Chinese mothers

I’m probably supposed to say something about Chinese moms, since everyone else is. Mostly I’ve been a little surprised by how critical reactionaries have been of the piece.

My take is two-fold:

1) Practice, like Ms Chua is talking about, is only possible for people who are of well above-average intelligence to begin with. I’m not sure anyone is capable of making someone with an IQ of 80 practice the violin for three hours at a time (may God be with anyone who tries). I don’t think anyone denies that practice makes people better at stuff, but I certainly deny that anyone is capable of practicing like Ms Chua’s kids. Incidentally, it also requires smart parents who are very conscientious. In sum, anyone who can practice this much is going to be a smart person from a smart family. My money is still on genetics.

2) I think people are correct to point out that Ms Chua is too strict. However, I don’t think her methodology is worse than the current practice of making sure that we don’t ever – under any circumstances – hurt a kid’s feelings (I’ll post more on this later in the week in a book review). Frankly, if I had to pick one of these two extremes, I’d be on Chua’s side. My decision would be easier when it comes to "educating" children that aren’t particularly intelligent. Telling a dumb kid that everything he does is smart is a good way to get a really dumb adult. For proof of this statement, see, e.g., contemporary America.

Finally, I’ve never met a person who was classically trained on the piano or the violin who was not exceptionally intelligent. I’m not sure which way the causality runs in this particular case, but . . .


6 Responses to Chinese mothers

  1. Tschafer says:

    When I first encounter the article about Chua, my initial reaction was “What a deranged bi**ch” and I stand by that assesment. How would you like to bet that at least one of those kids turns into an absolute mess as a teenager? I agree that we have gone to far the other way in the U.S. in the last forty years, but the nonsense that Chua is pulling isn’t either traditionally Chinese or Western, no matter what she says. This has more in common with the SWPL “baby-genius, Mozart-in-the-cradle, fill-up every-hour-of-every-day-with- status-building-activities” helicopter parenting style than anything in any tradition.

  2. RS says:

    > I’ve never met a person who was classically trained on the piano or the violin who was not exceptionally intelligent. I’m not sure which way the causality runs in this particular case, but . . .

    Well, considering how many experimental attempts there have been to raise IQ… all of which failed totally, when the metric is IQ at age 18 or 20, as it should be…

    We might remember, if NE Asian kids work ‘too’ hard… that the parent may not be totally 100% to ‘blame’! Even if they themselves think they are. I’d bet at 10:1 that Chinese kids will work more than Whites, if raised by representative Whites, just as they do when raised by their own parents. This being due to more extensive adaptation to agricultural-Malthusian life. Consider Judith Rich Harris.

  3. Steve Johnson says:

    Gee, breed a race of humans whose male members have to pass a competitive exam to breed and (surprise surprise) you get neurotic behavior focused on (surprise surprise) getting perfect test scores.

    HBD isn’t just IQ.

  4. aretae says:

    I disagree completely on the IQ/Conscientiousness bit.

    Conscientiousness…the personality trait most correlated with long amounts of practice…is a best uncorrelated with IQ, and indeed, I think has a mild negative correlation.

    I’ve met a lot of folks who were paid metro-symphony level musicians…my experience says they have substantially more discipline…substantially more upper-class sensibility, and average no more than +1 sigma intelligence on average.

  5. The part of Chua’s essay I hate most is this line:

    Second, Chinese parents believe that their kids owe them everything…Anyway, the understanding is that Chinese children must spend their lives repaying their parents by obeying them and making them proud.

    Combined with this line:

    “Oh no, not this,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Everyone is special in their special own way,” I mimicked sarcastically. “Even losers are special in their own special way. Well don’t worry, you don’t have to lift a finger. I’m willing to put in as long as it takes, and I’m happy to be the one hated. And you can be the one they adore because you make them pancakes and take them to Yankees games.”

    Chua admits that she’s putting the kids through hell not for the benefit of the kids, but for herself. Then she passively aggressively bitches at her husband because he’s not putting in the work. Look, Chua, if you’re making kids miserable just so you can be proud, don’t bitch at your husband when he just wants to give the kids an enjoyable childhood.

    I believe in the saying, “Something worth doing is worth doing well”. But the corollary is that something not worth doing, is not worth making yourself miserable over.

    What I don’t get is the obsession with piano and violin and other stereotypical hobbies. It seems like such a waste to focus so much achievement oriented energy on such a narrow range of activities that most people do not really care about. Why not encourage excellence in playing the guitar, acting in a play, snow boarding, etc. etc. In life, two thirds of the battle is not execution, but finding the right activity/project/career to execute on. The kids of parents like Chua that I have met tend to lack this ability, and it really cripples them in life. (here is one theory for why the piano and violin are so popular among asian moms).

    Is there also danger in going the other extreme? Sure. I remember a kid on my baseball team once, who whined so bad that his dad (the coach) put him in as pitcher every single game. That kid’s brother ending up dealing drugs and eventually shot himself at the end of a police chase. Given the choice between Chua and that overly permissive dad, I’ll choose Chua.

    But given the choice between Chua and the average American parent, I’d take the average American parent. Given the choice between Chua and the average parent of an Ivy League student, it’s an absolute no-brainer.

    My parents were strict and expected excellence from me. But they still let me choose in which way to direct that excellence. And they let me have sleep overs, play sports, etc. That’s basically my ideal as a parent.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: