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 25, 2011

A controversial parenting alternative – the Chinese, tiger-mom method

Several months ago I blogged about good parenting.   My prescription was relatively straightforward – i.e., teach your children to have self-esteem and good values, such as the seven Roman Catholic seven virtues – prudence, justice, temperance, courage, faith, hope, and love – plus the Protestant work ethic. 

A recent article in Time magazine described a controversial parenting alternative called the Chinese tiger-mom method.   The method is described in a best-selling book called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua.  Chua is a Chinese-American immigrant (and a Yale law professor) who has raised her two daughters to succeed.  Regarding American parenting, she says:

  • To be perfectly honest, I know a lot a lot of Asian women are secretly shocked and horrified by many aspects of Western parenting,” including “how much time Westerners allow their kids to waste – hours on Facebook and computer games – and in some ways, how poorly they prepare them for the future.”

Ironically, the Time article notes that with parents and educators in China, “the trend is away from the strict traditional model and toward a more relaxed American style.”

The Time article also speculates that the highly negative reaction in America to the Chinese tiger-mom method may be because the Chinese economy is growing at such a rate that it threatens to overtake America’s, which makes apt the analogy with Russia’s Sputnik challenge in the late 50s and early 60s. 

An even better analogy, I think, is the parenting of kids who are trained almost from their diapers to be tennis players or Olympic gymnasts.  No one thinks that is healthy.

The Chinese tiger-mom method of parenting obviously does a fantastic job of teaching the Protestant work ethic, but what about self-esteem and the values of prudence, justice, temperance, courage, faith, hope, and love?