Mike Kueber's Blog

January 30, 2014

The Tiger Mom comes under attack by a politically correct Indian-American

Filed under: Book reviews,Culture — Mike Kueber @ 2:43 am
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A few weeks ago I blogged about a new book by Tiger Mom Amy Chua and her husband Jed Rubenfeld.  The book is titled Triple Package, and argues that eight ethnic groups – Chinese, Indians, Cubans, Jews, Nigerians, Mormons, Iranians, and Lebanese – are thriving in America because they share three character traits:

  1. A superiority complex,
  2. Insecurity, and
  3. Impulse control.

This week’s issue of Time magazine contains an article by Suketu Mehta, an Indian-American who attacks the Tiger Mom thesis and suggests:

  • “[A] new strain of racial, ethnic and cultural reductivism has crept into the American psyche.  Whereas making sweeping observations about, say, African-American or Hispanic culture, flattering or unflattering – remain unthinkable in polite company, it has become relatively normal in the past 10 years to comment on the supposed cultural superiority of various ‘model minorities.’  I call it the new racism – and I take it rather personally.”

Mehta seems to have contracted an especially virulent and pernicious strain of political correctness.  Like an ostrich, he chooses to bury his head in the sand and ignore facts that are patently obvious to anyone looking.  To refute the Triple Package analysis, Mehta points out to his two kids a version of Obama’s “you didn’t build that” argument:

  • We worked hard, yes….  But we also benefited from numerous advantages – from cultural capital built up over generations to affirmative action to an established network of connections in our new country – none of which had anything to do with racial, ethnic or cultural superiority.”

Huh?  That doesn’t make sense.  Cultural capital and a network of connections has everything to do with cultural superiority, and there is very little affirmative action in favor of the eight “model minorities.”

Mehta also asks, if Indian culture is so great, why is India “such a sorry mess, with the largest population of poor, sick and illiterate people in the world, its economy diving, its politics abysmally corrupt.”  His suggested answer is that the emigration process self-selects the best of its people for emigration to America, and he wonders what American would think about Indian immigrants if America shared a border with India and poor Indians were able to illegally enter by the millions like Mexicans.  Or, as another expert suggests, “If Mexicans threw out the top 10% of their population into America, you’d be singing a different tune about Mexicans.”

Huh?  That doesn’t make sense.  Just because America doesn’t receive a cross-section of the Indian population, that doesn’t defeat Chua’s argument that Indian-American immigrants have three defining traits that bode well for success in America.  And with respect to Mexico’s top 10%, we have experience with them (legal Mexican nationals) in Texas, and we are singing a different tune about them.  Most Americans welcome them to our country as welcome additions to our society.  How does that contradict the Chua argument?

Mehta accuses Chua and Rosenfeld of ignoring “the realities of American history to make their half-baked theories stick.”  I think Mehta is guilty of making a feeble case in defense of political correctness.


January 27, 2014

Diversity in college football

Filed under: Culture,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 12:34 pm
Tags: ,

The term diversity has become a euphemism for racial balancing.  It is usually applied when minorities are underrepresented, and you will rarely see it discussed when minorities are overrepresented.  A recent example of this concerns college football.

According to the Rivals100 list published by Sports Illustrated, the top 100 football recruits this year consists of 85 African Americans, 14 Anglos, and one California kid (Viane Talamaivao) who is either Pacific Islander or Hispanic.   This contrasts with America’s population of 13% African-Americans, 63% Anglos, and 15% Hispanic, 5% Asian, and 0% Pacific Islander.

Nature vs. nurture?  That’s a subject for another day.


Sunday Book Review #121 – Reign of Error by Diane Ravitch

Filed under: Education — Mike Kueber @ 4:37 am

A few years ago, I needed a primer on American education policy, so I read Diane Ravitch’s “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.”  In my summary of the book, I described her five conclusions as follows:

  1. Improper federal role in education.  The federal government isn’t responsible for education in America, so it shouldn’t borrow money to give to the states as bribery for education policies dictated by the federal government.  Ravitch noted that conservative Bush-43 expanded the role of the federal government in education, and liberal Obama completed the federal takeover, but these were mere incidental comments, and it was clear that she wasn’t interested in constitutional correctness.
  2. Proper federal role in education.  The federal government has a role in helping the states develop sound education policies.  For example, the federal government has facilitated the states in developing uniform standards.  Math and reading standards developed by 48 states (sans Texas and Alaska) were announced earlier this year.  Also, national testing enables states to compare the effectiveness of different practices.  But there should be no coercion or bribery, as currently included in Race to the Top (R2T) and Obama’s update of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
  3. Charter schools (and choice).  Ravitch usually bases her conclusions on objective research/studies, but her opposition to charter schools seems subjective, almost political.  She concedes that charter schools are effective for their students, but she worries about the deterioration of the public schools that are left behind.  (I think a good analogy is an aging neighborhood that people eventually abandon.  Gov’t. would prefer that residents stay in place and maintain their neighborhood, but gov’t. allows residents to vote with their feet and leave for better neighborhoods.)  As a political matter, I think Americans will insist on choice and competition, albeit with winners and losers.  It’s unfortunate that there will be losers, but America has to be about equality of opportunity, not equality of results.  Charter schools clearly improve opportunity for everybody.
  4. Testing (and accountability).  Ravitch concludes that making high-stakes decisions (such as firing principals and closing schools) based on test results will cause teachers and districts to “teach the test.”  I agree with that conclusion.  As Bob Davis used to say at USAA, weak managers will tend to manage to the metrics on which they are evaluated.  That is why we need to carefully design tests and then carefully use the results.  Small numbers (such as one teacher for one year) should have limited usability, whereas large numbers (a large school over several years) should be difficult to explain away if they are consistently bad.  Also, testing should not be limited to math and reading because other subjects are essential to a balance education – e.g., science and history.
  5. No Child Left Behind.  NCLB is a work in progress.  Although Obama campaigned against NCLB, I think he acted correctly when he recommended mending it, not ending it.  There are problems with testing and charter schools, but education in America would be hurt with their elimination.

More than a year later, I reviewed another book – “Class Warfare” by Steven Brill – that took Ravitch to task for her conclusions.   According to Brill, the American school system was failing because of teacher unions that followed their self-interest and resisted reform.  Successful reform would require:

  • Testing.  Measure teacher effectiveness, primarily through testing of students.  Ineffective teachers need to improve or be terminated.  Effective teachers need to be paid more and copied.  And the granting tenure needs to be tied to effectiveness.
  • Charter schools.  Parent choice with more charter schools is invaluable in improving schools.

With “Reign of Error,” Ravitch makes new arguments to defend the positions she took in her earlier book.  As she points out in her introduction, her purpose it to answer four questions:

  1. Is American education in crisis?
  2. Is American education failing and declining?
  3. What is the evidence for the reforms now being promoted by both political parties?
  4. What should we do to improve our schools?

In a nutshell, Ravitch argues that the only crisis in American education is that it is under assault by misguided reformers who want to implement reforms that won’t work.  (Sounds like FDR’s warning that all we have to fear is fear itself.)  She believes that the reformers are misleading the public into thinking that American schools are failing, and there are several fact-based chapters discussing test scores, achievement gaps, international test scores, high school graduation rates, college graduation rates, the connection between poverty and test scores, why merit pay fails, the pros and cons of seniority, the problem with Teach for America, the mystery of Michelle Rhea, the contradictions of charters, the failure of vouchers, curriculum, class size, and strengthening the profession.

Instead of the currently proposed reforms (testing, getting rid of ineffective educators, vouchers, charters), Ravitch suggests:

  1. Provide good prenatal care for every pregnant woman.
  2. Make high-quality early childhood education available to all children.
  3. Every school should have a full, balanced, and rich curriculum.
  4. Reduce class sizes to improve student achievement and behavior.
  5. Ban for-profit charters and charter chains.
  6. Provide the medical and social services that poor kids need to keep up.
  7. Eliminate high-stakes standardized testing.
  8. Insist that teachers and their management be professional educators.
  9. Public schools should be controlled by school boards, not mayors.
  10. Reduce racial segregation and poverty.
  11. Recognize the public education is a public responsibility, not a consumer good.

Ravitch has not written a book that fairly presents both sides of the argument, but I am persuaded by her that the American schools are not as bad as is often presented in the media.  The most problematic schools are found where there is a concentration of poverty and dependency, and although the kids at those schools will benefit from testing, accountability, and options for charters and vouchers, the ultimate solution needs to alleviate the poverty.

Richard Sherman and Muhammad Ali

Filed under: Culture,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 3:50 am
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The mainstream media has shifted into overdrive this weekend to defend Seattle’s thuggish Richard Sherman.  This morning, The Sports Reporters couldn’t have a lively discussion of Sherman because all of the reporters agreed that the prior condemnation of Sherman was excessive.  One of them (I think it was Jackie MacMullan) even compared Sherman to Muhammad Ali, one of the most revered persons in sport.

I might reluctantly concede that Ali is one of the most revered persons in sport, but any reverence has nothing to do with his brash boasting before the Sonny Liston fight or his arrogant put-downs of Smoking Joe Frazier.  Ali’s placement in the pantheon of sports stars is due to his religious anti-war stand.  It has nothing to do with his trash-talking.

Richard Sherman, you are nothing like Muhammad Ali.  Yet.

January 25, 2014

Night at the Movies #98 – Mitt, Short Term 12, and Prisoners

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 11:41 am

Prisoners (2013) is a crime mystery involves the search for two abducted girls.  The movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a detective and Hugh Jackman as the distraught father of one of the girls.  The other parents are played by Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, and Maria Bello, and the entire cast of characters is outstanding.  The Rotten Tomatoes critics give it 82% approval while the audience liked it even better at 88%.   Although I don’t typically enjoy crime thrillers, especially one without any romance, this one is clearly above average.  But not so good to justify its 150-minute running time.  I give it two and a half stars out of four.

Short Term 12 (2013) is a well-done drama about some kids working in a group home for troubled kids.  Both sets of kids are interesting and likeable, especially the two stars – Brie Larson and John Gallagher, Jr.  The movie premiered last year at the SXSW in Austin and has been shown love by critics and audiences – 99% and 94% respectively by Rotten Tomatoes.  I agree and give it three and a half stars out of four.

Mitt (2014) is a Netflix documentary that debuted on Friday, and after receiving a friendly email notice from Netflix last night, I immediately streamed the movie.  After a few hours of sleep, I woke up to find a post from a Facebook friend, former Council candidate recommending the movie for anyone thinking of running for office.  I commented to him that his losing campaign reminded me of Romney’s – i.e., he did it the right way and for the right reasons.

Imagine my surprise, then, in reading an MSNBC review of the movie to learn that Romney’s motivation was one of the major flaws with the movie:   According to Jane C. Timm:

  • The film lacks what the campaign did: it’s unclear why—ambition aside—Romney is willing to subject himself and his family to this brutal, decade-long journey. His drive remains enigmatic, hidden behind mentions of duty to country and God. The film is almost completely devoid of actual discussion of Romney’s policy plans or hopes for change. Instead, there are vague references to a poor economy, struggling small business, and taxes.”

That comment is ridiculous from two perspectives:

  1. “Ambition aside.”  Yes, Romney is ambitious, just like all politicians, but his ambition is smaller and less narcissistic than most.
  2. “Hidden behind mentions of duty to country and God.”  Yes, Romney is more of a technocrat than an ideologue, but the sincerity of his “country and God” motivation is palpable.

My comment to my Facebook friend also included the following – “I think he offered this country more than any candidate in my lifetime, including Ike. His loss was a huge loss for this country.”

A few days ago, another Facebook friend asked me if I wanted Ted Cruz to be our president.  I responded that ideally I wanted someone to govern this country from the middle right – and that ideally that someone was Mitt Romney.  This movie provides compelling evidence that Mitt Romney is who I thought he was.  The candidate gets four stars, while the movie gets three stars because there isn’t a lot of drama.

January 23, 2014

The new n-word

Filed under: Culture,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 1:30 pm
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According to Richard Sherman, thug is the new n-word.  He suggests that, because the n-word has become socially unacceptable in virtually all situations, closet racists have turn to the word “thug” to communicate the same that meaning as “nigger.”  According to an article in the Huffington Post:

  • “The only reason it bothers me is because it seems like it’s the accepted way of calling somebody the N-word nowadays,” Sherman said during a press conference on Wednesday. “It’s like everyone else said the N-word and they said ‘Thug’ and they’re like, ‘Ah, that’s fine.’ That’s where it kind of takes me aback and it’s kind of disappointing.”
  • “What’s the definition of a thug really?”
  • “I know some ‘thugs,’ and they know I’m the furthest thing from a thug.”

According to Google, a thug is a violent person, esp. a criminal.  Synonyms are ruffian, hooligan, vandal, hoodlum, gangster, villain, criminal.  In contrast, Google defines nigger as a contemptuous term for a black or dark-skinned person.

So this is not the time for Richard Sherman to play the race card.  He may not be a thug, but his conduct in the Erin Andrews post-game interview was consistent with a thug.

Despite his oft-mentioned Stanford degree, it seems that Sherman’s critics has a better grasp of the English language than he does.

January 22, 2014

Wendy Davis’s story is complicated by stubborn facts

Filed under: Biography,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 12:40 pm

Several months ago, Express-News reporter Peggy Fikac warned that a harsh spotlight awaited Wendy Davis, who had been trying to present her life as an “up from her bootstraps” story.  According to Fikac, the story of Davis’s life was “complicated…. a more nuanced story when you learn that she didn’t make the whole journey alone.”  The man behind her success was lawyer, former Ft. Worth councilman Jeff Davis.  Coincidentally, Davis, who was a single mother in a trailer park for only a few months, was matched with Jeff Davis by Davis’s father, another man who played a significant role in her life, but doesn’t fit with the single-mother storyline that she is trying to sell.

This past Sunday, the Dallas Morning News published an article by Wayne Slater that further put the lie to Wendy’s propaganda.  The article was headlined – “As Wendy Davis touts life story in race for governor, key facts blurred.”  The article, as presaged by Fikac, revealed that Davis’s advancement was not as a single mother, but rather as the wife of a successful Fort Worth lawyer, Jeff Davis, who put her through college and law school and was primarily responsible for raising both her child and their child.  Just as significantly, when they moved for divorce in 2003, he alleged her adultery and was awarded custody not only of their kid but also of hers.  The article noted the following:

  • A former colleague and political supporter who worked closely with Davis when she was on the council said the body’s work was very time-consuming.  “Wendy is tremendously ambitious,” he said, speaking only on condition of anonymity in order to give what he called an honest assessment. “She’s not going to let family or raising children or anything else get in her way.”

Following publication of the article, Davis attempted to clarify her rags-to-riches story, while admitting that some of her facts were in error.  The facts are a stubborn thing.

January 21, 2014

Richard Sherman goes off

Filed under: Culture,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 10:56 am
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Aside from Peyton Manning’s masterful performance, the most noteworthy event coming out of Sunday’s Championship Weekend was Richard Sherman’s post-game rant with sideline reporter Erin Andrews.

Although there has been an avalanche of criticism of Sherman for this rant, there have been a surprising number of people who have come to his defense, including Erin Andrews.  She went on the Dan Patrick talk show on Monday and said:

  • You expect these guys to play like maniacs and animals for 60 minutes.  And then 90 seconds after he makes a career-defining, game-changing play, I’m gonna be mad because he’s not giving me a cliché answer, ‘That’s what Seahawks football is all about and that’s what we came to do and we practice for those situations.’ No you don’t. That was awesome. That was so awesome. And I loved it.”
  • “Athletes don’t do that. They’re usually composed.  They usually take a minute and that’s why we grab them right after games because we hope they lose their minds like that, we hope they show pure joy. We hope he does the same thing at the Super Bowl. We don’t want a watered-down version of him.”

Andrews also noted that loved the Sherman moment and hopes to see more of it in two weeks. Her stunned look?  She says her boyfriend says she gives him that look all the time.

I’m afraid that Erin Andrews thinks Jerry Springer-type stuff is what America wants – “Why would you not?  It’s great stuff.”  I’m hopeful that she is wrong

Typical of the Sherman apologists, columnist Tommy Tomlinson provided us with 22 brief thoughts about that Richard Sherman interview,” and one of my son’s rugby teammates, Ian, commented on Facebook as follows on the Tomlinson column – “This was well said. Good perspective on the whole thing.”  I responded:

  • Sorry to disagree. Regarding the 22 brief thoughts, each one could be answered, “so what?” So what that Sherman is black, graduated from Stanford, didn’t use any curse words, or spoke shortly after making a game-saving play? His conduct was indefensible, self-centered, and unsportsmanlike.

Ian’s friend, Jared, commented:

  • I enjoyed this read too Ian. I don’t think it explains what he did. But none of us can… Because we weren’t him in that moment of the game, and we weren’t him while trying to get drafted. He was told he wasn’t the best and proved himself otherwise.

I responded to Jared:

  • Jared, I agree with your suggestion that we shouldn’t judge Sherman because we haven’t lived his life, but we should be able to judge his conduct.  I’ve read so much by people who enjoyed seeing his unvarnished personality, but I don’t think it is asking too much to expect our athletes to be able to shake hands immediately after a loss, just like they do in tennis.

Enough said.

p.s., Ian subsequently forwarded to me Sherman’s account of the incident in the Monday Morning QB blog, and he asked me the following – “In addition to your opinion on the article, do you think Sherman’s heated response is more or less justified after he was shoved in the face for trying to shake Michael Crabtree’s hand?”

My response to Ian:

Thanks, Ian Miller. I give Sherman’s Monday Morning account little credence. Do you really think a guy who, according to him, is generously, graciously offering a handshake to Crabtree would explode when Crabtree pushes him away? The fact that he followed his Crabtree action by showing the choke sign to Kaepernick, who had the audacity to throw at him, reveals his immature, angry, petulant attitude. And finally, can you imagine having friends who compliment you afterwards for having “best interview ever” after the game?


San Antonio’s MLK March

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 10:13 am

Yesterday, I attended San Antonio’s MLK March along with 175,000 other people.  Inexplicably, San Antonio has one of the smallest African-American populations of any major American city (7%), but its MLK March is one of the largest.  I was prompted to attend by my best friend, a northeastern liberal who likes to bring his daughter and grand-daughter to this event to show his historical interest in the advancement of civil rights.

We arrived at the terminus of the march, Pittman-Sullivan Park in east SA, around noon, and most of the light-skinned marchers were already lined up to catch their buses home while most of the dark-skinned people stayed to listen to the speeches.  About 80% of the people who stayed for the speeches were African-American.  Most of the speeches were by white politicians and came off as lame, while the black speakers and musicians were inspirational.

What does this participation pattern mean?  I suspect that light-skinned people, like my best friend, are showing their respect for the accomplishments of MLK, but that the current political coalition is like the Platte River in Nebraska – a mile wide and an inch deep.


p.s., one of Mayor Castro’s assistants posted an entry on Facebook about the success of the March, and I commented as follows:

Mike Kueber I wonder if the effectiveness of the march is diminished because so few of them stick around for the speeches at Pittman Park.  My estimate is that 80% of those who stayed are African-American.

Jeanne Russell  Why would that be? I know that I go – with my children – every year – so that we can celebrate the life and teaching of Martin Luther King Jr. We talk about it, we revel in the fact that all types of people from our community come together on this day, and we spend that one day remembering his words and his actions, often reading from them. We listen to some of the speeches, but I do not see that one needs to listen to the speeches to fully participate in this amazing march.
Mike Kueber I’m just thinking that those who march, but go home without hearing the speeches, are missing something important; kind of like going to a Catholic mass without hearing the homily.

January 19, 2014

Is Dee Dee McCarron a racist or the victim of a double standard?

Filed under: Culture,Media — Mike Kueber @ 2:20 pm
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Earlier this week on Imus in the Morning, host Don Imus asked his in-house sport panel whether AJ McCarron’s mother was a racist for snarkily tweeting that Jameis Winston’s post-game comments seemed to be in some language other than English – “Am I listening to English?”  (She quickly deleted the tweet.)    Most of the panelists agreed that the comments, while not very generous, were probably due more to jealousy (sic – envy) than racism, but Imus and one panelist inferred racism.

As I scanned the internet on this issue, I was pleasantly surprised to see that most people, even journalists, have taken the position that McCarron’s comment might have been harsh or thoughtless, but it was not evidence of racism.   I am, however, disappointed in Imus’s judgment.  He is usually a thinking man with excellent common sense and good judgment.  In this instance, he even compared Winston’s inability to communicate to that of a NASCAR driver with a heavy southern accent, which Imus proceeded to imitate.  The obvious point is that no one considers it racist to make fun of the way NASCAR drivers talk.

I suspect that, ever since Imus was fired a few years back for joking about the rough and unattractive the Rutgers girl basketball players (mostly black), Imus no longer trusts his good judgment and common sense when dealing with matters of race and instead errs on the side of political correctness.

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