Chua nonsense

17 Jan

I’ve been reluctant to comment on the Amy Chua Tiger Mother article, from the Wall Street Journal. It’s such obviously inflammatory link-bait, and as such it was and is meant to sell books. Out of nowhere, hot-button issue, race and culture, outrage, uproar. Then it goes away, waiting for the next bullshit PR article meant to sell books. Maybe a missing White woman or something.

In fact, we’ve seen the initial article, then the outrage, then of course the retreat, as the author hits the NYT to ‘clarify’ some misunderstandings. “Her narration, she said, was meant to be ironic and self-mocking — “I find it very funny, almost obtuse.'” Of course, we haven’t heard the last of this. It will soon turn from contrite and surprised to chagrined, and then more derisive. We’ll hear how the criticisms are from people who haven’t even bothered to read my whole book. Just wait, until her defenders take to the airwaves not just to apologize for her, but to actively defend her. Let’s just assume for fuck’s sake that it’ll be Elisabeth Hasselbeck who casts that first stone. Because it’s got to come from another total asshole.

So, yeah, meh. Chinese mothers.

Now, as a claim about the world, the article is complete shit, and the Yale Law professor is simply stupid. For one, actual research on parenting styles suggests that a permissive-vs-strict dichotomy is pretty simplistic. Of course, this is not meant to be a real claim about the world, just a memoir. As we joke in our household, I can’t be wrong, it’s how I feel. Plus, she shat the book out in 8 weeks, not nearly enough time for her to actually learn much about mothering. Pretty shoddy, frankly. Maybe par for the course for academic law professors, though, whose writing is renown for being craptacular.

For two, there’s a pretty massive small-N sample, on the dependent variable no less. In other words, you take two ‘successful’ girls, and then you explain what you did raising these girls, as if what you did explains that success. The problem is, if you take her prescriptions (be an asshole demanding mother), and apply it to kids, it’s still wildly unlikely that they will end up being as successful as her kids. More likely are things like, I don’t know, the economic and cultural capital that go along with being the children of two Yale law professors? In social science terms, it is impossible to make causal claims by sampling on your dependent variable. It makes you look like an idiot to do so. But whatevs, it’s a memoir, it’s How I Feel.

For three, how do you explain the success of a whole slew of ethnic and racial groups that have come down the American pike? Most glaringly, what about the Jews? Of course, in that case it’s not the mothering, it’s the genetic IQ superiority of the Jews. Cubans in Miami? Armenians in the Northeast corridor? Lots of success stories disproportionate to the ethnic representation in the population, but not much reference to lax parenting vs. asshole parenting. Why? Because it’s a dumb explanation.

There’s more, and I could even make some diagrams, but enough. Outrage registered, nothing learned, time to move right on.

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One Response to “Chua nonsense”

  1. Ethan January 18, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    Yeah, I heard her on NPR the other day. All I could think was, “Is this woman for real? Why on earth is this narcissistic, racist meanie being interviewed by NPR?” I think she was on Leonard Lopate’s show…now I can’t remember. But seriously, is she link-baiting or race-baiting or what? Oh wait, she’s just shilling for a dumb product (of her woefully misdirected intellect…she should stick to law or whatever she does full time.)

    BTW, thanks for the link on Jewish IQ superiority…the gray weather was starting to get me down and, well, there’s nothing like a 5000 word essay on why your ancestors are intellectually well-endowed to pick up your spirits. And if it fuels my narcissistic racism, well, at least I will be nicer about than Mrs. Chua.

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