ok, here it goes– yale law professor answering to the name amy chua published a book titled “battle hymn of the tiger mother” where she apparently goes on and on about what she calls the “chinese mother model of raising kids”– which equates to something in between the tough “love” of british boarding schools and true and tested amish parenting skills.  her hubby, jeb rubenfeld, another overachieving yale law professor rewrotethe alienist“– it is disguised in careful research with lots of period detail, but it is “the alienist” all over again.  as if we needed another one…

seems that the hubby-wife team are in a publishing pissing contest: he got some commercial success with his rewritten alienist and its sequel and now she ups it a few notches with her tell-all.  the book, any smart yale professor will tell you, is written as a provocation, chuck full of controversy.   especially in this day and age where the bookstores are overpopulated with “how to be a great parent” junk– it is the new porn for parents…

until about 50 years ago babies came without owner’s manuals.  then the famous doctor came in and he was the only man in town for a few decades.  nowadays the owner’s manual is about 800 volumes, all contradicting each other, but nearly all preaching some sort of neo-new age soft-touch and nurturing blabberings, preaching everything from crazy feeding tricks to mom and offspring yoga classes…  the kids are the crazed scientist labs, the cheap chemistry sets of parents…

well, ms. chua definitely knows what will be controversial and, accordingly, what will sell…  everyone is talking about her and trying to explain her “madness” or “genius”, calling her from anything from a sociopath to a maverick…  but, all i can call her is an opportunist. just like her husband before her, but in a drastically different way– her husband saw an opportunity in copying and selling something true and tested.  she, on the other hand, in kicking the hornet’s nest and selling through controversy.  it is easy to see who in the rubenfeld-chua household is smarter and a better opportunist– she will outsell the hubby off the ballpark…  and, interestingly enough, the hubby’s sequel to his version of the alienist started selling like hotcakes after ms. chua’s book came out and all the controversy broke loose.  i’m sure 2011 will be  good year for the chua-rubenfeld household and their CPAs…

needless to say i did not read the book.  and i never will.  which, of course, will not prevent me from criticizing it.  it is the way of this blog, so deal with it…  but i read enough reviews, discussions and comments– from downright vulgar to outright enamoured…

the big discussion is of course hinging on the empirical data– the chinese (and most asian) kids outperforming their western, especially american counterparts..  which is a fact.  of course everyone is trying to explain it with parenting skills.. which may be a contributing factor but is only the tip of the iceberg.  like almost everything else, the reason is pure economics.  children, and parents, who do not have a guaranteed safe future tend to work harder for that elusive safety.  but knowing you have your future is lined up and you have fiscal security makes you look up to yoga for toddlers instead of math and sciences..

american kids don’t want to be engineers or scientists or even business folk (well, the business thing is not that true– with all the quick millionaires and billionaires around them, from start-up whiz kids to the masters of the universe in wall street, that avenue is still coveted)…  they want to write the next great american novel or shoot the new sundance sensation.  and, having disposable income, their generation X parents are giving them a free reign.  the baby boomers were a different breed of parents– they knew hard times and the value of economic security so they guided their offspring, the generation X, to achieve in conventional and more realistic ways.  now the generation X can afford to live their long quashed dreams vicariously through their offspring, their new chemistry sets..

having worked at and with universities the last decade or so, i observed this phenomenon first hand many times over: american universities are full of whining generation Y babies, seeking their first degrees in the arts, or, if they are a little bit more resolute, filling up the MFA programs, which are popping up each and every university as the new revenue generator.  on the other hand, the science and engineering departments are full of asian and former soviet bloc students.  one group is studying to secure their future, the other is following their oft misguided dreams– statistically, there cannot be this many “creatives” floating around.  there, this explains the main difference between the “tiger moms” and their american counterparts– one is of necessity, the other of luxury..

if the only future you can promise your children is the future they will establish themselves and if you’re relying on them for your future, trust me, you’ll push them to the redline…  of course this is only true when you know the limitations of your time, surroundings and personal abilities: if you’re a clueless breeder yourself, then this statement will not hold true.  it holds true for those parents who, despite trying their best, was limited by their time, culture, glass ceilings, nationality, etc.

on the other hand, if you have already established a decent future for your and your offspring, then you can afford the luxury of letting them “find their ways”.  of course there are exceptions in either group.  i know many well to do families pushing their kids hard and vice versa.  my family would fit more into the first group than the latter but they never pushed me or my siblings to what they thought was best.  they let us find ourselves.  however, because we did not have the golden parachutes the latter group have, we did not become kids of leisure

when it comes to ethnic/ national differences, i think the real comparison should be between western european and american parents– chinese v. american is apples and oranges.  european kids are also outperforming american kids despite relative economic equality.  a grad student should do a survey dissertation on the sales of parenting books on different amazon countries.  i have neither the the patience or the inclination to conduct such a research but i can bet my bottom dollar that this would give a good explanation.  american parents have a long history of delegating their parenting responsibilities to others– from parenting gurus to television, nintendo, kiddie prozac and adderall.  european parents still keep the responsibility to themselves…

i bet you recent immigrant families, especially second generation and up from asia and former soviet bloc, will accumulate more comparative wealth and have their offspring in more and more positions of power, innovation and technical success.  however, the offspring of the said offspring will be a different story and will give their american counterparts of today a run for their money in being teenagers of leisure; to their great detriment of course…  i would like to see how ms. chua’s daughters’ offspring will be raised.  now that is the real question…

one thing the above new yorker article alluded to is the overblown self-confidence of american kids–  funny, the last few months were full of articles about university freshmen dealing with depression and cracking under pressure– of course the talking heads try to explain everything with difficulties and not enough care but i tell you– the reason is overconfidence.  pump up the kids with all the neo new age crap and push them to their pipe-dreams, this is what you’ll get.  generation Y is a loss- let’s chalk it that way.  i call them “kids of leisure”.  now a majority of american kids can afford to live like the good ole trust fund brats of the south.  the kids of leisure will be the downfall of the traditional american upper middle class.

their offspring have a chance of redemption and saving this country, if their to-be parents survive their whining lives and reproduce that is.  their offspring will have to rebuild this country and will have only merited self-confidence.  reminds me of the dylan lyrics:

They’re spoonfeeding Casanova

To get him to feel more assured

Then they’ll kill him with self-confidence

After poisoning him with words…

generation Y, welcome to your new “desolation row”…

 

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