America’s Tiger Mom and the Totally Valid, Not At All Biased, Really Scientific Practice of Ranking America’s Cultures and Races

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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174 Responses

  1. Brandon Berg says:

    A doctor friend of mine mentioned once that he had a surprisingly large number of Nigerian colleagues. Not sure if Nigerians are overrepresented in medicine in general, but I get the impression that they are in general fairly successful in the US. I’m not at all sure this is tokenism.

    You say that by “culture” she really means “race,” but the examples you give suggest otherwise.Report

    • Blaine in reply to Brandon Berg says:


      A lot of that has to do with the immigration process. High skilled, educated workers immigrating to the US are given preferential treatment under our system. The Government allocates 140,000 permanent visas per year and uses a preference based system. The first two preference categories allocate 40,000 each to “persons of extraordinary ability” in arts, sciences, education, etc and members of holding advanced degrees. They also increased the lottery for Nigeria to bring people to this country to study on student visas. Over half of the permanent visas are allocated to “high skilled” workers then.

      Also, I would say it perpetuates the myth of the “model minority” that can be just as socially destructive to people as negative stereotypes in that it masks the real challenges they face and is too often used a bludgeon to unfairly denigrate others and also strips away the diversity of their community.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Blaine says:

        So, what you’re saying is that the immigration filter skims the cream, creating a subpopulation which is smart and conscientious, and which values education. Might one say that this is a subculture which is superior to the culture at large?Report

      • Kim in reply to Blaine says:

        da, tovarisch.
        Now, I ask you this, who is made a slave?
        What part of society? What subculture?

        Numbers are numbers, but it takes a racist to discount
        obvious and blatant hidden variables.Report

      • j r in reply to Blaine says:

        Might one say that this is a subculture which is superior to the culture at large?

        You might, but talking about the superiority of cultures is extremely goofy and simply imprecise. You might want to talk about how one culture appears to be better at raising people to excel in a particular endeavor. And once you do that a whole series of follow-on question arises that get ignored when you’re making blanket statements about cultural superiority.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Blaine says:

        I’d hope that we could say that bigoted cultures are inferior to open-minded ones.Report

      • j r in reply to Blaine says:

        The terms bigoted and open-minded have a lot of meaning when applied to individuals, but I’m not all that sure what they mean when applied to cultures.

        What’s an open-minded culture? How does it feel about bigots? Does it tolerate bigots?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Blaine says:

        Are there cultures that foster and create more individuals who are bigots than others?

        Are there cultures that foster and create more individuals who are open-minded than others?

        Or is that something that we can’t measure either?Report

    • Glyph in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      Well, of course they are fairly successful here, once they secure your help in transferring the prince’s money out of their home country.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      Nigeria is the largest country in Africa in population and an above average country in Africa in dysfunction, so it’s not too surprising to see a good number of educated professionals emigrate. (and since it’s an anglophone vice francophone country, they go to the US & UK vice France).

      That said, ‘Nigerian culture’ is as about a made-up nonsensical concept as ‘Canadian culture’ is.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Kolohe says:

        Nigeria is also relatively well-industrialized, heavily-populated,and has lots of commerce with global trading partners due to its petrowealth and status as a regional military power. Nigerians see themselves as leaders in Africa the way Americans see themselves as leaders… well, everywhere, but that’s a different rabbit hole. Point is, Nigeria is a nation ripe for emigration of educated and talented people. The US gets a disproportionate share of these sorts, and personally, I like it that way.

        As for the validity of the idea of “Nigerian culture,” it seems every bit as valid to speak of Nigerian culture as it does American or British or Russian culture. Of course that culture will not be monolithic: all of these are heterogenous, complex, densely-populated countries swimming in the massive cultural jacuzzi that is globalism. But it seems as likely that we could tease out elements of shared cultural identity from Nigerians as we would from Mexicans or Indonesians or Australians. (Hopefully with some input from, not to put too fine a point on it, actual Nigerians.)Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Kolohe says:

        My comparison with Canada is deliberate. Nigeria is at least 2* nations in one country. To say that there’s a ‘Nigerian culture’ is either grossly oversimplifying or missing at least half the picture.

        *more like 5, but the north-south division is the most persistent and pertinent to geopolitics and Nigeria’s ongoing fifty year post-colonial existential crisis.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Kolohe says:

        I think the word “nation” may be doing more work than is strictly fair here. I understand that there are Anglophone and Francophone Canadians — although I suspect there are a number of First Nations peoples who would insist that the “national identity” picture is more complex than this and the well-discussed influx of immigrants from (plurality) Pacific Rim countries changes this even more, and I don’t know what language it is all those old guys from the Atlantic provinces speak. Is it Welsh?Nevertheless, Canadians all pretty much seem to like hockey (what’s not to like?) and both Québécois and Albertans will cheer for the same athletes in a few weeks at Sochi.

        Spain has a polyglot culture, too, probably less culturally unified than Canada. We can still find things that Catalans have in common with Castilians and Granadans and even the Basque. When the bombs went off on the trains in Madrid, no one in Valencia shrugged it off as someone else’s problem. Is there such a thing as “Spanish culture”? I say yes, while simultaneously recognizing that there is also a Catalonian culture within it. Is Spain a nation? Of course. Is Catalonia? That depends on what a “nation” is.

        Hell, even in the United States you could use a loose enough definition of “nation” to subdivide the polity in any number of ways. Is Dixie a “nation,” or California or New England? There are regional differences; people from different places do and say things differently. Still, we find much to unite us as well as to distinguish ourselves from one another.Report

      • Kim in reply to Kolohe says:

        Like Cinco de Mayo? 😉
        Shared cultural identity is a myth created by nationalists.
        Speak of Italian “shared cultural identity” — and any Italian would laugh at you.
        Speak of Spanish “shared cultural identity” — and you’re LUCKY if you have only a fistfight on your hands.Report

        • Burt Likko in reply to Kim says:

          Italians most certainly do have a shared cultural identity even if a vocal minority do not care to dwell upon it much. North and south alike eat the same food, celebrate the same history, and don’t go to the same churches.Report

      • Kim in reply to Kolohe says:

        before the national radio (Mussolini’s project, I believe), it was difficult for Italians from north and south to even understand each other (Not as bad as Britain, granted). When I cite Italian food, it is done with an understanding of place that isn’t “Italian” — even pasta varies significantly from North to South, traditionally.Report

      • Kim in reply to Kolohe says:

        if spain is a nation, so is czechoslovakia.Report

      • Kim in reply to Kolohe says:

        I don’t think something instilled over the past two generations by repeated propaganda attempts really ought to count as a “national identity” the way, say, France has a national identity. That goes back at least a thousand years!Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Kolohe says:

        I’ve spent some time in Italy myself, @kim , and regularly correspond and visit with family there. Perhaps the same is true for you. I don’t deny that there are regional cultural differences and identities. But they are no more debilitating to the concept of what it is to be an Italian than regional cultural differences here in the USA. A Venetian and a Neapolitan both identify as Italians, even to one another.Report

  2. You know that movie “The Other Boleyn Girl” that came out a few years ago. It starred Natalie Portman and Sccarlett Joohannsonn. (I can never remember which letters in her name are doubled, so I just guess on that spelling.) I’ve warmed to both of them a little bit since, but at the time the film came out I was kind of “meh” on both of them. I don’t remember why in the case of Ms. Johannnson, but I pretty much wanted to chisel everyone responsible for the love scenes in “Attack of the Clones” out of human memory like so many disgraced pharaohs.

    Anyway, the movie came out and I took this weird kind of positive pleasure in not going to see it. It was bizarrely satisfying to know that the movie was playing and I was not going to be in the audience. I was looking forward to not watching it.

    That’s how I feel about this book. It fills me with warm happiness to know I will never have to read a word of it.Report

    • KatherineMW in reply to Russell Saunders says:

      Have you watched Black Swan? (Or, for that matter, V for Vendetta, one of my all-time favourite films?) Natalie Portman can be truly spectacular given a decent script and director.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to KatherineMW says:

        I am going to have to disagree about V for Vendetta being a decent movie but I have issues with the whole idea of Guy Fawkes being a hero against tyranny.

        She is a good actor though.Report

  3. Mike Schilling says:

    It should have been Korean-Americans and Jews, specifically mixed couples where the father studied mathematics and likes baseball. But they were close.Report

  4. greginak says:

    I’m guessing there won’t be enough faces or palms to cover all the necessary faceplams required for the virtual Krakatoa of stupid that will erupt.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to greginak says:

      I’m guessing your right.Report

    • Patrick in reply to greginak says:

      Tod had two really great lines in that post:

      “(And, I have to assume, moxie.)”


      “But it’s important to be aware that the universe doesn’t exist to prove you right, unless you set up your vision of it to do so.”

      But “Krakatoa of Stupid” is super space awesome.Report

  5. NewDealer says:

    The March Towards the All Troll Economy Continues!!!

    A book I will be avoiding.

    I suppose you could argue that being Mormom is more of a culture than a race because Mormonism is a religion than evangelizes across nations and races.

    Jews and Asians are included besides the backgrounds of the authors because they are considered immigrant oddities in many ways. Jews and Asians are largely considered members of the upper-middle class or if recent immigrants the general perception is that their children will attend college and become professionals. Both cultures do have a traditional emphasis on formal education which might partially explain their relatively quick ascendancy. I admit to kind of being shocked when I went to college with people who could talk about how their ancestors were in America for 200 years or more but they were still the first people in their families to attend college. FWIW these people were white.

    However, Jews went into banking in Europe because they were not allowed to own land and Christians were not allowed lend money for interest. Europe’s monarchs still needed money and they went to the Jews. Plus we made handy scapegoats when peasants got too angry about tyranny and taxes. Even when Jews were successful in the United States, they operated in a separate social world until fairly recently. Citation: Our Crowd: The Great Jewish Families of New York by Stephen Birmingham. It was controversial when Hoover nominated Cardozo for the Supreme Court because there was already a Jew on the Court (Brandeis). Even in law, the reason Jews tended to go into lucrative but non-prestigious fields like plaintiff’s personal injury law because they were excluded from the fancy, corporate White Shoe law firms. Or they formed their own law firms. There are still some big firms like Proskauer Rose and Paul Weiss which are or were known as “Jewish firms”.

    The original lawyer code of ethics was designed to make it harder for “Russian Jew Boys” to compete by banning practices like advertising and listing prices (it took until the 1970s for the Supreme Court to rule these practices were unconstitutional and violated the First Amendment. The plaintiff in the case was Jewish.)

    Jewish success also increased anti-Semitism because Jews were seen as cunning as opposed to honest and straight businessmen.

    Black-Americans and Jewish-Americans did have a huge influence on American pop culture in the 20th century especially music probably but a lot of this is because it was an acceptable venue because artists were seen as being slightly better than prostitutes. “Respectable” people did not let
    their children become artists.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to NewDealer says:

      Brandeis, who was the first Jew on the Court, was also controversial. And Obergruppenführer Buchanan is livid that there are now three.Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        1) I have never heard the term Obergruppenführer until now, but I first heard Gruppenführer in The Blues Brothers.

        2) Referring to Pat Buchanan as “livid” based on this 3 1/2-year-old article shows poor reading comprehension on your part.

        3) Referring to Pat Buchanan as “Obergruppenführer” is an ad hominem attack and reflects poorly on you.

        4) Speaking as a non-WASP, I find it odd that there are no WASPs on the Supreme Court.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        1. Anti-Semitism doesn’t go away after 3.5 years.

        2. What does it matter if there are three Jews on the court or not?

        3. He has a well-known history of being a bigot. I doubt he is happy rainbows now.Report

      • morat20 in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        I find it amusing that of the nine justices on the Supreme Court, none are Protestants. (Non-Judeo-Christian is just a pipe-dream).

        Catholics are quite well represented, being the other 6 justices right now. 🙂Report

  6. Pinky says:

    “As for myself, I’ll wait until the book is released before passing full judgment”

    Ha ha ha ha ha!Report

  7. notme says:


    This book doesn’t pretend to be based on science so I don’t know why you feel the need to point out that it isn’t. Be that as it may some cultures do valuing learning more than others.Report

    • Francis in reply to notme says:

      once I see — in a peer reviewed, multiply-replicated set of studies — Compton measured against similarly situated people in Hong Kong, China, Russia, Nigeria, Japan, France, South Africa and India, then I’ll be willing to entertain the idea that the word “cultures” means something other than “upper middle class people”.

      Because last I checked, even the most successful countries in the world still had plenty of down-trodden, with many of them being told that their lot in life isn’t due to luck, or power, or poorly-designed educational / economic systems, but their “culture” of dependence.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to notme says:

      @notme : “This book doesn’t pretend to be based on science so I don’t know why you feel the need to point out that it isn’t.”

      Yes and no? Chua’s own PR release describes the work as one “drawing on groundbreaking original research and startling statistics;” none of her PR advances talks at all about it being based on personal experience/observation. So while it’s not exactly being sent to peer review journals, I think it is trying to pretend to be “politically incorrect” science — or at least trying to sell itself to the media in its PR push as such.

      “Be that as it may some cultures do valuing learning more than others.”

      Again, yes and no? I kind of agree with you here, but tentatively. I would argue, for example, that East Coast Radcliffe grads care more about learning then Oklahoma home-schoolers who want their kids to avoid what they see as the pitfalls of college, but I’m also well aware that those same OK HSers would disagree and say they just wanted to learn different things.

      My main issue has to do with how we define culture, especially when we talk of how a “culture” operates. For example, I know some Chinese- and Thai-Americans who live in Portland. I would be willing to bet a fair amount that these people are more similar in style, habit, and — really — culture to me than they are to random Chinese- and Thai-Americans who live in NYC, or in Florida, or in Texas.

      We tend to look at an Amy Chua and think, “she sends her daughters to sports camps, music lessons, tutors, etc. because she’s Chinese.” But I suspect that the percentage of people who so structure their kids day-to-day lives toward the “right school” path is higher among her fellow upper middle class Manhattanites than it is Chinese American in Seattle, or Portland, or Salt Lake City. In fact, when I hear about Tiger moms, I actually don’t think Asians — I think upper-crust East Coasters.

      My red flag goes up when we talk about “black culture,” or “Asian culture,” or “gay culture” in the US, because I think we’re using fairly arbitrary, superficial, and inaccurate means with which to group people together. And usually, nothing good ever comes from those groupings. A while back it was people nowhere near California who knew what “Asian culture” was, and locked up Japanese people they way they didn’t white Germans. Today it’s an Asian woman talking about how other races are part of cultures are inferior to hers, but fortunately lacks the power to do anything “helpful to society” with that. Tomorrow… who knows?

      Great questions/refutations, btw.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        “We tend to look at an Amy Chua and think, “she sends her daughters to sports camps, music lessons, tutors, etc. because she’s Chinese.” But I suspect that the percentage of people who so structure their kids day-to-day lives toward the “right school” path is higher among her fellow upper middle class Manhattanites than it is Chinese American in Seattle, or Portland, or Salt Lake City. In fact, when I hear about Tiger moms, I actually don’t think Asians — I think upper-crust East Coasters.”

        I think there are plenty of upper-middle class people around the United States including in Portland and Seattle that do all the Chua things including other Asians. That being said, there are plenty of Asian people who are working class on both coasts.

        We talked about this when I asked you about Caitlin Gabel. The difference is that Portland might have one or two Caitlin Gabels (maybe they have more I don’t know, I did like the reform shul in Portland though. Nice looking building.), the Bay Area has more, New York has a ton because of age and size.

        I think there is a difference in how the coasts perceive University Education. On the East Coast (at least where I grew up), there is certainly a belief in going to a prestigious school for undergrad and usually a private one. Part of this is because the SUNYs are still Tier II universities while Cal, UCLA, Oregon, and UW are all Tier I universities. Partially because there are much, much options and most of the private, elite schools are on the East Coast. California has Occidental, the Claremonts, CalTech, and Stanford as elite private schools. Oregon has Reed, Washington has something or other but the concentration levels are greater on the East Coast. And we are probably a bit snobby.

        I have friends who grew up on the West Coast in upper-middle class circumstances or above and attended private school for K-12 and went to Cal or Santa Cruz or Washington or Oregon. This would not be considered as acceptable on the East Coast. Then again, I also know people who grew up upper-middle class on the Left Coast and did attend elite, private institutions for undergrad.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Here again, I think this is a good example that cultural differences we pretend are there are not as clear cut as we think.

        You are correct that we have both less population and fewer private schools in Portland, but it actually goes far deeper than that. There is cross over, sure, but for the most part I think the West Coast and East Coast have very different cultures when it comes to the upper classes.

        In Portland, for example, we don’t really have a lot of helicopter kids among the well-to-do, certainly not like the East Coast does. We also don’t have the clubs that the NYCs and Bostons do. Indeed, the rare folks that emigrate from the East and do that kind of stuff are generally thought of as odd ducks here. When people move here and humble-brag about what club their family belongs to back East, people here think they are insane and their families foolish.

        My theory for this discrepancy is this:

        Culturally, the East Coast values Old Money, and thinks New Money is somehow tainted. That’s why, I believe, those trying to make a name for themselves in upper crust society back East do the kinds of things we associate with old money, and that includes raising children who have had music lessons, professional tennis lessons, go to the “right” private schools, know all of the right table settings for various occasions by age X, etc.

        West coasters are generally the opposite in this regard, culture-wise. We tend to look down our noses at Old Money (why should I be impressed with you if your daddy did something important?) and we instead lionize the New Rich. My sister in law from back East can’t understand why people around here revere Steve Jobs or Paul Allen; we can’t understand why she and her friends think JFK Jr. was ever worth a second thought. I really do think Tiger-mom-ism is an East Coast thing, because I think it’s got Old-Money-Wannabe written all over it.

        This is part of what I mean that when we talk about, say, Black Culture or Chinese-American Culture, we’re mostly fooling ourselves. We’re really talking about Blacks and people of Chinese descent, and pretending that they are all uniquely, culturally different in a similar way from us, because that makes us feel better about thinking about “blacks” and “people of Chinese descent.”Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Would you say San Francisco is more east coast in this regard?

        My parents did not belong to any clubs (country or otherwise). My dad does have access to the Cornell Club (class of 1968). However, SF does have lots of clubs. There is the very famous Bohemian Club, The Family (for people who could not get into the Bohemian Club), The Press Club, The University Club, and I am sure others. There is also a new club called The Battery which is largely for rich techies:

        Otherwise I agree, the West is newer and there is much less history at least as compared to the East and people moved out West to find their fortunes. Though I am sure if you scratched the surface you can find old families of Portland and Seattle who are very Eastern in many ways. They just exist in a Shadow world. There is a whole Shadow world of old San Francisco that is very invisible to the everyday resident.

        I have a friend who spent a year at the University of Oregon working as a tech in one of the labs. She once told me that she and her husband were considered fancy for wearing corduroy and jeans and a lot of people just wore REI gear. It sometimes does feel more casual in the Pacific Northwest than I am used to as an East Coaster. Plus NYC has spoiled me in terms of museums and only London and Paris can really compete.

        FWIW, I don’t lionize Jobs, Allen, or JFK Jr.Report

      • greginak in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Fitzgerald covered a lot of the Old Money vs. New Money a while ago in Gatsby. Its been that way for a long time.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Fun fact: I grew up in the town Fitzgerald modeled West Egg on.Report

      • Kim in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        If you find your way over to Pittsburgh in the next few months, I think you might be pleasantly surprised at the Carnegie International. It is, after all, one of the top eight modern art exhibitions in the world.Report

  8. trizzlor says:

    I shudder to think about all the armchair phrenologists, basement bell-curvers, and weekend v-darers that are going to come crawling out of the woodwork once this thing drops. Media black-out here I come!Report

  9. Elizabeth Stoker says:

    Sounds like this is going to be an ugly mess of really cheap sociology. But that’s typical of people who desperately need to believe that their success is a) the only success that really counts as such and b) that they’re the sole author of it, and were destined to be by their unique and superior qualities. I guess this reduces any sense of being beholden to those who provided hands-up along the way and alleviates whatever guilt or unease that might come from having quite a lot of wealth in comparison to others in one’s home country.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Elizabeth Stoker says:

      I feel like this:

      “But that’s typical of people who desperately need to believe that their success is a) the only success that really counts as such and b) that they’re the sole author of it, and were destined to be by their unique and superior qualities.”

      is an issue for all people and not just East Coast upper-middle class types who go to fancy universities and pursue prestige productions. Or more specifically parents set goals and ideals for their children and when you meet people with different cultural idealls, it is quelle horror.

      My parents expected me to get some kind of advanced degree. They thought it was important to show academic mastery in a subject beyond a college education. This was not stressed all the time, they were not overbearing about it but I always knew I would go to grad school for something at the back of my head. Maybe if only because both my parents had advanced degrees.

      I don’t think my parents told me that they expected it explicitly until I was in grad school.

      However, when I’ve told people whose parents did not expect them to get grad degrees (or possibly undergrad degrees) that it was an expectation in my family, people look at me like I said the most horrible thing in the world. It freaks them out that parents could expect that of their children. I suspect they think it is a borderline abusive thing to expect.Report

      • Murali in reply to NewDealer says:

        People who think it is borderline abusive to expect your kid to get a postgrad degree freak me out.Report

      • dhex in reply to NewDealer says:

        “People who think it is borderline abusive to expect your kid to get a postgrad degree freak me out.”

        to certain cultures it comes across as incredibly controlling. but humans have expectations of their children regardless (one hopes!).

        i personally will tell my kid i will disown him if he even mouths the words “grad school”. balancing the nation’s chi and all that. 🙂Report

      • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:


        There are also a lot of parents who unceremoniously kick their kids out of the door at 18 and I was equally bug-eyed about how you could do that and they thought it was the most normal thing in the world and gave independence and all that.Report

      • dhex in reply to NewDealer says:

        i’m totally down with the 18 and out routine. maybe nyc will sell me that debt clock thing?

        diff’rent strokes, to be sure. my real expectations concern responsible and ethical behavior. where he goes with that is his problem, literally.Report

      • Patrick in reply to NewDealer says:

        People who think it is borderline abusive to expect your kid to get a postgrad degree freak me out

        I look at the skew on capability and I can only look at this in a couple of different ways.

        Here’s a couple of things I posit to be true:

        If everybody can get a postgrad degree, then there’s something seriously wrong with the difficultly level in acquiring a postgrad degree, it’s way too easy.

        If you have expectations on your child based not upon their capabilities but on your idea of success, then I think you’re a little messed up. I don’t know if I would call the presence of expectations “borderline abusive”, but the actualization of that might be/probably is.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:


        I agree but what is the line between expectations and capacity and pushing a bit to get people to go further than easy expectations and grow?

        Personal example, I really wanted to go to the Yale School of Drama. I probably wasn’t talented enough for Yale and did not apply. Though I did apply to Columbia. Perhaps dreaming of the Yale School at Drama for a while did cause me at least develop the ability to succeed in another MFA grad program.

        As I said, there was no overt pressure from my parents but I generally thought myself capable of an advanced education because my parents had advanced degrees and I felt some compulsion to at least meet their level of education. Is this wrong? Is it privileged in any way?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to NewDealer says:


        My objection to grad-degree-or-bust type thinking is two-fold:
        1.) If it is an expectation, as opposed to a hope or an aspiration, than any other path risks being labeled a disappointment or, worse, a failure. Would your parents have considered you a disappointment or a failure if you turned out to be LeBron James?
        2.) Along those same lines, it assumes there is one-true-path to success. I want my child(ren) to be successful. But I try to define success broadly enough that a variety of paths can get them there. I want him(them) to be a decent person, to be capable of loving and being loved, to be financial independent and secure, to contribute positively to society. A grad degree might get them closer to these things, it might not. It could possibly take them further from these things.

        So whenever I hear someone so narrowly define success (be it grad-school-or-bust or 18-and-done), I worry about the pressure to conform that it places on the child. I also worry about outdated mindsets. If I demand that my son — who will be my age in the 2040s — do the things that I did to be successful in the 2010s, I may well be setting him up for failure.Report

      • Patrick in reply to NewDealer says:

        I agree but what is the line between expectations and capacity and pushing a bit to get people to go further than easy expectations and grow?

        Nothing wrong with encouragement. Positive reinforcement is fine.

        You cross the border into negative reinforcement or shaming, you’re probably screwing it up.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:


        I don’t think my parents were as hardcore as I am making it out to be. I applied to my MFA program on my own volition. They did not ask me to consider it. That being said my mom got me to take the LSATs in college just to try it out…

        I kind of like the idea of an advanced degree but I think of academic knowledge as an axiomatic good and this should be obvious from my arts and humanities defense on various OT posts.

        Outdated modes of success are relative and subjective though. I don’t expect everyone to conform to my version of success or happiness but that doesn’t mean I want people to tell me to chill out and that my notions of success and happiness are out dated or too upper-middle class yuppie. If someone wants to be medium chill or is fine not making much money because it gives them more free time, all the power to him or her. Don’t tell me that I am wrong for striving for Mill Valley or Brownstone Brooklyn or Westchester though.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to NewDealer says:

        I have no advanced degree, and I’m fine with that.Report

      • Murali in reply to NewDealer says:

        This concept of 18 and out the door is a great point of criticism about American culture here. Over here, we stay with our parents at least until we get married. Take for example my own self. I’m 28 still unmarried, will probably (hopefully) go to some grad school this year. And when I come back in my mid thirties will probably still stay with my parents until I’m married and have got a house ready and furnished to move in to. And that’s only because I’m upper middle class. If I were much lower down on the socio-economic order, I would probably stay with my parents regardless and just take over the maintenance of the house.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to NewDealer says:


        I’m cool with any of those definitions of success for people. I’m not saying it is wrong for you to have gotten a grad degree (I have one!) or for your parents to have wanted that for you. I just generally struggle with any parenting style that is overly rigid (which it does not sound like your parents employed).

        By the way, off topic, but do you think of Yonkers as the suburbs? More generally, what do you think of Yonkers? Do you have any personal experience there? I’m trying to get a broader sense of how New Yorkers think of it.Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to NewDealer says:


        I have found that parents who tend to subscribe to the “18 and out the door” philosophy tend to be losers.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to NewDealer says:


        That way of thinking and acting takes “rugged” right out of rugged individualism.

        Or it takes the individualism part out.


        It smells unAmerican to me.Report

      • dhex in reply to NewDealer says:


        “I agree but what is the line between expectations and capacity and pushing a bit to get people to go further than easy expectations and grow?”

        one could argue that people with postsecondary degrees encouraging their kids to follow their same path may very well not only be giving into easy expectations but hindering growth, if growth is understood to be “self directed reorganization of the self”.Report

      • dhex in reply to NewDealer says:


        “This concept of 18 and out the door is a great point of criticism about American culture here. Over here, we stay with our parents at least until we get married.”

        to be sure the way the other half lives is usually pretty weird. i left home at 17 to go to college, but i never would have come back unless one of my parents needed me to care for them – i would have viewed it as sponging off of them.

        neither is right in any sense other than the personal and temporal.Report

      • Murali in reply to NewDealer says:


        That way of thinking and acting takes “rugged” right out of rugged individualism.

        Or it takes the individualism part out.


        I thought I was supposed to be the libertarian between the two of us.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to NewDealer says:

        I thought I was supposed to be the libertarian between the two of us.

        Hey, neither “rugged” nor “individualism” are all they’re cracked up to be. I think you’re with me on that.


      • Murali in reply to NewDealer says:

        Pretty much I think “rugged” individualism is oversold.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to NewDealer says:

        Over the years, I have come to the opinion that the phrase “rugged individualism” caught on and stuck not because it’s a particularly good or accurate describer, so much as it makes it all sound pretty kick-ass.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:


        America Fish Yeah!

        The phrase “rugged individualism” has been used since Hoover during the Great Depression and I imagine has a much older history than that. Then and now it is basically used as a way of saying that America is unique and shouldn’t have a welfare state.Report

      • j r in reply to NewDealer says:

        The phrase “rugged individualism” has been used since Hoover during the Great Depression…

        With a name like New Dealer, I’d think you’d no better than to accept these myths. The rugged individualism speech was made prior to the Depression, during the 1928 campaign, and was more a call to reject the sort of war socialism that had come into fashion during WWI when the government had a giant bureaucracy that was centrally directing the entire economy. He actually explicitly says in the speech that he’s not talking about “system of laissez faire.”

        And once the Depression happened, Hoover, despite how history often portrays him, actively put the government in motion. This was a guy who’s nickname was “The Great Engineer.” During the 1932 campaign FDR said this, “I accuse the present Administration of being the greatest spending Administration in peacetime in all our history.” And his Vice President accuse Hoover of leading the country to socialism. And once FDR took over just about every New Deal program was based on some precursor from the Hoover Administration.

        In general, the whole idea that Americans are individualists has always been a bit overblown. We were a frontier country and you don’t survive on the frontier by yourself. You survive by forming communities. The difference with America is that Americans were much more likely to leave the place where they were born and their extended family and go start over somewhere else.

        The primary set of tensions that exist between conservatives and progressives has never been about the individual vs. the collective, rather it’s almost always been about the authority of the central government vs the authority of the community/family.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to NewDealer says:

        With a name like New Dealer, I’d think you’d no better than to accept these myths.

        On the contrary, the Roosevelt mythos is that Hoover ran the economy into the ground with his laissez-faire policies, and then Roosevelt saved the day with the New Deal. The reality—that Hoover was basically FDR lite and the economy still tanked on his watch—is not quite so flattering.Report

      • Kim in reply to NewDealer says:

        Is Zandi Volkher lite, or is he Helicopter Ben lite?
        Inquiring minds want to know…Report

  10. Jaybird says:

    I read this enjoyable post and thought that I didn’t really have anything to add that wasn’t an attempt at snark… but then I read this tweet by Tina Brown.

    (Note: I probably wouldn’t have given this tweet a second thought had she instead said “China” at the end there. But here we are.)Report

    • North in reply to Jaybird says:

      Somehow I suspect that ceasing a policy of locking a portion of our national human resources in cages for using a substance that has significantly lower negative effects (and infinitely lower mortality) than alchohol not to mention ceasing to pay people to execute said policy will increase our ability to nationally compete with the Chinese[sic]. Not that we’re exactly competing with China now anyhow. Call me when they figure out how to erect a functional open financial market.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

      Do we know this tweet is genuine?Report

    • j r in reply to Jaybird says:

      I absolutely love the “compete with China to win the future” idea. As if the sole purpose of existence is to prepare for some all-encompassing global color war.

      And it always makes me wonder: are we the rich kids with the fancy camp on the other side of the lake and the Chinese the ragtag upstarts? Or are we the cool camp with the impressive legacy being challenged by over-aggressive and totally uncool dorky kids?Report

      • NewDealer in reply to j r says:

        I really like your analogy with comparing nationalism to a sleep-away camp color war. It might be very East Coast of us 😉 Which was your camp?

        But this is what the very important people in Washington and the Beltway worry about and they don’t want our economy to decline. There is probably some justification to worry about remaining competetive but North is more right about what makes us uncompetitive.Report

      • j r in reply to j r says:

        I went to Boy Scout camp in upstate New York. And there actually was a rich kid’s campsite that you had to be invited to join. The had their site up on a Hill and slept in screened lean-to’s while everyone else had tents. They were mostly from Long Island, especially the Five Towns.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to j r says:

        I went to Adirondack Adventure for two years and then went to more artsy and academic summer programs. My dad was always anti boy scouts (too right-wing). The camp was co-ed and I don’t think there was a rival camp nearby.

        That being said this does seem to be the kind of thing that very serious pundits worry about. I wonder how they get jobs when their thought patterns seem so different than the rest of the American population, left and right. There was an article in the Atlantic about how we’ve gone soft because school is canceled because of the Polar Vortex. The author’s example was that Laura Ingells Wilder wrote about going to school the day after a blizzard. People in the comments needed to point to wiki articles about students dying because their schools refused to cancel classes during blizzards.Report

  11. Krogerfoot says:

    Before her riotously successful bid for attention as Tiger Mom, Amy Chua wrote World on Fire, an absolutely fascinating book about economically dominant minority cultures around the world. How she went from there to the kind of pop-culture button-pushing displayed in her recent work is, I imagine, also a fascinating and depressing story.Report

  12. Kazzy says:

    When I saw a headline related to the book, I immediately thought, “Chua seems to be taking what was originally a worthwhile conversation on culturally-specific parenting styles and their outcomes and decided to go full-crazy with it to make some quick bucks.”Report

  13. j r says:

    Just to be pedantic, I’m pretty sure that Kareem Abdul-Jabar is just a plain ol’ black guy. He was born Lew Alcindor and grew up in the Dykman Houses in upper Manhattan. He changed his name when he converted to Islam.Report

  14. Kazzy says:

    What is this book doing that Kozol didn’t already try to do in “Savage Inequalities”?Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Kazzy says:

      Be the #slatepitch version that can be talked about in neo-liberal society.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to NewDealer says:

        It took me a moment, but as I read Tod’s piece here I thought, “I’ve read this before.” Then I remembered graduate school. I guess SI is old enough now that not enough people know about it and she can troll a whole new generation.Report

      • North in reply to NewDealer says:

        On behalf of neoliberals I take exception to that slap. Harrumph!! Racism is so far away from the utilitarian empiricism neoliberals fetishize as to be on another planet.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:


        I apologize for the snide remark but I will note that I find utilitarianism to be a fairly horrible philosophy. My readings on Benthem and his views/idea do not disspell this notion. Founding the University of London was good but he also helped advanced some rather harsh laws against the poor.Report

      • North in reply to NewDealer says:

        Oh sure ND, one can dislike utilitarianism enormously (there’re all kinds of objections to it) but it’s not in the same category as racism which is fundamentally a particularly horrible breed of magical thinking*.

        Or maybe horrible feelings and some of our most vile hindbrain instincts masquerading as thinking.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to NewDealer says:

        The second I found a system that gave me better results than utilitarianism, I grabbed it.Report

      • North in reply to NewDealer says:

        That’s very utilitarian of you jay.Report

    • j r in reply to Kazzy says:

      It’s been a while since I read Savage Inequalities, but I remember it making the exact opposite in mistake in implying that all the existing inequalities could be traced back to the funding issue.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to j r says:

        You’re right. I’m mixing up my grad school readings. Now I need to go figure out what book I’m thinking of. Basically, some guy tried to tackle how the disparate outcomes among racial groups was wholly attributable to the cultures of those different racial groups. Chapter titles were so thoughtfully titled as “Blacks” and “Asians”.Report

      • Pierre Corneille in reply to j r says:


        Are you perhaps thinking of “Bell Curve”? I’ve never read the book, but I did once own it, unfortunately.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to j r says:

        Maybe. I was given excerpts of it for class, but never had the entire book. We also read parts of SI, which is why I got confused.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to j r says:

        But the book basically said things like, “Blacks think XYZ about education. That is why they do poorly.” Then in the “Whites” chapter, it said, “Whites thing ABC about education. That is why they do so well.”Report

      • Kim in reply to j r says:

        Conveniently ignoring what the “redneck” white population believes.
        [This is self-selection, folks, at its heart. And, yes, of course not every
        redneck population is alike.]Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to j r says:

        Are you perhaps thinking of “Bell Curve”? I’ve never read the book, but I did once own it, unfortunately.

        No. The Bell Curve wasn’t about race. In fact, the bulk of the book dealt with a data set which excluded racial minorities in order to avoid any confounding effects from race. There were two or three chapters that dealt with race (not titled “Blacks” and “Asians”), which is unfortunate, because the race card sharks seized on them as an excuse the discredit the whole book, which actually was quite good, and important. You really should have read it when you had a copy.Report

  15. NewDealer says:

    @tod-kelly @kazzy and others. This seems relevant:

    Kraus and Keltner found that the higher people perceived their social class to be, the more strongly they endorsed just-world beliefs, and that this difference explained their increased social class essentialism: Apparently if you feel that you’re doing well, you want to believe success comes to those who deserve it, and therefore those of lower status must not deserve it. (Incidentally, the argument that you “deserve” anything because of your genes is philosophically contentious; none of us did anything to earn our genes.)

    Higher-class Americans may well believe life is fair because they’re motivated to defend their egos and lifestyle, but there’s an additional twist to their greater belief in a just world. Numerous researchers have found that upper-class people are more likely to explain other people’s behavior by appealing to internal traits and abilities, whereas lower-class individuals note circumstances and environmental forces. This matches reality in many ways for these respective groups. The rich do generally have the freedom to pursue their desires and strengths, while for the poor, external limitations often outnumber their opportunities. The poor realize they could have the best genes in the world and still end up working at McDonald’s. The wealthy might not merely be turning a blind eye to such realities; due to their personal experience, they might actually have a blind spot.”Report

    • Kazzy in reply to NewDealer says:


      (Note: I haven’t yet read the link)

      How much of this is conscious and how much subconscious? My wife and I have been very successful. Relative to our peer group, we are doing aces: we have a nice home in a good school district, zero student loans, two cars, income that puts us up in the upper quintile, a healthy son, etc. If I’m not thinking THAT hard about it, I often attribute this success to how hard we work and how goal-oriented we are and how much attention we pay to the “big picture” when making decisions. All of which is true. But if I do think hard about it, I remember everything else: we’re both white; we came from middle-class homes that emphasized education; most of our parents were college-educated; my grandmother left funds to cover my college expenses; Zazzy was able-bodied and situated freely enough that she could take advantage of a ROTC scholarship; etc. So, it was a combination of context and inherent traits (with the caveat that even the inherent traits may not be inherent but may be the result of other contextual factors). But it takes a good amount of thinking to remember that because of how easy it is to look at the most simplistic explanations.Report

      • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

        I also think people vastly underestimate the effects of luck.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        I actually agree with this but will say that luck/randomness/whatever-term-we-use-to-describe-it is almost impossible to account for, either in terms of assessing its impact or addressing disparate distributions thereof. So, for me, I tend not to consider it only because I don’t know how to.

        However, I think a lot of things that we call luck/randomness/whatever-term-we-use-to-describe-it are actually the result of contextual issues.

        Was I “lucky” that my grandmother was able to leave me money for college? How much of that was steeped in her whiteness? But how much can we attribute to her being an ahead-of-her-times woman in corporate culture who worked her way up higher than most thought possible? And how much of her ability to do that was because she could leave my mother home with her grandparents while she worked late hours or engaged in the social engagements necessary for career advancement? And how do we factor in her deadbeat “husband” who was largely absent the whole time? This was a hindrance but also might have served as a motivator to achieve new heights. Though she was probably more likely to kick him to the curb because she was the sort of woman who could thrive professionally in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Etc.

        So, was I lucky? I tend to say I was fortunate and, to some degree, privileged (meaning, specifically, I/my family possesses/ed white privilege).Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

        Here ya go, Kazzy. It’s a good read. Really.Report

    • Murali in reply to NewDealer says:

      If we have to earn X in order to deserve some Y on the basis of X, then it is impossible to deserve anything. If anyone in fact deserves some non-trivial thing, then it must be on the basis of some X which itself may not have been deserved.

      For example, human rights are commonly thought to be deserved by any person. But, you didn’t earn your status as a person. Does it therefore follow that being a person is insufficient to grant people their basic human rights?Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Murali says:

        I don’t follow. Surely things can be deserved on different bases. You can deserve certain things by virtue of having done nothing but be born human (human rights), and others by virtue of doing things beyond that that have “earned” you those desserts. No?Report

      • Murali in reply to Murali says:

        I was responding to New Dealer’s statement that deserving anything in virtue of one’s genes is contentious because we did not do anything to earn our genes.

        I think even more generally, a person doesn’t have to earn his innate talents and character (or have done anything to deserve them) in order for him to deserve things on the basis of talents and character.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to NewDealer says:

      Kraus and Keltner found that the higher people perceived their social class to be, the more strongly they endorsed just-world beliefs, and that this difference explained their increased social class essentialism

      Of course, you interpret this to mean that they’re delusional, but an alternative explanation is that the poor are delusional in believing that they’re getting screwed over. The truth is somewhere in between. IQ and conscientiousness do predict income, and most paths to wealth involve putting in significantly more work than the average person. I’d like to make more money, but when I looked into it I found that there was really no way I could significantly increase my income without spending more time working than I was willing to.

      Where luck does play a big role, I think, is in deciding whether someone who meets all the prerequisites (intelligent, conscientious, long hours, taking the right risks) will succeed in becoming very wealthy, or merely upper-middle class.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        The point wasn’t delusion, I don’t think. The point was confirmation bias and self-serving belief.

        On your substantive point, are you treating the distribution of IQ as not significantly chance-based? Not to mention “taking the right risks”? Also, doesn’t social placement affect a lot of your other variables, so that a person with the same IQ and conscientiousness won’t have the same connections that allow them to apply those to situations that will produce the same rewards? Or that the set of risk-reward scenarios they have to choose from are just vastly less rewarding and more risky from the very beginning. a fact that alters all subsequent arrays of risk-reward choices. And isn’t that initial set of options basically determined by luck?Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        The point wasn’t delusion, I don’t think. The point was confirmation bias and self-serving belief.

        So they’re correct, but jerks about it? Anyway, that cuts both ways, too. If you think you’re poor because the man’s keeping you down and not because of things that you’re doing wrong, that’s self-serving.

        On your substantive point, are you treating the distribution of IQ as not significantly chance-based?

        Sort of. Obviously it is chance-based, but it’s also an inherent property of the individual in question. “He just makes more money because he’s luckier than me” is a different claim from “He just makes more money because he’s lucky enough to be smarter and more conscientious than me.”

        If you go down that road, there’s no tenable stopping point until you reach the conclusion that no one deserves anything ever. That’s a position I can respect—I just don’t think it was the point NewDealer was trying to make.

        Not to mention “taking the right risks”?

        Right in an a priori sense. Starting a business with a solid business plan is an example of a risk that is right in an a priori sense. Betting your life’s savings on a horse race is not, even if it turns out to be right in an a posteriori sense.

        Also, doesn’t social placement affect a lot of your other variables, so that a person with the same IQ and conscientiousness won’t have the same connections that allow them to apply those to situations that will produce the same rewards?

        I don’t think it’s social placement so much as cultural capital (i.e., knowledge of and social pressure to do what it takes to be successful), which brings us back to the original topic: whether some subcultures are better than others at preparing their children for success in a modern economy. Which seems pretty obviously true, unless you want to argue that the members of those groups are genetically superior.Report

  16. Wale Bello says:

    OK, So let the record be known that I totally disagree with the contents of this book (or at least what we know about it so far.) But for the sake of argument, I will disagree that Nigerian Americans do not belong on this list. Amy Chau includes them based on the fact that they are extremely educated..According to the US census, Nigerian American are the most educate demographic in the country. As a comparison, 8 % of whites as of 2010 had masters degrees, compared to 12 percent for Asian Americans, and 17 % for Nigerian Americans. When you look at doctorate degrees, the values are 1%, 3% and 4% respectively. I am currently a Nigerian American in med school in NY and most of the black people getting their masters and in med school at my program are 1st or 2nd gen Nigerians. I’m not going to go ahead and say that my culture is superior and neither do I believe so, but there is an enormous push for education in my family and most Nigerians I know. I have 4 siblings all with masters degrees, as well as my parents and during the times in which I thought I wanted to stop at a bachelors degree, I would be reminded that nobody else in my family stopped there and that really wasn’t any other option for me to continue. I have tons of Nigerian friends who are in the same situation.Report

    • Wale Bello in reply to Wale Bello says:

      Haha, I realize that some of my typo’s might not be helping me state my case but lets save the snarky comments 😉Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Wale Bello says:

      “I’m not going to go ahead and say that my culture is superior and neither do I believe so, but there is an enormous push for education in my family and most Nigerians I know.”

      I think this is a really telling statement.

      I’ve worked with a number of Nigerian families in the past few years. All were headed by parents born in Nigeria* with children born and raised in the states. To a person, they all spoke of their intense dedication to education which they attributed to a broader cultural value from their own upbringing. So, I take it as a fact that Nigerians/Nigerian-Americans (or, some subset of Nigerians/Nigerian-Americans) do value education more so than many other (and perhaps all other) cultures. We probably can’t measure this perfectly objectively, but I would venture to guess there were ways to measure cultural attitudes about education and further guess that Nigerians/Nigerian-Americans would rate high on it.

      But to go from that to an assumption of superiority (which is what Chua seems to be attempting) is a whole other thing. Superior by what measure?

      See, that is the thing… superiority is relative. Is LeBron James a superior human to me? Well, that depends. He makes more money in a year than I will ever make in my lifetime. He is more well known than I am. He is far, far, far, far better at basketball than I will ever be. But I am more educated than him. I eat dinner with my wife and children more often than he does. I probably deal with less overall stress than he does. So who is superior? Well, it would depend on who you ask. People who value education and family life might say it’s me. People who value financial success or physical acumen might say him. It’d be really, really, really hard to say who is right. Because, ultimately, it is all subjective and relative.

      * One family had a Nigerian-born father and a black American-born mother.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Wale Bello says:

      @wale-bello Thanks for this. This is really helpful context.Report

      • Wale Bello in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @tod-kelly no problem at all. @kazzy , you make great points. It is entirely subjective and very relative to what you define success to be. My mom is African American and my father and myself and some of my siblings were born in Nigeria, like the family you speak of. I consider myself to be culturally influenced by both since i grew up in Nigeria till I was 15 but was raised by an American mother while there. I think what we essentially have here is a domino effect. When there is a positive history of education within the family, there is a strong likelihood that the next generation will become educated as well, this is what we see with Nigerian Americans. I think its very sad that African Americans are not represented in the schools the way immigrants are (not just Nigerians). I think the problem there lies within the elementary school educational system where our failure to educate minorities and minorities to educate themselves begin…and the reason the schools are in a state of disarray also goes back to the the fact that they are in poor neighborhoods populated by the parents of said minority children who are not as educated/financially stable as other cultural groups…and the reason for THAT is because those parents were also dealt bad cards… This is a perfect example of how the domino effect works in a completely different manner for people of the same race… I think to fix the issues of African Americans and Hispanics in this country, we must fix the schooling from a very young age, that way there is hope that begins early, children have better expectations of what they can achieve and then we can finally focus on the high schools ( lets be honest and i hate to say it but currently, a lot of minorities who make it high school have athletes and rap artist as role models and not scientist or authurs, and we all know we cant all go pro) to and hopefully eventually, through education, maybe the socioeconomic status might change and we can finally break this cycleReport

      • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:


        Now you’re speaking my language! I’m an early childhood educator (PreK) and often point to early education a place where great gains or great losses are made.

        One thing I’ve seen — both firsthand and in the accounts of others — is that by the third- or fourth-generation, many progeny of immigrants associate more with the local culture than their ancestral culture and, thus, lose their values. Basically, while someone’s father, grandfather, and/or great-grandfather might have identified as Nigerian-American and had many of the cultural markings of a Nigerian/Nigerian-American, that child might identify more as African-American and adopt the cultural markings of his peers and the broader society around him. While this is, to some degree, a natural part of the assimilation process, it also can be harmful if they are adopting the values and mores that are a consequence of the domino effect you describe (which I think is a very apt description, mind you). Do you see this to be the case? If so, do you have any ideas of how it can be addressed? Or if it should be addressed at all? If you were to see your own children look more to athletes and rappers than to you and your family, how would you respond?

        I should also note that I appreciate how you are able to articulate the variety of cultures present within the “black community”. At my school — a primarily white independent school in suburban New York — I had a class last year with four black boys. But they could not be more different in their home environments: one was an upper-middle class child living in the suburbs born to African-American parents; another was a middle- to working-class child born to Nigerian immigrants living in an urban setting; another was a middle- to working-class child born to African-American parents in a different urban setting; and the fourth was an upper-class child borne to Nigerian immigrants living in a different suburban setting. If you looked quickly, you saw four black boys who played together with varying degrees of friendship among them. And that is how many of the whites (disclaimer: I’m white) in the community saw them: four black boys. But when you looked closely, you could see just how unique their experiences were and how little could be generalized about them based on their race. Yet, generalize people did. It was really frustrating at times.Report

    • Kim in reply to Wale Bello says:

      How many of these immigrants were living in poverty or near poverty in Nigeria before emmigrating?Report

  17. NewDealer says:


    What did you during the summers? How far away did you go to school?

    I went to college at 17 as well but it was only two hours up north in a ruralish area and I still went home during breaks and over summers and I worked over the summers. I think many to most college students do this and I don’t really consider college being the time when people move out but I might be in the minority in this.

    What if you developed a really serious illness or were in a bad accident during your junior year? Would you consider sponging to move back home?

    Families have to take care of each other. It shouldn’t be considered sponging to rely on family especially when a person is in need. Obviously one should not mooch or take advantage of family either but you should always be able to call and rely on family in real emergencies and time of need instead of it being considered or thinking of it as sponging.


    I suspect Jewish and Asian cultures are a lot alike in this regard. It seems that the Anglo-American world is unique in 18 and out.Report

  18. Wale Bello says:

    @kazzy Thank you for the complements and I am glad we are engaging in this conversation. I do agree that it is inevitable that subsequent generations will lose immigrant culture and identity and this in some way is inevitable. I think this is where parenting is a huge deal because cultural assimilation of immigrants and their children with the American culture can be a good thing and its up to the parent to ensure that select values are passed down from the generation that proceeded them. Even though the sense of cultural identification changes with time, the values of which we speak of can surely be passed down successfully. Personally for me, I would not have a problem with my child having an athlete as a role model, but there is no way in any realm that I will accept anything less than a Bachelor degree from any of my children. I believe it will be my duty to as a parent to not only instill in my children the value of education, but also the desire to get one. But again, my child probably won’t have to look very far for motivation to try to do well in life, he/she will probably go to a good elementary school, then high school and college. If my child fails to get a college degree, it will be a reflection of my failure as a parent. The sad fact is that there are a lot of kids that will be born into very dissimilar situations. And, yeah… I totally understand what you mean with the generalizations 🙂 I get generalized everyday of my life, but it is something I’ve learned to life with, and sometimes I let it motivate meReport

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Wale Bello says:

      @wale-bello Not sure what brought you here for this discussion, but I bet I speak on behalf of a bunch of folks when I say I hope you stick around for others.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Wale Bello says:

      I know that some inner city charter schools make a real effort to “normalize” college as an expectation. While we here and folks elsewhere have had really interesting debates about whether everyone should go to college, using that expectation as a proxy for valuing education seems worthwhile. I know the Success Academies (formerly Harlem Success Academy) name their classes based on the teacher’s alma mater and the students’ expected year of graduation. So my kids wouldn’t be called “PreK”, they would be called “Boston College Class of 2032 (or whatever year it’d be… god that makes me feel old)”. The teachers also decorate a bulletin board with college paraphernalia.

      I personally don’t love everything SA does (Disclaimer: I had the opportunity to work there and turned them down), but I think that is a really important point. It is just one of many influences the children will have on them, but why the hell not make every effort to have the school’s influence be as positive as possible?Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

        I am one of those skeptical of “college for everybody” and yet find myself very sympathetic to trying to impart that in schools that specifically serve communities with lower expectations. I might want to tweak it to “Yes, college can be possible for you” with a follow-up on after having determined that college may be possible, investigating whether or not it is the best option. Right now I sort of get the impression that college is seen as desirable in the abstract sense but not possible, and I think that needs to be revisited on both accounts.Report

      • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

        there are communities that actively discourage college.
        Somehow these communities never seem to be the ones
        that people bitch about… except if they’re from there.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        I don’t know if the message is “You will go to college” or “You can go to college” but I think either is likely preferable over the status quo message many of those children currently receive. I think too many students trying to go to college is a better problem than too few.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        And, @will-truman , I think it might be the case that we send different messages to different racial, cultural, and economic groups.

        I worked with a high school student a few years back. Her family had immigrated back and forth from Chile. She was planning to go to college to study forensic science. I can’t speak much to her academic aptitude, but she seemed like a bright and thoughtful girl. When talking about college, she lit up. If she attended, she would be the first in her family to do so at an American university. This was a big frickin’ deal — as it is for many families taking this step.

        Is a bachelors degree necessarily the best financial decision for her long term? Who knows. But given the other possible benefits — namely changing her family’s trajectory with regards to education — it seems like a no brainer.

        I wish there were other ways this could be done without this young lady incurring $100K+ in potential debt. And maybe there are. But college can symbolize something that is often ignored in strictly economic arguments.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

        I think the problem I potentially have is the implicit “and should”… you can and should go to college. Which maybe that isn’t there. I’d like further investigation of when it is and isn’t wise.

        That being said, Trumwill’s perfect universe of multipolar success – some of which includes college and some of which doesn’t – doesn’t exist. And in the current economy, whether I like it or not, there’s a strong argument to be made that going to college actually is the right choice 90% of the time. As long as we as a society are fixated it on the metric of competence.

        We don’t really parse out the data sufficiently for me to say confidently that it is true that college is the right way to go in today’s economy. However, given that I will lean on my kids in that direction in some fashion or another in a “hedging bets” fashion, I can’t blame schools for pointing their pupils in that direction. And in the case of communities where such is not an expectation or is somehow discouraged, am generally (if quietly) supportive of it.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

        Well, the cost for college used to make it a no-brainer… even if you got a degree in the proverbial underwater basket-weaving courses. If it cost about 4-5 grand a year, you could pretty much pay as you went if you had a job that gave you half-decent hours.

        I don’t know that community colleges charge that little these days.Report

      • Patrick in reply to Kazzy says:

        Community colleges do.

        Well, at least, ours does. Pasadena City College has really cheap-ass classes. If you’re looking for a job-that-requires-a-degree (nursing, EMT, electrician, shop worker, etc), you can get through PCC and get a decent job pretty fast.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        I’m talking about the non-economic factors. If going to college gets a kid out of the ghetto and gets subsequent generations of that family out of the ghetto, than it is much more likely to be the right call even if it doesn’t have the ideal ROI. This often seems ignored in these conversations because we tend to focus on middle class, white suburban kids.

        Some kids have multiple avenues to success. Some have damn near zero avenues to success with college being the best — or only — one. We should tailor our message as necessary.Report

  19. Brandon Berg says:

    And when she says “culture,” of course, she kind of means “race.”

    Seriously, where are you getting this from? Aside from the fact that the examples you cited are cultures, this is Amy “Tiger Mother” Chua. She’s all the way over on the “nurture” side of the “nature-nurture” spectrum. Calling it now: The upshot of this book will be that culture explains everything. If genes are mentioned at all, it will be only to dismiss the idea that genetic differences explain why some subpopulations are more successful than others.Report

    • Kim in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      Genetic differences don’t explain much, even in the most highly inbred populations.
      (Some personality differences are occurring, but, that may be self-selection).

      I get it from the fact that she ain’t talking bout rednecks, or other white folks who
      don’t believe too highly in the value of education (traditionally, the Irish were
      very much like that as well). Or the Amish, or half a dozen other sects I could cite.

      They’re all offlimits, but blacks? fair fucking game.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      That’s certainly possible. It seems to me that justifying claims about certain types of cultural practices with evidence derived from racially/ethnically based statistical categories makes teasing out the type of distinction you’re taking about pretty hard. Especially if the conclusion is that culture A is superior, rather than cultural practice P is superior (followed by a bunch of caveats and normative claims and whatnot).

      But who doesn’t think that certain types of cultural practices are better (normatively, instrumentally, depending on values and whatnot) than some other practices? Which makes me wonder – along with Tod, I guess – why the focus is on cultural groups rather than cultural practices.Report

      • Murali in reply to Stillwater says:

        Cultures consist of the cultural practices that comprise them. If two cultures A and B are identical in every way except that A includes P1 while B includes P2 and P1 is better than P2 at securing success (e.g. avoiding or escaping generational poverty) for people operating under said culture, culture A is better than culture B. Things become difficult to assess when there are multiple dimensions of assessment and some cultures are better vis a vis practices regarding some domains while others are better with regards to practices on other domains, and there may very well be different criteria for success.

        Yet, we cannot quibble about criteria for success if we care about intergenerational poverty as clearly the subject is about nurturing the young to be capable and non-criminal acquisitors of wealth. Also, if comorbidity of bad cultural practices is common, then, whatever the cause of the comorbidity be it historical or ongoing injustice, aggregate comparisons can be more easily made.

        If we can legitimately make evaluative claims about cultural practices without being racist even when said cultural practices are more frequent among some ethnic groups than others then we can also legitimately make evaluative claims about entire cultures especially when the only differences in cultural practices between two cultures clearly and significantly favour members of one of those cultures.

        The only sort of attribution of responsibility that may even plausibly be appropriate (given historical and on-going injustice) would be the strategic and extremely wide kind which Vickram Bath has recommendedReport

      • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:


        It seems to me the distinction is this: when people talk about cultures in ethnic or nationalistic terms (Nigerians) rather than the types of practices people engage in which are exemplified by (certain members of certain cultures) they are, it seems to me, talking about properties of people rather than practices people engage in.

        I mean, if I self-identify as an American and you say Americans are inferior with respect to X, you’ve made a judgment about who I am as a person. That strikes me as politically counterproductive (assuming you’re motives are pure as the driven snow) but also – and I think more importantly – factually question-begging. For example, I might not engage in the types of behaviors which you attribute to Americans fully generally.

        Critiquing a culture which is defined by ethnic or nationalistic or racialproperties begs all sorts of questions, so much so that wondering whether is a genetic-determinism argument laying in the background becomes pretty reasonable to at least wonder about.

        Moving in the other direction, like you suggest in your comment (that is, from identifying certain practices that are “better” or “worse” and then making a judgment about the culture those practices are embedded in could (I suppose) have some merit. But only if those identified properties are correctly attributed to people within that culture who they actually apply to. That would require a more fine-grained analysis than it appears Chua is offering.Report

      • Kim in reply to Stillwater says:

        My criticism of particular cultures is unstinting.

        I suppose I believe I have more facts on my side than
        this Tiger Mom woman does, and am very much more
        willing to acknowledge that simply because a culture
        is more … permissive (or strict) does not mean that
        a particular person from that culture is automatically
        going to have that attitude.Report

      • Kim in reply to Stillwater says:

        And, I must admit, TigerMom’s ability to say “look at how awesome me and my husband’s culture is” … is really, really boring.

        I can give a decent critique of most cultures. If you aren’t able to say “and here’s what’s
        wrong with my culture”…. you probably aren’t a deep enough thinker to be writing
        good books.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        My criticism of particular cultures is unstinting.

        I get that. And if I’m honest, my criticisms can be pretty unstinting too. But I think the problem is that the group of people in the set picked out by the term “culture C” is often – usually, in fact – much larger than the people we criticize for engaging in “practice P”. The two things have some overlap, I suppose, but identifying culture C by ethnically or nationalistically determined properties seems to rely on, and in fact seems to require, collapsing that distinction.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Stillwater says:

        Which makes me wonder – along with Tod, I guess – why the focus is on cultural groups rather than cultural practices.

        I haven’t read the book, obviously, but it sounds to me like the focus is on both. That is, it seems to start from the observation that members of these cultural groups are on average more successful than members of other groups, and then examines common factors that may contribute to this success. Note that the title of the book is “The Triple package,” named for the three factors the authors believe account for these groups’ success, and not “The Excellent Eight” or “Model Minorities.”Report

  20. j r says:

    And in the current economy, whether I like it or not, there’s a strong argument to be made that going to college actually is the right choice 90% of the time.

    What’s the basis of that 90%?

    Education, like housing, is one of those areas where people like to offer hard and fast rules. People say things like, “you should never rent, because it’s throwing away money” or “going to college always increases your future earnings.” I don’t think that this is what you’re doing, but I am interested in the specifics of why you feel this way.

    One of the problems is that with both education and housing there is a consumption component and an investment component and its best to separate these two before you start making decisions about whether something is a good investment. For some people, four years spent learning has a very high value; for others, not so much.

    And the investment side of things really needs to be analyzed from a cash flow perspective that appropriately discounts the value of future income and debt payments. Unfortunately, that’s really hard to do. You can know that ten years from now you’ll have $500 a month in student loan payments, but you can’t really know whether that will be a huge imposition or a drop in the bucket.

    The bottom line is college is a huge upfront cost (even if you don’t have to pay it all upfront) coupled with four years of foregone earnings, so it’s not always clear that it’s worth it. If you know at 18, that you like working with your hands and that you’d like to pursue a trade and eventually run your own business then you don’t really need college. You might want it, but that’s a different story.Report

    • Kim in reply to j r says:

      I’m certain you’ve heard of how many forkloads of money the government has been throwing at the banks recently.

      “Unfortunately, that’s really hard to do. You can know that ten years from now you’ll have $500 a month in student loan payments, but you can’t really know whether that will be a huge imposition or a drop in the bucket.”

      Inflation hedges seem prudent at this time.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to j r says:

      This is how I see college education and whether a person becomes middle class or higher in terms of socio-economics.

      1. Damned if you don’t go to college.

      2. Maybe damned if you do go to college/university

      Articles I’ve read showed that the unemployment rates for people with some or no college education tend to be much, much higher than those with people with college or advanced degrees. Now a lot of college grads might be underemployed and the statistics might be being downplayed but it still makes it worse for non-college grads.

      Plus low-skill jobs are becoming more low-wage. This has been documented many times. Methland has an example of a meat processing plant in Iowa where the workers were being paid very well and were unionized. Another company bought the plant, smashed the union, and slashed wages dramatically.

      This is why college is probably still a better option more than it is not. Economically speaking it is still a win for long-term job issues. Though there are plenty of people who would dissent against me a consider me a useful idiot for the man for saying so.Report

      • Kim in reply to NewDealer says:

        What long term jobs?
        When your company can just hire someone who is ONLY skilled in “hot topic of week” … and then discard them the minute they’re out of fashion…

        The long term jobs are fading fast.

        Too much labor, not enough demand.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:


        The problem with thinking the death of long term jobs is going away is that it makes it easier for employers to make it go away if everyone thinks it is inevitable.

        And I was talking about unemployment not whether a job was a permanent position or not.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to NewDealer says:

        The long term jobs are fading fast.

        Isn’t that a Bruce Springsteen lyric?Report

      • Kim in reply to NewDealer says:

        A college student is not trained in ANYTHING current. Can’t be, tech changes too fast.
        So folks hire HIBs from India, who are ONLY trained in what’s current.
        Voila! Disposable employees.

        Getting a college education is fast becoming a highway to nowhere.
        I describe the situation on the ground, I do not say it is time to despair.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:


        As usual with you, there is absolutely no proof for your assertion except willful thinking and Kim-speak.

        Prove to me that employers are ditching their requirements for job candidates to have a college degree.

        If you wrote in fewer riddles you could make a living giving slatepitchesReport

      • Kim in reply to NewDealer says:

        Ain’t that why they got Java certifications, etc?
        You don’t need no degree, just a certification.
        Etc. Etc. Etc.

        If you want, I suggest you find someone to talk
        to who is remotely technical in your area. You’ll
        find ample evidence if you bother to look.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:


        Except that most major and not major tech companies still require college degrees for their programmers and other techies and often prefer advanced degrees.

        You offer no proof and then tell me to find my own evidence to prove you.

        The only reasonable conclusion that anyone should draw from you is that you are a dada artist sprouting non-sense.

        There is also much more to a healthy economy than everyone being a coder or in STEM or business.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

        Kim, it’s my experience that certification is far less prominent an issue now than it was in the 90’s. Back then, employers could be less stringent in their demands. Now they can say “We want you to have a degree and know Java” whereas before “We need someone – anyone – that knows Java.”


      • Kim in reply to NewDealer says:

        funny, I thought you were reading some of those articles on those linky fridays.

      • Kim in reply to NewDealer says:

        They aren’t hiring people with college degrees. They’re hiring H1Bs, which often come with significantly less theory and a lot more practical knowledge.

        Here’s a fun-fun article:
        Take it with a grain of salt, of course, some of those programmers went into finance…Report

      • j r in reply to NewDealer says:

        The problem with those studies is that there is no way to disaggregate the treatment effect from the selection effect. Bright conscientious kids get funneled towards college, so we’d expect that population to have more successful career outcomes than the population that doesn’t go to college. It’s an apples to oranges comparison.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

        JR is right that there are some selection issues involved. Further, the question of “Should I go to college?” shouldn’t be found in the aggregate statistics. It should be found in the subsets that someone on the borderline is likely to find themselves. Including statistics from the University of Florida doesn’t shed much light on the decision-making of someone who would be going to Pensacola State College. Even setting aside the selection problem, looking at how people who went to PSC fare against those who didn’t go to college would be a better, albeit not perfect, comparison.

        I don’t really know what the data would tell me. I do know that I would probably encourage my kid to go to PSC, though, unless they had a good alternative plan that didn’t require it. Which is the rub.

        (Oh, and JR, you’re right that I almost certainly greatly overestimated the number of kids who would benefit from going to college in the current economy.)Report

  21. wardsmith says:

    Ever wonder what other Chinese think about the Tiger Mom?</a?Report

  22. Brandon Berg says:

    The “Racial Realism” Crowd. Basically, for the same reasons as the social conservatives, but infinitely more so. Sure, they’ve always argued that the white race is being watered down into oblivion, but to have it now pointed now that they’ve already lost the war? Worse, to have it pointed out by a mixed-race couple sporting an Asian and a Jew?

    You seem to have racial realism confused with white supremacy. That Northeast Asians and Ashkenazi Jews have higher average IQs than gentile whites is widely accepted by racial realists.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      Anti-semites accept that too, but they describe it as “sneaky”.Report

    • Kim in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      And we call racial realists idiots.
      because there are OBVIOUS hidden variables,
      and the sample set they are looking at is biased
      by self and other selection.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      “You seem to have racial realism confused with white supremacy.”

      OFFS. Now you’re just trolling.

      Jared Taylor: “For whatever reason, most whites have completely lost the ability to say to non-whites, “This is our nation (or neighborhood or institution) and we will keep it for ourselves and our descendants.” Unless we regain this ability, whites and their civilization will not survive.”

      Phillipe Rushton: “In 2009 Rushton spoke at the Preserving Western Civilization conference in Baltimore. It was organized by Michael H. Hart for the stated purpose of “addressing the need” to defend “America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and European identity” from immigrants, Muslims, and African Americans.[36][37] In his speech, Rushton said that Islam was not just a cultural, but also a genetic problem. He thought the religion and issues associated with it were not just a condition of the belief system. His theory was that Muslims have an aggressive personality with relatively closed, simple minds, and were less amenable to reason.[38]”

      American Renaissance, the Magazine of the Racial Realism Movement: “In 2002, for instance, American Renaissance published an article by race scientist Richard Lynn (see Pioneer Fund) under the title “Race and the Psychopathic Personality” that argued that blacks “are more psychopathic than whites” and suffer from a “personality disorder” characterized by a poverty of feeling, lack of shame, pathological lying and so on.”

      Jeez, I can pull “White Homeland” quotes from racial realism sites and mags all day. Just because you’re using science-y words to argue for a White Homeland to protect the purity of the White Race doesn’t make you any less a white supremacist.Report