastery are more optimistic and decisive; they’ve learned that they’re capable of overcoming adversity and achieving goals.” Children who have never had to test their abilities, says Marano, grow into “emotionally brittle” young adults who are more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.
Another parenting practice with which Chua takes issue is Americans’ habit, as she puts it, of “slathering praise on their kids for the lowest of tasks — drawing a squiggle or waving a stick.” Westerners often laud their children as “talented” or “gifted,” she says, while Asian parents highlight the importance of hard work. And in fact, research performed by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck has found that the way parents offer approval affects the way children perform, even the way they feel about themselves.
One more way in which the tiger mother’s approach differs from that of her Western counterparts: her willingness to drill, baby, drill. When Sophia came in second on a multiplication speed test at school, Chua made her do 20 practice tests every night for a week, clocking her with a stopwatch. “Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America,” she writes. In this, Chua is right, says Daniel Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. “It’s virtually impossible to become proficient at a mental task without extensive practice,” he notes.
What’s more, Willingham says, “if you repeat the same task again and again, it will eventually become automatic. Your brain will literally change so that you can complete the task without thinking about it.” Once this happens, the brain has made mental space for higher-order operations: for interpreting literary works, say, and not simply decoding their words; for exploring the emotional content of a piece of music, and not just playing the notes. Brain scans of experimental subjects who are asked to execute a sequence of movements, for example, show that as the sequence is repeated, the parts of the brain associated with motor skills become less active, allowing brain activity to shift to the areas associated with higher-level thinking and reflection.
We used to be made to memorize poetry and entire bible tracts in my secular Israeli school. How easy it is for kid to so do. The brain at that age is wonderfully plastic. For my math matriculation, I practices tests going back 20 years at least. All manner of problems became almost routine. You recognized the type of problem because you’d drilled so well. You didn’t panic when you saw it in a test situation. You solved it, partly because you recognized it. These days the retarded teachers shun any rote practice for their protegés.
This honest, fabulous article admits that “Cognitive neuroscience … confirms the wisdom of what the tiger mother knew all along.”