Tiger moms, you are doing it wrong.
May 8, 2013 1:05 PM   Subscribe

Amy Chua's anecdotal "tiger mom" manifesto meets some peer-reviewed data-driven research. Oh snap!

Compared with the supportive parenting profile, a tiger parenting profile was associated with lower GPA and educational attainment, as well as less of a sense of family obligation; it was also associated with more academic pressure, more depressive symptoms, and a greater sense of alienation. The current study suggests that, contrary to the common perception, tiger parenting is not the most typical parenting profile in Chinese American families, nor does it lead to optimal adjustment among Chinese American adolescents.

tl;dr summary via Slate's Paul Tullis.

Previously: [1, 2]
posted by kanuck (90 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hey, it's not like you need an excuse to hurt the ones you love!
posted by LogicalDash at 1:14 PM on May 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


I love being ok with, I guess what Tullis's chart would call, being Low-Achieving. Because I'm 100% sure that's what keeps me in the Low-Depressive category as well. I see alot of people on the other end of that spectrum and I know I couldn't live like that.

I don't know how my parents cultivated/seeded within me with just the right amount of drive and determination that's also well tempered by solid additions of chill reactions and a laissez faire outlook on life, but if I could somehow bottle their actions up and drop them on my potential, hypothetical kids I would give it a shot in a heartbeat.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:14 PM on May 8, 2013 [14 favorites]


An interesting example of "the results are constrained by the way you choose to analyze the data."

Scientist looks at results of studies, finds that the assumptions don't match the real world as that scientist intuitively perceives it, scientist brings in new assumptions and finds out that the picture changes.

Especially interesting that the profile of the ideal parent according to Western psychologists of mid to late 20th century was the "authoritative" parent, while the ideal parenting style that bubbled out of Kim's work was the "supportive" parent!
posted by edheil at 1:20 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


This tiger mom thing was kinda bs. I think she capitalized on this stereotype to sell books or gain exposure or whatever. Not all Asian parents are "tigers."
posted by ChuckRamone at 1:22 PM on May 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Proposed book title:

"It Worked For Me: The perils of drawing too many conclusions from too little data"
posted by vidur at 1:23 PM on May 8, 2013 [36 favorites]


I was surprised when "tiger mom" got such traction, when it seemed like such a weird racist trope, like seeing a book encouraging black people to be Sambo parents or something.
posted by klangklangston at 1:33 PM on May 8, 2013 [25 favorites]


I would tend to agree that Chua's approach is harmful. On the other hand, we encounter a culture clash almost daily with our son's school. He wasn't doing well in math, and the teacher said "oh well, sometimes they're slow, he'll pick it up next year probably" or something like that.

My wife, who used to teach math, took it on herself to teach our son math, and now he displays full competency.,
posted by KokuRyu at 1:33 PM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Surprise surprise, tutoring helps.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:36 PM on May 8, 2013 [16 favorites]


Turns out it's just the loudest voices that get heard, and written about, and debated, and published, and now I made myself upset :<. I'll just go be upset quietly.
posted by musicismath at 1:40 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


This article -- and maybe her life as a parent -- is essentially this: "I'm a better person than this other type of person."

That's an ugly attitude, uglier still when she uses her own caricature of a entire race/culture to define the "other type of person" she's better than.

This article is a collection of ugly thoughts.
posted by Moistener at 1:43 PM on May 8, 2013


300 isn't a whole lot, but longitudinal studies are expensive and data is hard to come by. The Slate write-up was super interesting and I look forward to reading the original journal article.

I tend to think most prescriptivism is misguided when it comes to raising kids. Parenting is hard. There are a million ways to get it "wrong" according to some authority or another, and I would rather cut parents some slack and believe that they're all doing their level best until proven otherwise.

"I did X with my kids and they're fine therefore you must do X with your kids or else you'll be the reason they fail" deserves little more than the ridicule Chua rightfully received, but that's not to say that "Asian tiger moms are doing it wrong" is any better.
posted by Phire at 1:46 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Tiger Mom" was a memoir and in no way a proscriptive book you know. It was never meant to be how-to guide.
posted by GuyZero at 1:48 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Prescriptive." Or maybe "how-not-to guide." Anyway, it's either one or the other.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 1:55 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


GuyZero: ""Tiger Mom" was a memoir and in no way a proscriptive book you know. It was never meant to be how-to guide."

I don't necessarily think that's a foregone conclusion. Most of her article is a treatise on how Chinese parenting produces far superior results. In fact, this is in the first paragraph (emphasis mine):

"A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it's like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I've done it."

That said, I haven't read the book and I have no trouble believing that the most vicious material was adapted and excerpted for the article to spur on sales, but the WSJ article was hardly a neutral reminiscence of her children's childhoods.
posted by Phire at 1:58 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's that awkward moment when science tells you your parents were not adhering to cultural norms as much as being jerks.
posted by mobunited at 1:59 PM on May 8, 2013 [19 favorites]


Oh man, this post made me go back and look at the original Amy Chua thread and man, the racism and cultural generalizations, it burns. Wow.

It's that awkward moment when science tells you your parents were not adhering to cultural norms as much as being jerks.

yeah.
posted by sweetkid at 1:59 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


mobunited: "It's that awkward moment when science tells you your parents were not adhering to cultural norms as much as being jerks."

Now, now. It can be both.
posted by mhum at 2:02 PM on May 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


The "tiger mom" thing is not just a Chinese/Asian-American or - Canadian thing, it's pretty common in many immigrant cultures. Erik Erikson actually wrote about it, coining the term identity foreclosure.

For much of the world outside of the US, it's not like adolescents are on some sort of voyage of self-discovery. They get one chance (getting into a good university or trade school, for example) and if they blow it there is no reinvention. That's it.

So study hard and make the most of your opportunities.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:03 PM on May 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


"A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. "

There are about a billion people in China; all with Chinese parents. Many, Many of them are wondering the same thing.
posted by NiteMayr at 2:06 PM on May 8, 2013 [17 favorites]


When the whole Tiger Mom thing came out a while ago, I remember having discussions with my Asian friends and the snarky conclusion we came to was that Tiger Mom-style parenting produced kids who succeed at school (and, to a lesser extent, work) but fail at life. Now, you're telling me they can't even succeed in school? Weak.
posted by mhum at 2:07 PM on May 8, 2013


Didn't Chua's book actually sell her a heap of copies by simply trotting out every single cliche of the Chinese parent stereotype for a few hundred pages, then ended with her saying that actually she didn't really believe it all the way down, and parents have to, you know, use a bit of judgement and moderation and all that stuff?
posted by colie at 2:08 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


we encounter a culture clash almost daily with our son's school. He wasn't doing well in math, and the teacher said "oh well, sometimes they're slow, he'll pick it up next year probably" or something like that.

My wife, who used to teach math, took it on herself to teach our son math, and now he displays full competency.,
Yes. Constant attention, teaching, repetition, and high expectations works.

My take on this is that what is regarded as "Tiger Parenting" by most people (who are typically "easy going" parents) is recorded in the literature as "Supportive/Authoritative Parenting". In the literature, "Tiger Parenting" is an outlying, incompetent attempt at an authoritative parenting style.

What it seems that happened to Chua is that an authoritative style that worked well with her oldest child didn't work with the younger one, causing Chua to basically have a complete meltdown, and a breakdown of her authority, causing her to resort to a less competent, more authoritarian parenting style.
posted by deanc at 2:08 PM on May 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Didn't Chua's book actually sell her a heap of copies by simply trotting out every single cliche of the Chinese parent stereotype for a few hundred pages, then ended with her saying that actually she didn't really believe it all the way down, and parents have to, you know, use a bit of judgement and moderation and all that stuff?

I've noticed that lots of books have this general style where what is mentioned in the first few chapters is the "hook" for publicity, knowing that reviewers will only read the beginning and skim through the rest, if they read the rest at all.
posted by deanc at 2:09 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Surprise surprise, tutoring helps.

tutoring is brilliant because it can be very specific.

I remember in Grade Three just NOT getting long division, and I'd been pretty good with arithmetic up to that point. But suddenly, utter failure ... until my dad sat down with me for probably less than an hour and worked through it with me. Problem solved. I never looked back.

Full reveal. What my dad did was show me the "old" way of doing long division (ie: his way), which though contrary to the then current way made way more sense to me. Which caused trouble with the teacher because though I was getting the right answers, I was achieving them the WRONG way. And then my mom got involved, had a little talk with teacher that I could hear through the door -- the LOUD parts anyway.

So now I must wonder, what kind of parents did I have?
posted by philip-random at 2:12 PM on May 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


I learned all my parenting skill from Lane's mom on Gilmore Girls
posted by Doleful Creature at 2:13 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


edheil: Especially interesting that the profile of the ideal parent according to Western psychologists of mid to late 20th century was the "authoritative" parent, while the ideal parenting style that bubbled out of Kim's work was the "supportive" parent!
It's also interesting that you've conflated data-based studies with mere opinions of experts.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:14 PM on May 8, 2013


philip-random: "So now I must wonder, what kind of parents did I have?
"

From that story, I'd say the good kind... though now I'm going to have to do a search to find out what the 'old' way of doing long division is because stuff like that fascinates me... though it will probably turn out that my way is the old way.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:17 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think the challenge with a North American school system is the general low expectations of student performance, combined with a lack of resources/misplaced resources for teaching. It's impossible to do a good job teaching every student in a 30-student class where some students, who would have been segregated a generation ago, are streamed with "normal" students. It must be very challenging for teachers.

The problem for parents is that there is often lack of transparency in terms of what is being taught on a day to day basis - parents don't know that their child is underperforming until after the fact, when "report cards" are issued.

It's a cultural thing, I suppose. Students are supposed to be encouraged to be responsiblee for their own learning, and the ability to manage one's learning is also assessed and graded.

We've had the interesting experiencing of spending several months a year in Japan each year for the past six years. Our eldest has progressed from kindergarten to (this year) Grade 5 with the same cohort of kids.

While for the first few years he struggled with language, by year 4 he was consistently scoring at the top of his class in Japan, including language arts. I don't think this is because he's particularly smart, but his success in Japan is based in part on the fact that things are very structured, with a lot of detailed communication from the teacher, including benchmarks, learning outcomes, and timelines for achieving each, all sent home.

I think our son's success is also based on the fact that both parents love language and reading and maths and all that stuff.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:21 PM on May 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


t's impossible to do a good job teaching every student in a 30-student class where some students, who would have been segregated a generation ago, are streamed with "normal" students. It must be very challenging for teachers.

I'm misunderstanding something - integration is bad for American education? I'm assuming you don't mean racial but not sure what you mean.
posted by sweetkid at 2:24 PM on May 8, 2013


I'm misunderstanding something - integration is bad for American education? I'm assuming you don't mean racial but not sure what you mean.

Ah sorry, I meant "inclusion". Sorry about that.

I think "inclusion" is a great idea (it helps not only the included students, but also "normal" students develop a higher EQ and empathy), but the challenge is that there often not enough resources for teachers to teach all kids in the class. It's a structural and political problem, not a philosophical one from my point of view.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:31 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tiger moms, you are doing it wrong.

If this is wrong, I don't want to be right.
posted by resurrexit at 2:36 PM on May 8, 2013 [22 favorites]


Ah sorry, I meant "inclusion". Sorry about that.

OH, gotcha.
posted by sweetkid at 2:40 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


From that story, I'd say the good kind... though now I'm going to have to do a search to find out what the 'old' way of doing long division is because stuff like that fascinates me... though it will probably turn out that my way is the old way.

If it's the way where you end up with the answer, a huge string of numbers down the page and a profound sense of satisfaction then it's the one we learnt. We used to do it for fun at my school.

Buggered if I can remember how it goes now though.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:54 PM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


though now I'm going to have to do a search to find out what the 'old' way of doing long division is because stuff like that fascinates me.

the old way is best explained by example.

What's 742 divided by 14.

You just start throwing multiples of 14 at 742.

30 X 14 = 420
20 x 14 = 280

and then you subtract the totals from 742 ...

742 - 420 = 322

322 - 280 = 42

So 42 to go ...

2 X 14 = 28 (42 - 28 = 14)
1 X 14 = 14

DONE. Now add up all multipliers. 30 + 20 + 2 + 1 = 53

742 divided by 14 = 53
posted by philip-random at 3:06 PM on May 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


... tho Sebmojo is correct, it manifests as "... a huge string of numbers down the page and a profound sense of satisfaction"
posted by philip-random at 3:08 PM on May 8, 2013


Tiger Mom was my favorite ThunderCat.
posted by roger ackroyd at 3:09 PM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


...there's a new way of doing long division?
posted by Shepherd at 3:17 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's that a majority or even a lot of Chinese parents are like Chua, so much as it's the few that are like that are very noticeable, especially if you're getting their kids funneled to your college admissions board or you're sharing a curve-graded class witha couple of them.

The overbearing demand for perfection and parental life by proxy is by no means unique to China; my parents were as bad as Chua's in many similar ways and they were from rural Mississippi. But some of the specifics do form a noticeable and repeatably observed stereotype, such as the musical instrument always bing piano or violin and the single-minded focus through extracurricular activities and grades of getting into an Ivy League school, and then only allowing certain majors. There is consistency there and I think it results from a set of Chinese stereotypes about our culture and how we supposedly achieve and measure success.

Such aggressive parenting exists but has different symptoms in other cultures. And when those symptoms are a bit more variable the parenting is more likely to be seen as an individual quirk rather than a cultural tendency.
posted by localroger at 3:28 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Amy Chua's tiger mom ideas are truly evil, and now we have the data to prove it.
posted by Bwithh at 3:54 PM on May 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wait, I've literally never heard of that method of division before and my mind is kind of blown. It seems so much more confusing than going in incremental digits.

Ie: take the first x digits of the number you're dividing until it's bigger than the number you're dividing it by. 7 is smaller than 14, so 14 goes into 7 zero times. 74 contains 5 iterations of 14 (70) leaving a remainder of 4, which you carry. You add the second digit, and you get 42. 14 goes into 42 three times. Write those iterations in order of how you got them and you get 0-5-3: 53.

Okay, written out like this that looks like a mess, too.
posted by Phire at 4:02 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


the wikipedia page on long division has an animated gif which shows the one true way of dividing big integers
posted by bukvich at 4:25 PM on May 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


There are about a billion people in China; all with Chinese parents. Many, Many of them are wondering the same thing.

There are enough Chinese parents getting it right to form a critical mass. Shanghai in 1990 and 2010.

你有问题吗?
posted by Tanizaki at 4:31 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was surprised when "tiger mom" got such traction, when it seemed like such a weird racist trope

I assumed it was just a back-formation or what have you from the old "Four Asian Tigers" (HK, Singapore, Taiwan, ROK), which wasn't a particulary racist reference, but a reference to their economic strength coupled, to a certain extent, with the tiger imagery that crops up in language and visuals in those cultures.

Two weeks ago, I saw a reference to Mexico as the "Aztec Tiger," which, in concert with the fact that "Asian Tigers" wasn't considered redundant by the coiner(s) and users, would seem to indicate that the "tiger" wasn't intended to be specifically Asian or, by extension, racist.
posted by the sobsister at 4:34 PM on May 8, 2013


342-173=169.
posted by The Bellman at 4:38 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Single anecdote. Ignore if you wish. Two hippie introvert slacker parents raise incredibly extroverted child devoted to achieving straight A's throughout her high school and college career. (As well as being a kind and compassionate and honest person.) I have heard the term "free-range parenting" since. Well, that's what we did, and it worked. We were Sloth Parents (new book title! You can take it!)

Maybe it's genetics. My daughter turned into my mom.

Anyway, interesting study.
posted by kozad at 4:39 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I suppose I should stop trying to carry my daughter around by lightly biting the scruff of her neck.
posted by Renoroc at 4:55 PM on May 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


Two weeks ago, I saw a reference to Mexico as the "Aztec Tiger," which, in concert with the fact that "Asian Tigers" wasn't considered redundant by the coiner(s) and users, would seem to indicate that the "tiger" wasn't intended to be specifically Asian or, by extension, racist.
posted by the sobsister at 6:34 PM on May 8 [+] [!]


Possibly as a comparison to Celtic Tiger?
posted by fiercecupcake at 5:46 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, Phire, your method is the way I learned it. philip-random's makes no sense to me.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:59 PM on May 8, 2013


KokuRyu: "a lot of detailed communication from the teacher, including benchmarks, learning outcomes, and timelines for achieving each, all sent home."

This is allllllll online now. I'm in a very high-poverty district in the U.S., so this is not a rich-schools-only thing; our parents can sign on at any time to see all of their child's grades on all assignments up to the moment, tied to benchmarks, learning standards, outcomes, etc. They can see their child's standardized assessments with interpretive information. They can get assignments. They can follow links to supplemental material. These programs are extremely common now and widely used.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:11 PM on May 8, 2013


Phire & philip-random,

As someone who skipped grade 4 and didn't learn long division until 1st year university, I like Phire's method better. But it only made sense to me after I'd learned p-r's way. It's "the one true way" because it forces you to think through the process very clearly and painfully. Phire's way is much more efficient for on-the-spot figuring. Which is all figuring, if you ask me.
posted by sneebler at 6:17 PM on May 8, 2013


More and more we've been turning to the theories and practices of Hand in Hand parenting - core notions being that when kids are feeling connected they function much better (and are much happier) and that when they run into stress, giving them a supportive environment to vent the stress (aka meltdown) does a lot towards removing it permanently (and otherwise it just sits until the next time it blows out). The thing is, it works. From what I can tell it's about as far on the other side of "tiger mom" as one can get.
posted by emmet at 6:22 PM on May 8, 2013


I feel much better about myself now. I am a very laissez faire mom. I make sure homework is done and piano is practiced. I insist on a few basic chores. Church is an every week thing. Otherwise we just enjoy each other's company. I DID homeschool them for many years, though, which was like front loading them with intense parental involvement. But even then I was a pretty laid back mom. My eldest is heading to college in August, so I guess it worked so far. We'll see how things are going at Thanksgiving. Maybe then I will regret not signing him up for immersive division clinics or whatever.
posted by Biblio at 6:31 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not race and it's not society, it's the class (if even that's the right word) of the people who are parenting, and the expectations within that class. Or family, probably more accurately.

I worked with TONS if Indian people, Indian computer programmers in saving the world from Y2K and then, after that, Indian electrical engineers working at Compaq. These people were on fire with smarts, and discipline, drive. So from my seat in the house, all Indians are super-smart and disciplined -- it's a race thing!

But I was only seeing those who got here, and not one of those who I worked with came from a family of urban street dwellers, starving for their next meal. Those who I spoke to about all this, they came from super-disciplined family structures. There was absolutely no question of whether or not they were going to succeed in math. The only question was how successful they were going to be; they knew in like the fourth grade what colleges they were excluded from -- based upon their abilities thus far -- but didn't yet know what college there were going to be able to get into.

The competition was fierce, and their parents were right there with them, every step of the way. But you couldn't say that it's because their parents are Indian, because other Indian parents in the same town were raising their children to make pottery, or life as a tin craftsman, or a rag-picker.

More. I was told, ruefully, that if you didn't get back to India before the children got into US schools, you were not going back. Period. Because those children, once dipped even the smallest into our socialization, they did not fit in India. They were disrespectful, willful. Yet their children excelled here, compared to US students. Parental expectations.

I asked Rajeev -- he is so damn cool, movie-star good-looking, tons of fun, we had a time -- I asked him "Supposing we drop into The Stray Cat for lunch, and you meet and fall for and marry one of the bims that dances there -- how would that play back home?" He was shocked by even the thought. Scandalized maybe. Told me he'd be completely cut off by his family. Dead to them, forever. No kidding. But a really fun conversation it was, we both of us laughing about it all, Life, capital L.

The EEs I worked with laughed about our education system, saying they'd learned in grade school what was being taught in US colleges. But, again, so few Indians go to the quality of schools that these people went to. Thus they never got to the US shores. Different families. Different lives.

~~~

In my family, none of us were going to college. We didn't even dream of it -- why would we go to college? All those guys wearing shorts, playing tennis. Or whatever they did. A bunch of fish. Man. We had no idea. It wasn't expected of us, not one bit. One sister went, my oldest sister, and we couldn't figure out why -- not like we tried to -- or what she did there, she married a guy who went on to his masters and then his PhD, spent his life as a teacher and then an administrator also, and we accepted him but didn't get it at all. My youngest brother went to college, but everything in the family dynamic had changed by then, and no way was he interested in a blue collar life. (Some of which is my doing, one of the best gifts I've ever given anyone -- I told him the instant I saw him on a job-site to get off the jobsite, I told him to quit that horses-ass laborers job he was set up with by my family, I told him that he could and likely would work for the rest of his life but not now -- get outta here. Quit. Now. And he did.)

We were told, trained, both by example and expectation, to be blue-collar people. We were not told that we were getting screwed; the fact is, no one knew, we were all just staggering along. I never -- ever -- got any help with any school-work. I just couldn't figure math, I was lost, I needed help. Freshman year high school my algebra instructor -- who couldn't stand me and I can't blame him, really, I was beyond his reach -- he made a deal with me; he'd pass me, the lowest possible D, upon agreement that I drop after that first semester and never try to take another math course again. I'm like, you bet.

I needed arithmetic, not algebra.

I had three teachers that cared, and then one PE instructor who truly cared; I was lucky, he reached to me; I still see his eyes. He cared. US history, the only A I got in high school, it was a dumb kids class -- like Welcome Back Kotter type of thing -- but the teacher loved us and we all loved him and worked hard for him. I got told at home to do homework but the family was falling apart around us after my fathers construction business bankruptcy and no one could or would enforce it, and once I started work -- 8th grade -- they never saw me anyways, and didn't hassle me when they did see me. I was on my way.

~~~

My oldest brother married again -- third time the charm. He got lucky -- Rita. Though she's lucky too; he'd learned what to do, prior, and what not to do. Anyways, they had twins, boy and a girl, born preemie, lots of health complications but nothing that my brother and his wife weren't up for. It was like a storybook thing, really; my brother go Another Chance. Not that he'd been like some ogre of a father to his first sons, just that it was different this time.

They loved those children, they nurtured those children, they sheltered those children, they gave those children everything they knew to give, and more. Those kids knew they were loved, were valued, were cherished. Both of their parents gave them Time, that most valuable gift, but gave them plenty else, too.

Those children were top students in every class they were in, did well in college, now are doing well in their careers. Both of them were singled out, high school graduation, along with four others, as being Exemplary students or some such, true Citizens of The Realm or whatever. And then my nephew, in a ceremony not had before nor since, was given some other honor, pretty much a local status as a Deity, no loaves or fish or anything but still.

They never yelled at those kids that I know of, damn sure never hit them or fought with them, just loved them, hard as they could. It sure worked out well for all involved.
posted by dancestoblue at 6:34 PM on May 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm not trying to be snarky but I don't get really get the point of that anecdote, dancestoblue.
posted by sweetkid at 6:48 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's all over the place, I almost didn't post it and maybe ought not to have; I'm sure it'll get yanked if it ought to. Just that it's family, that's all, that it's in familial expectations.

It's not race, it's not yelling at people, not getting in your kids face. This "tiger mom" did it this one way and it worked as she'd liked it to, but I don't think it's needed to get in anyone's face that way. It's to be with them, to spend time with them.

Though her method is jarring many of us here, it's clear that she saw it as love, as loving her kids, as giving to them as much as she could, at the expense of her time, her energy. And if you're not given that, you're not going to have near the chance that you'll have if you're lucky enough to come from a family that does give that.

I was trying to make sense of it as I wrote it, no wonder if it makes no sense to read it, never really considered it before, maybe didn't consider it deeply enough this time, either.

tldr:
Two words: Familial expectations.

One word: Love.
posted by dancestoblue at 7:18 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well it's simple really, she will now demand that her children outperform thousands of other children so exponentially as to shift the data back on her side. I mean if they don't, they'll be unforgivable failures and lazy.
posted by trackofalljades at 7:50 PM on May 8, 2013


I find it odd that this study didn't mention fathers. As Chua notes, her authoritative, demanding style was balanced out by her laid-back, warm'n'fuzzy husband. It seems like that would be a pretty important variable to compare.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:52 PM on May 8, 2013


I've always thought that the tiger mom thing was someone taking the "Asian Dad" meme and making up a slightly less racist backstory to sell books. I still believe that.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 8:19 PM on May 8, 2013


The annoying thing about 'Tiger Mom' was the fact that instantly every American white or otherwise non Asian person was instantly like "Oh yea all Asians are like that in fact this one guy from third grade..." which happens many times someone publishes any "in this culture we..." type thing.

Also, yeah, a lot of the "wanting kids to succeed" type stuff is an immigrant culture thing. I am Indian American and always feel like I have a lot in common with Jewish friends in that regard, especially ones whose families came from the former Soviet Union while young. But no it wasn't oppressive and abusive, education was just important to my parents.

Also dancestoblue, sorry, I'm still not sure what you're saying!
posted by sweetkid at 8:24 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are enough Chinese parents getting it right to form a critical mass. Shanghai in 1990 and 2010.

If that's what you view as right.
posted by mygoditsbob at 8:32 PM on May 8, 2013


Like a lot of others here, I'm also going to bet that a lot of the educational attainment stuff is tied down to class. Unless you're part of the expat/immigrant community of people from some country or ethnicity, it's really hard to see, because it's basically unspooken. But a lot of these places of origin have enormous class-based disparities, on a scale that people in the US would probably find pretty incredible. Metafilter sees a lot of sneering when there's an FPP about some posh private school or preschool. A lot of people from abroad attended schools as posh and exclusive or even more so than the plummiest ones mentioned in the most precious and eyeroll-inducing NYT profile. Even in societies that we often assume to be relatively classless, there are most likely subtle, insiduous, and unbridgeable class distinctions.

To give a personal example, I attended a Soviet elementary school and therefore was on track to get one of those extraordinary Soviet educations that a lot of people apparently envied in the 80s and 90s. Or at least that's how the non-Russians I talk to seem to think about it. A lot of the Russian professionals I run into went to elite and very selective specialized grade schools attended by the children of prominent academics and others of similar calibre. A lot of the reminiscences about good old school days on Russian LJ blogs rotate around computers and programming instruction in the 80s. By comparison, most kids from my social stratum hadn't even seen a computer until the mid-90s. A lot of the older Russian professionals regard me (and my family and relatives) with curiosity and even condescension. And, you know, we all went to perfectly normal schools, and my parents had perfectly normal higher educations Sovietside and had perfectly decent jobs, weren't members of any visible ethnic minorities, and so on.

I actually find it sort of bitterly amusing how eagerly US observers and commentators fall back on racial stereotypes rather than consider the question of class.
posted by Nomyte at 9:09 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


KokuRyu: "a lot of detailed communication from the teacher, including benchmarks, learning outcomes, and timelines for achieving each, all sent home."

This is allllllll online now.


Theoretically, yes (I used to be a teacher and have a BEd), but in British Columbia we have something called an Integrated Resource Package. I've linked to it here. The IRP prescribes learning outcomes, but it's up to the teacher on how to achieve those outcomes (what the teacher plans is guided by outcomes such as "can express in writing" and "can research" etc).

So the IRP is a massive document. A teacher has actually pointed us at the URL in the past and said "look it up here!" but I don't think that's realistic for most parents.

However, generally speaking, what goes on in the classroom on a day to day basis is a bit of a black box (unlike our experience with Japan, where there is a plan and a schedule that is updated at least once a week and sent home).

Schools are very conservative places in North America - this is the first year a teacher has created an online space to keep parents and students up to date about what is happening in the classroom, and it makes all the difference in the world.

But for most of the time it's really hard to help with reinforcing skills at home, because we don't know what is going on.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:10 PM on May 8, 2013


Most of her article is a treatise on how Chinese parenting produces far superior results.

Ok, so I actually read the book. And the interviews and marketing are very canny and definitely generated buzz for the book, but they don't strictly reflect the contents of the book.

Chua and her husband are both law professors at major US universities. They give speeches, they consult for think-tanks. Chua seems like she has a lot of psychological issues but empirically they're the intellectual elite who make a wealthy living in their field.

Her daughters, at the end of the book, are borderline professional violinists. I say borderline because as good as they might be, Chua doesn't ever indicate her girls were being paid to play. She is literally forcing her girls to turn away from an actual education that will result in a professions (or at least a paying job) to pursue this bizarre 18th century upper-class fantasy life of touring Europe with your child prodigies giving concerts. The trouble is that she doesn't have a few thousand acres of land and a castle for the girls to live off of. At best she has made the girls "highly marriageable" which is a pretty questionable achievement in this day and age.

Now, the book certainly doesn't tell the whole tale of their lives and perhaps both daughters end up at medical school or some other high-status professional career.

But seriously, no one could read the book all the way to the end and come to the conclusion that Chua has done the right thing. Mostly because of the multiple implications that her daughters are on the edge of either estranging themselves from her or possibly murdering her.

It's really never clear whether the title of the article "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior" is sincere or ironic. Chua is not stupid and I'm pretty sure she knows what irony is. And reading the final chapter of the book it really seems like that's the only way to interpret it.

Well, there's the possibility that she's conflicted, realizing she's basically destroying her girls with her weird Svengali-Mother thing while at the same time really enjoying having two perfect showpiece children. Chua does not seem to me like a psychologically well-integrated person. Thus it's difficult to take her "manifesto" at face value.
posted by GuyZero at 10:07 PM on May 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


As Chua notes, her authoritative, demanding style was balanced out by her laid-back, warm'n'fuzzy husband. It seems like that would be a pretty important variable to compare.

My reading of the book was that the husband was distant and more involved in his professional life. Again, in spite (or perhaps because) of the book being a memoir, you can't really treat Chua as a reliable narrator.
posted by GuyZero at 10:26 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


GuyZero: "She is literally forcing her girls to turn away from an actual education that will result in a professions (or at least a paying job) to pursue this bizarre 18th century upper-class fantasy life of touring Europe with your child prodigies giving concerts. Now, the book certainly doesn't tell the whole tale of their lives and perhaps both daughters end up at medical school or some other high-status professional career."

Well, the first daughter is at Harvard.

I don't see where you're getting the first part. I went to a public high school with a really strong music program, and I had several friends who were playing big-deal concerts while still in high school (CSO Young Artists, Young Tchaikovsky, etc.). Those kids were generally excellent students in several AP classes and involved in several extracurriculars -- usually mostly musical extracurriculars, but generally also some academic ones. They went on to excellent colleges (Harvard, Lawrence, Yale, USC), sometimes grad schools, and then got jobs -- one is a corporate lawyer, another is a molecular biologist, one is some kind of graphic designer in an artsy collective thingie that I don't really understand, one is the sort of minor television actor who appears on all available crime procedurals, just checking my facebook feed. It's not some kind of 18th-century upper-class fantasy life, it's just a thing that musically talented kids with a lot of drive did, while doing all their academic things too. Of course being children of robustly middle-class or upper-middle-class parents, mostly college-educated professionals, made this intense engagement possible, since music costs money to pursue (not the way, say, golf costs money, but it costs money nonetheless). And there was happenstance that we were at a school with a particularly high-quality music program; I'm a passably talented musician whose parents are not musical AT ALL, and got basically literally all my training at public schools, for free (other than instrument rental), from excellent teachers and with excellent ensembles that enabled me to make all-state band and audition into my college's jazz band and symphony. If I'd been at a different school, maybe I would have put that energy into chess or debate or dance team (and maybe I would have been amazing at one of those things instead of just passably good, or maybe I would have been awful and hated high school as a result). But it's not some kind of bizarre crazy-town thing that only weirdos do."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:33 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Didn't Chua's book actually sell her a heap of copies by simply trotting out every single cliche of the Chinese parent stereotype for a few hundred pages, then ended with her saying that actually she didn't really believe it all the way down, and parents have to, you know, use a bit of judgement and moderation and all that stuff?

Some time after the publicity bubble for the book, I read an interview with Chua. (Sorry, can't find link.) The interviewer pointed out that, against the publicized message of the book, her daughters did actually date and go out. Chua squirmed and finally answered that she wasn't really being serious in the book. So that caveat was always out there, but ignored by the publisher, publicists, commentators, readers and everyone else.
posted by outlier at 2:30 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


She is literally forcing her girls to turn away from an actual education that will result in a professions (or at least a paying job) to pursue this bizarre 18th century upper-class fantasy life of touring Europe with your child prodigies giving concerts.

You're getting the class dynamic wrong. What I found weird about Chua was that she was acting out her perception of parenting in a completely mistaken context. Her parenting model and choice of activities for her children is pretty much 100% typical of families who are on one hand reasonably well educated but on the other hand completely lacking in wealth and social capital. They funnel their children into activities like violin and piano because mastery of these instruments both confers status on the children while also being skills that can be mastered via brute force hard work rather than requiring social connections or knowledge of some kind of unspoken rules. The capital costs and ongoing costs are high enough that they are "status" activities (requiring ownership of an actual piano) but not so high as to be out of reach of someone on a middle income (eg, sailing). For parents on a moderate income and no other connections in the US, teaching children piano and violin gives them experience with hard work while also exposing them to "status" skills and knowledge like classical music, thus giving them a foothold in the social class ladder from a family that otherwise had nothing.

But what is so nonsensical about Chua is that she and her husband are wealthy Yale Law professors. Her husband is a published novelist! They're already at the top of the status ladder. The children don't need to learn piano and violin: they can take up sailing and lacrosse. They're not limited to medical school or engineering, because those are the professions that reward effort and hard work with financial and professional rewards when you have nothing else-- they have the social capital to know about and have access to professions in finance or other high-demand industry professions (eg, fashion) that Chua could set her children with internships up in based on her social connections with the other parents she knows. Instead she is following a model that was created out of desperate circumstances to solve a specific set of problems and using that same model in a completely different set of circumstances for which, while not necessarily harmful, is actually kind of limiting and narrow minded.
posted by deanc at 3:24 AM on May 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


It's really never clear whether the title of the article "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior" is sincere or ironic. Chua is not stupid and I'm pretty sure she knows what irony is. And reading the final chapter of the book it really seems like that's the only way to interpret it.

Eh, I think it's probably a lot simpler than that. "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior," as the title to an article released in advance of a book, is an excellent way to sell copies of that book.
posted by Ragged Richard at 9:32 AM on May 9, 2013


But it's not some kind of bizarre crazy-town thing that only weirdos do.

Well, I will admit that maybe it's just me. But the kids were getting instruction from worldwide top violinists and playing in Europe and Russia. I personally don't see the point of expending that much money on something that's not directly related to your future career or at least something the child shows interest in, but I'm not rich and I'm clearly not Amy Chua.
posted by GuyZero at 9:57 AM on May 9, 2013


" But the kids were getting instruction from worldwide top violinists and playing in Europe and Russia. I personally don't see the point of expending that much money on something that's not directly related to your future career or at least something the child shows interest in"

When you get to a certain level, there's a lot of scholarship money for talented young musicians to win to go to high-end music camps, master class weekends, competitions, etc. High school music groups do lots of touring -- to play in youth music festivals or parades or whatever, all over the place. (Mine traveled every year, generally a regional trip, then DC, then Florida or Hawaii or California, and then overseas. It was always a mix of educational art museum and battlefield visits, youth festival concerts or parades we performed in, and college visits. It was possible for students to fundraise all costs except pocket money. I didn't go because I did a language trip instead, but my classmates went to Norway and Sweden.) I'm sure the Chuas were laying out quite a bit of money, especially for private lessons, but these things are not as strange as they sound. I mean, the kids who played hockey or "club" baseball spent more yearly on classes, clinics, equipment, travel, private team fees, etc., than the kids who played top-level piano did.

Plus, it advantages you on college applications to top schools to have a strongly-committed extracurricular that requires a large time investment over many years and at which you show mastery -- like sports, or music, or debate, or theater, or ballet. And if you play a less-popular instrument (like oboe) well enough to play with college ensembles, there's often at least some scholarship money in it, and it can be tough to get non-sports scholarship money at top schools if you're middle-class or above, because they don't really do merit scholarships (they don't need to, you're all merit kids). So maybe spending 10 years playing oboe obsessively helps you get in to Dartmouth and gets you a $6,000/year grant to knock off a bit of the tuition costs when you're not eligible for much financial aid, at not that much cost to your parents beyond the instrument itself and maybe some private lessons.

It also sounds like the older daughter likes music and the whole system broke down because the younger daughter didn't. I actually think maybe the more interesting story here might be "parent parents in way that comes naturally to her with older child, who responds really well to it; younger child is similarly gifted but has a very different personality, and rebels against following in older sibling's footsteps; mom doubles down on what worked for her before, causing younger child to double down on resistance."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:18 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean, the kids who played hockey or "club" baseball spent more yearly on classes, clinics, equipment, travel, private team fees, etc., than the kids who played top-level piano did.

So I don't know everyone and I can only generalize but my impression is that kids in sports, especially sports with professional leagues, actually believe they have a chance of becoming a professional athlete. But who knows, maybe not. Certainly there are kids who are probably happy to get an athletic scholarship like you describe for music. And once you're at high school or beyond I only see kids dragging parents to sporting events, not vice-versa. Again, Chua has far more of an appetite for conflict and breaking her kids' will than I ever could have, so juding her action by my standards is pretty much nonsensical.

Chua just comes off as being really, really serious about it without any real objective beyond being really, really serious. It's not like she needs her kids to get scholarship money - as a Yale prof I'm sure her kids get a pretty hefty tuition discount.
posted by GuyZero at 10:27 AM on May 9, 2013


I think perhaps what you may also not be considering is to what extent this is a competition between parents of a small sub-community as well. For instance, where I grew up, there were conversations like:

MOM #1: "My son is studying Engineering at Michigan State."
MOM #2: "Oh? That is a very good school."
MOM #1: "Where does your son study?"
MOM #2: "Harvard."

And externally it is all smiles, but internally, mom #2 is dancing around all "YOU JUST GOT SERVED!" And it's not just universities; maybe her son George just played Rachmaninoff at the last recital and your son is still stuck playing Fur Elise. I mean, obviously that shows who is the better parent, right?

It doesn't, of course.
posted by Comrade_robot at 11:19 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


personally don't see the point of expending that much money on something that's not directly related to your future career or at least something the child shows interest in, but I'm not rich and I'm clearly not Amy Chua.

The point, as made by Amy Chua (which I agree with), was that she was trying to teach her children a valuable lesson in the idea that if you work really, really hard at something -- anything -- you get a great payoff in the form of results. And that is an investment in a future career. I think there was also a bit of status competition in an effort to prove herself to be "Platonic ideal Asian/immigrant mother" -- ie, not only do her children play piano and violin, but they are much better at it than all of the other children whose parents give them piano and violin lessons. But her children would have been much better off for college admissions if they were specialists in something other than violin and piano-- if they achieved incredible talent at, say, the harp or tennis (which her younger daughter took up only years after it looked like she was only going to be a fairly good pianist rather than a master pianist), that would help in college admissions a lot more.

The social thing/no sleepovers is also a misplaced priority. When you have no money and have just moved to the USA, you want to make sure your children don't absorb any anti-academic or non-ethnic priorities or ideas that could damage their financial/professional future, given that your own family has no safety net, so you want to keep close control over their social life. But, once again, Chua's children were surrounded by the families of successful academics and high level professionals. In this case, she'd actually want to give her children those kinds of social interactions and experiences because they would nurture her children's future success. Her approach to parenting was to take a formula she was given and apply it to an extreme in circumstances that were not intended to be applied. The opportunity cost was extremely high, even if her children turned out mostly pretty well.
posted by deanc at 11:22 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


The opportunity cost was extremely high, even if her children turned out mostly pretty well.

This is a testament more to human resilience rather than Chua's parenting. Those three girls kidnapped in Ohio seem OK too but I'm not going to say that was because the kidnappers were especially nice or something.
posted by GuyZero at 12:17 PM on May 9, 2013



This is a testament more to human resilience rather than Chua's parenting. Those three girls kidnapped in Ohio seem OK too but I'm not going to say that was because the kidnappers were especially nice or something.


Wow, that is not the same.
posted by sweetkid at 12:21 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


a valuable lesson in the idea that if you work really, really hard at something -- anything -- you get a great payoff in the form of results.

But that's not entirely true. I mean, it depends on the payoff. If you're goal is to get good at something, then yes, you probably will get results by getting better at something. But what if it's something more elusive or rare, like money, fame, power, or professional recognition? Also, I think most people would like to think their hard work is what got them where they are, but that's not really that true, because, self-serving bias and Dunning-Kruger and all that.

And also, I thought the bad thing about tiger moms was that your child could become a porn star, like Asia Carrera.
posted by FJT at 12:26 PM on May 9, 2013


if you work really, really hard at something -- anything -- you get a great payoff in the form of results

There actually seems to be some evidence that self-discipline (the test I know of is waiting on getting a marshmallow so you can get two) is correlated with increased adult success. The causal relationship is really difficult to acertain, and as far as I know very little research has been put into whether this can be a learned skill or if it must be an innate ability.

I would suspect it can be learned due to non-logitudinal evidence of self-discipline in white, middle-class girls in the 1950s (they did a study on watching a hamster and all of the girls watched it for a statistically significant longer period of time) where I personally assume it was socialization, not innate female superiority, which led to the difference.

The tricky thing with self-discipline, and all parenting really, is that what works for one child does not and often cannot work for others. While people are a result of nurturing, there is also pretty strong evidence that there is a basic temperment in play in infancy, and it's the interaction of the type of nurturing with the temperment and abilities of the child which determines how "good a fit" a particular parenting style is.

(This doesn't get into things like parentified children, households with abuse, etc... of course, which add even more variables to the mix; I'm presupposing non-abusive parents who love their children but have their own temperments and parenting styles.)

Authoritative and nurturing, which were contrasted above, aren't that separate, though. Authoritative was contrasted with Authoritarian, where the child is expected to engage in blind obediance, and Permissive, where the parent attempts to be a friend to the child and provides no boundaries, with Authoritative in the middle - where the parent sets boundaries, but those boundaries are responsive to the child and the circumstances. Another way to describe the same thing could be "nurturing" as well as "engaged" while trying to avoid being "emmeshed" or "too strict".
posted by Deoridhe at 1:06 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is a testament more to human resilience rather than Chua's parenting. Those three girls kidnapped in Ohio seem OK too but I'm not going to say that was because the kidnappers were especially nice or something.

Not cool. And in any case, I meant it more in the sense that Chua could have gotten similar results with her daughters but without all of that time and emotional cost spent screaming at and threatening her children over mastering an obscure aspect of a piano piece. That same time could have been used focusing on the tennis court or the oboe where there may have been far less angst involved and the children would still have been academically successful achievers and been accepted to top level universities.
posted by deanc at 1:11 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm really not sure why people are so eager to defend a woman who wrote a self-serving memoir about what a shit parent she was.
posted by GuyZero at 2:16 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have great confidence that if the younger daughter hadn't thrown the tantrum in Moscow, she'd be estranged from Chua today.

When you are a child in a modern nuclear family, and your parents are abusive or unreasonable, you have nowhere to turn. They are your whole world. I didn't put all of the pieces of my own puzzle together until after my mother died last December, and previously unspeakable things began to come out of the woodwork. My mother's probably unconscious but rigorously pursued plan for me was much simpler than Chua's; she didn't want me to leave home.

So despite enthusiastic encouragement about going away to college and pursuing a career there was also a relentless campaign of gaslighting and sabotage all focused with laser-like precision on making it obviously impossible for me to leave or support myself on my own. The more it became obvious that I was not going to be on the page with this the more relentless and aggressive the gaslighting and sabotage became. Chua threatening to burn the stuffed animals reminded me far too much of my own parents threatening to throw me out of the house then and there if I dared keep the job I'd applied for, in response to their own dictat that if I wanted to do some personal thing I'd floated I'd need to get a job and pay for it myself.

After I did manage to leave it eventually became impossible for me to interact with them at all. It was like they were living in some weird parallel universe where nothing I did looked to them the way it looked to myself or other people. I became very worried that there might not be a limit to what they were willing to do in furtherance of their crazy alternate reality, and after the time they stole my car and then hired a lawyer to respond when I had a well-known friend call them in my stead, I loudly emancipated myself to their lawyer and cut off all contact.

You can apply a lot of adjectives to the way Chua treated her children -- aggressive, excessive, merciless, sick -- but the one I lean toward is crazy, and I don't mean that metaphorically. If you have never dealt with an actual crazy person who is not living in the real world, especially when that person is someone you love and depend on, you really can't understand the horror of the situation. In some ways the older daughter probably made it worse by enabling Chua, just as I'm sure my nominally much more sane father made things worse by supporting my mother in everything she wanted instead of forcing her to confront reality.
posted by localroger at 3:19 PM on May 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


MOM #1: "My son is studying Engineering at Michigan State."
MOM #2: "Oh? That is a very good school."
MOM #1: "Where does your son study?"
MOM #2: "Harvard."

And externally it is all smiles, but internally, mom #2 is dancing around all "YOU JUST GOT SERVED!"


Mom #1 did get served. These exchanges are pretty satisfying.

I agree that it does not show who the better parent is; Mom #2's kid is probably just smarter, and that is not to the credit or shame of either parent anymore than who has the taller kid. More broadly, parents will never agree to such metrics because they fear how they might not measure up. However, to the extent that the message of modern American society seems to be that the highest virtue is to be "successful" (a message I greatly disagree with), these pedigrees can be an appropriate barometer of who is doing a better job.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:29 AM on May 10, 2013


I think I agree with your overall point Tanizaki but which college someone went to is a simplistic metric for "smarter."
posted by sweetkid at 8:49 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Part of being a parent, at least for me, is being very careful about how I talk about my kids, to avoid conversations like the one above.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:26 AM on May 10, 2013


I think I agree with your overall point Tanizaki but which college someone went to is a simplistic metric for "smarter."

Perhaps it is simplistic but that does not mean it is necessarily inaccurate. I don't think it is controversial to say that the freshman class at Yale is of higher intelligence than the freshman class at State U. Does that mean that the dumbest Yale student is smarter than the smartest State U. student? Of course not. But, the general trend will lead one to conclude that a Yale student is smarter than a State U. student unless it is demonstrated otherwise.

We can thank Griggs v. Duke Power for the role that a college degree now plays as a very inefficient and expensive proxy. (although the dissent in Ricci v. Destefano suggests that Ricci overruled Griggs).
posted by Tanizaki at 11:45 AM on May 10, 2013


Tanizaki : "We can thank Griggs v. Duke Power for the role that a college degree now plays as a very inefficient and expensive proxy. "

For those at whom who aren't lawyers, Tanizaki is referring to the Supreme Court case that ruled that employment requirements that did not pertain to applicants' ability to perform the job that disparately impacted African-American applications were, in fact, discriminatory even if they were not intended to be discriminatory. I am fairly certain this comment is meant as an undercover form of race-baiting, since I can't find any way to read it that isn't racially inflammatory.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:35 PM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am fairly certain this comment is meant as an undercover form of race-baiting, since I can't find any way to read it that isn't racially inflammatory.

Please allow me to stop your race-baiting derail before it starts.

The comment simply states that employers are very unlikely to administer any sort of testing to screen applicants because they are afraid of a lawsuit. But, employers still want a way to find out how smart their applicants are. What to do? Well, now we will use the college degree and cause all strivers to incur a lot of debt.
posted by Tanizaki at 12:43 PM on May 10, 2013


What's 742 divided by 14?
Here's how I would always do it: Hmm, well I have a big number with a 7 and a small number of 14... If I multipied 14 by 100, I'd get 1400. So the number I'm looking for is just a tad over half of that (50). So, 50 times 14 will be 700, leaving me really with the question "What is 42 divided by 14? [Get answer] Then add 50 to it."

posted by blueberry at 2:22 PM on May 10, 2013


Mom #1 did get served. These exchanges are pretty satisfying.

I agree that it does not show who the better parent is; Mom #2's kid is probably just smarter, and that is not to the credit or shame of either parent anymore than who has the taller kid.

Yeah, I call bullshit on kid #2 being smarter, if you're basing it on that example. You work hard enough, you can get into an Ivy League school. That doesn't mean you're smarter. Ivy League schools are a status symbol more than anything else, and I couldn't care less about that personally.

That kid in engineering at the state university? He will graduate in 4 years, 5 if he goes for the Master's, and likely get a job right away.

The kid in Harvard--well, he'd better be top in his class, because if he's going to pre-law or pre-med at frickin' Harvard, by the time he finishes his degree he'll be drowning in student debt. And that's even accounting for scholarships. Not to mention that even the top Harvard grads don't always get their picks when they go looking for a job.

I know what I'm talking about, first-hand. My over-achieving sibling graduated top of her class, went to Harvard and graduated with honors. She met her spouse at Harvard, and he was in med school.

My sister never found a job in her field, despite her excellent credentials, and she ended up being over-qualified and underpaid for the work she could get. She and her doctor spouse spent some very lean years paying off those Harvard loans, too.. He didn't get the residency programs he wanted, either, and ended up in his second or third choice of specialty. He's doing quite well as a doctor in a small town now, and she's writing, but they're no better off than we are economically, and they're a few years older.

In contrast, my spouse and I graduated from state schools. My husband majored in engineering; he was hired straight out of college. He's now the Engineering Director at a well-respected tech firm. Me, I was a paid, published author before my sis was.

So, as far as measuring success goes, I don't think your argument holds water, either, really.
posted by misha at 10:27 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


You work hard enough, you can get into an Ivy League school. That doesn't mean you're smarter.

I suppose we can argue about what "smarter" means, but I don't think it's that important-- because in life you find that the rewards-- Ivy League admissions or anything else -- go to those who "work hard enough." That seems to grate on people's nerves, because they end up spitting out stuff like, "Oh, that person didn't succeed because he's 'smart'-- he's not-- it was just because he worked hard." And I think that Chua appreciates that more than most others. Yes, she's crazy, but she's not caught up in the whole idea that rewards are only due those who are "smarter." She just ends up losing sight of what the end goals for her children are.

The kid in Harvard--well, he'd better be top in his class, because if he's going to pre-law or pre-med at frickin' Harvard, by the time he finishes his degree he'll be drowning in student debt

Most of the people I know who went to Harvard did fine, actually. Not drowning in student debt, not struggling. A few were never particularly ambitious and have just been bumming around in various artistic pursuits while holding down a day job, but others became successful media personalities. But most have done pretty well in research, academia, finance, the tech industry, etc. The people who took made their job choices with an eye towards making lots of money make lots of money. The ones who wanted to become successful academics are on their way towards doing that. The people whom it didn't work out too well for seems to be those for whom being more of a homebody was more their style. Someone who wanted to be a local contracts lawyer in their hometown probably would have been just as happy, if not happier, getting a local education to do that rather than going to Harvard. Or accounting-- some people would be really happy being accountants, and it's a good, solid job, but Harvard doesn't have an accounting major.

I would say that the problem for many at Harvard is that their expectations get set too high. If you went to a state school and studied engineering or accounting and do well in it, you generally wake up every morning and think, "Holy Shit! I'm an engineering director/treasurer of a great company! My life worked out great!" Whereas if you went to Harvard and worked for Goldman Sachs and got edged out at middle age and end up as Senior VP of Equity Research at a random hedge fund are disappointed with the way their lives turned out. And then I know tons of doctors who attended top-5 schools as undergrad making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year who complain. In part because their friends are making even more money and in part because they went from a place where they felt they were in an elite rarefied environment to being "just another professional."
posted by deanc at 5:22 AM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


went to Harvard and worked for Goldman Sachs and got edged out at middle age and end up as Senior VP of Equity Research at a random hedge fund

Now there's a depressing sentence.
posted by colie at 4:22 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


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