Amy Chua

Yale law professor Amy Chua touched a nerve with her 2011 bestseller “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” about Chinese parenting styles. She’s back with a new book, “The Triple Package,” which claims some cultural groups outperform others based on three traits. She and her co-author, husband Jed Rubenfeld, join us in-studio to talk about their controversial new book.

Amy Chua, professor at Yale Law School, co-author of "The Triple Package" and author of "The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother"
Jed Rubenfeld, professor at Yale Law School and co-author of "The Triple Package"

  • Guest

    How to define success? If a person is a rich selfish douchebag, whom everyone smiles to but no one likes, I would call him or her a loser. Likewise if a person is poor and well liked but only by fools or idiots, for instance who demand conformity and glad handing, he or she too is a loser.

    Also let’s say hypothetically that a Tiger mother’s values, which originate with her culture, benefit all of society. Which of her culturally-derived superior values led to shoddy construction in China such as the schools that fall apart in earthquakes crushing kids? Which value led to beijing’s smog? Which one led to Asian plastic smelling so bad? Which led to Chinese protesters being crushed alive by tanks?

    • thucy

      Right, and MacArthur firing on the Bonus Marchers, the Tuskegee Experiment, the genocide of the Native Americans, the Cuyahoga River catching fire due to industrial pollution… all this proves our immense superiority over the Chinese.

      Or maybe it just proves the old maxim set forth first by the Greeks: power corrupts and desensitizes us.

      • Guest

        Well as I said we need to identify what the early Americans did right that prevented our country becoming another Haiti or Mexico. Without a work ethic important work can’t get done but Without a vision, important work is avoided entirely.

        For instance the Kmer Rouge had a great work ethic and they had a “superiority complex” as Chua would say.

        • ldemelis

          Organized religion has always been respected in America. And, although most colonial Americans were Protestants, religious freedom was an important value too. That idea of “tolerance” is an important part of American culture. The French revolution, while it emerged from the same philosophical roots as the American one, was explicitly anti-clerical. There may have been good historical reasons for that (the Catholic Church was very connected to the aristocracy), but I have often wondered whether that was part of the reason their revolution ended in a Reign of Terror and ours didn’t.

          • thucy

            But we did have a reign of terror – a far, far worse reign of terror. It was directed against Native Americans, whom we committed genocide against. Let’s not whitewash our history.

          • Guest

            You’re overstating which is what provocateurs do. Most natives were killed by disease. Others by armies. Many interbred.

          • thucy

            So does anyone else here actually believe that the fact that many more Natives died from diseases broght to these shores by the West, rather than the enormous numbers being directly massacred and ethnically removed by US troops, means that our government did NOT commit genocide against them?

          • ldemelis

            Our government’s treatment of Native Americans is a terrible thing, and I’m not trying to whitewash it. But the government that oversaw what is known as the Reign of Terror tried to exert a form of thought control over its ordinary citizens that had not been attempted on such a scale before. In some ways, it was the world’s first Fascist state.

          • thucy

            Perhaps, but among the first fascist states may well have been Egypt, and later Sparta. Ironically, Paul Cartledge also credits Sparta with the seedlings of Athenian democracy.
            But if we consider “that all men are created equal” then we must acknowledge that the “Reign of Terror” was a walk in the park compared to what the US enacted against Native tribes.
            I would also suggest that much of the violence against those loyal to the British crown during our own revolution has been whitewashed, as Hawthorne suggests even in his intro to “The Scarlet Letter.”

          • Guest

            Long before European diseases killed them off, there was another die off due to diseases from Asia.

            Disease is not genocide.
            War is not automatically genocide.

            Were there villages burned to the ground? Yes. But that doesn’t compare to what happened to Armenians for example.

          • TrainedHistorian

            This really is a different issue. I agree this should not be whitewashed. But this really has nothing to do with his point. It’s a different topic.

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    Up until around 1960 it was the Protestant work ethic that build western society.

    So when I read that the authors say it’s Asian, Jewish backgrounds that prove to be the most successful I question if they believe this, know American history, or have been misquoted.

    Every Ivy League university, to Stanford here in California were founded by white Protestants. Same with the top hospitals and most of the Fortune 500 companies.

    • thucy

      “Up until around 1960 it was the Protestant work ethic that build (sic) western society.”
      Oh, come on, Beth, this is too easy! Look at the major figures in Western civilization. To which Protestant denomination did Julius Caesar belong? Or Jesus Christ? Were either of those giants even Christian? How about SOCRATES (without whose acceptance of hemlock there would likely never have been a Jesus cult)?
      Was Michaelangelo a Seventh-Day Adventist like yourself? How about Honore de Balzac? Dostoevsky? Constantine?
      Plato? Alexander the Great? Thucydides? Machiavelli? The Borgias? The Medicis? Voltaire? Sophocles? Euripides? Aeschylus? Verdi? Puccini? Livy? Virgil? Plutarch? Da Vinci? Aristotle? Pythagoras?
      What about all those Catholic monks who preserved so much classical writing and mathematics? What about the Moors who ALSO contributed to Western Civ., e.g. all the mathematical genius behind the Alhambra, as well as transcription of essential ancient Greek and Latin texts.
      These are all major figures in “building Western civilization” and half of ’em were Pagan. None of them were “Protestant” (most listed pre-dated Protestantism if not Christianity itself) and thereby had no “Protestant work ethic”.

      • Guest

        I think a better question would be not whether white Christians built much of what it is today the USA but rather what did they contribute that helped keep the USA from becoming a complete basket case like Mexico or some of the central or South American countries. And they did this despite the fact that the international banking cartel, which was hated from 1776 through Lincoln’s time, took control of our economy with the creation of the Federal Reserve system in 1913. This and other factors should have doomed the USA.

        • thucy

          But Beth’s statement wasn’t about the US, but about “Western society”, which hardly began with the Protestant work ethic. Case in point: the landmark Western architectural achievement, the Parthenon, which stands today (remarkably, given all the wars fought amongst it) predates Protestantism by NEARLY 2000 years.
          Which is to say, the notion that a work ethic is magically in the strict domain of Protestants is… horsefeathers!
          In fact, as little as I care for Amy Chua, it is clear that her Chinese work ethic far exceeds Beth’s Protestant work ethic.
          That is, our measurement of anyone’s ethics, work ethics included, should not be modified by an adjective denoting religion or culture, because sweat is sweat. Work ethic is work ethic.

          • Guest

            I can’t speak for Beth but I think that when people less casually praise the West they aren’t referring to buildings and walls and sweat-inducing labor but more to science, engineering and invention like was described by Burke:
            These things require determination and vision, not just a work ethic.

            One reason why Chinese send their kids to the USA for education is that over there there’s a work ethic but no vision and less attention to quality.

          • thucy

            Science, engineering and mathematics are exactly what the pre-Protestant Greeks and Romans were about.
            I’m sorry to say it, but it’s clear that both you and Beth possess some rather strong biases that occlude your thinking. Where does the very theory of the atom begin? Where does geometry and mathematics start? Where does science start? It doesn’t start with Protestantism. The foundation of the scientific method begins in fifth-century Athens. (And they owe a lot to Egypt.)
            Where did the engineering talent for triremes and aqueducts come from? Not Protestants. Which ethnic group dominated the sciences in the last century? Not the Protestants, but Jews. Walk into any medical school today – you’ll find it disproportionately populated by Asians.
            Work ethics are critical to scientific achievement, and “Protestants” are being outrun in this race by non-Protestants. No matter, the work will still get done.

          • Guest

            The Greeks and Romans were more about power struggles and petty squabbles. There was a small minority that focused on learning but the majority was deluded by religion and enjoyed bloodsports and war. You’re putting them on a pedestal.

          • thucy

            It’s “pedestal” not “pedastle”. And your description of the ancient Greeks is perfectly descriptive of the US today. You know why? Because human societies are all pretty similar.

          • Guest

            Yes, the USA has problems today that are unlike anything the founders would have wanted and that doesn’t defeat my argument

          • TrainedHistorian

            Overstated. What Frank and Beth are trying to say, very clumsily, is that the reason why a non-representative sample of Chinese do relatively well in the US must have more to do with American institutions and history than with Chinese ones, otherwise China itself would be doing much, much better than it is. Why does China itself not provide enough opportunity for its own citizens? Why do so many still emigrate? Short answer due to constraints of space: Chinese leaders made many very bad political and economic decisions in the last 150 years (authoritarian Communism, slow-to-adapt traditional imperial authoritarianism, resistance to moderating rigid hierarchies of gender and age, and a government that still squelches political dissent, etc.). So Chinese culture by itself cannot explain the type of relative success of Chinese in America.

            And again, your point about the Parthenon is really irrelevant since as much as we admire ancient Greek art, philosophy etc. no one wants the ancient Greek economy (slavery, poverty for most).

          • thucy

            “One reason why Chinese send their kids to the USA for education is that over there there’s a work ethic but no vision and less attention to quality.”

            I’m going to paraphrase Lenny Bruce’s Kate Smith-Lena Horne joke here:
            “Who would you rather appear on the scene of your next auto accident? Beth DeRoos or Dr. Kevin Fong?”
            Chinese doctors and engineers aren’t just thriving in the West, they’re excelling in their respective fields, and like Jewish specialists before them, they’re highly sought after.

          • Guest

            Doctors and engineers rarely have the vision thing. Care to offer a better example to cheerlead with?

            Reminder: Nazî Germany had great engineers and doctors too.

          • thucy

            Okay, you say the neither writers nor artists nor engineers nor doctors “have the vision thing” (whatever that means).
            Maybe you should DEFINE “the vision thing” and which occupations actually qualify in your mind?

          • Guest

            Watch the Burke series for a start, then ask again, Grasshopper.

            This is your homework assignment, and if you don’t do it I will sick the Tiger Mother on you.

      • TrainedHistorian

        Note to thucy: Moors did not “transcribe” any Latin texts at all. The copying of Latin texts was done by Christians, mainly Western Christians, NOT Muslims. Medieval Muslims did have some GREEK scientific texts translated into Arabic, but not Latin ones. They had no interest in Latin literature, and are known to have translated only one Latin work, Orosius’ Adversus Paganos (not exactly an “essential” Latin text).

      • TrainedHistorian

        This really is a different topic. Yes, lots of folks of different religions, ethnicities, etc. created great art, and made important contributions to science etc. This is not the point of the authors, nor, I suspect, of Beth. The authors discuss “success” in America, not the question which group/nation produced the most geniuses. Beth’s first statement IS a gross exaggeration, but when you read her actual examples (about universities, companies), it seems she is trying to say something not about Western civ as a whole but about American institutions; she is apparently not convinced that Americans will fare better with the despised “Protestants” marginalized from the institutions they founded; and your response is so vehement it goes off topic.
        Yes, ancient China, ancient Greece, Renaissance Europe and the medieval Middle East all produced their great artistic and scientific geniuses, but none of those societies provided most ordinary people with a decent standard of living. America did that in the 1945-75 period. This was partly because of way our institutions were directed to providing opportunity for more than just a few. The authors, IMO, focus too much on what individuals should do to get ahead, and not enough on how US institutions can shape forces in the direction of “success” for more than just the few.

  • David

    $10 says that Amy Chua either doesn’t define ‘success’ or defines it in such away that begs the question.

    • kitsune_rx

      Obvious you did not read the book or even bothered to listen to the program.

  • thisismyaccount

    How to define success. Pretend you are a cultural anthropologist and that you have it all figured out. Write a book about it. Go on talk shows.

    This is a bunch of BS. There is no “way” to define success except do it. These self help books are just anther version of the latest diet fad. Use you own common sense folks.

  • Guest

    “Lets have the courage” to write a book about how great we and the people like us are.

    • thucy

      Amy Chua is a provocateur par excellence. And that is not a compliment. But like the authors of “The Bell Curve”, she’s laughing all the way to the bank.

    • Guest

      One reviewer on Amazon wrote:

      After reading Tiger Mother’s other book, I was looking for a book that
      combines the narrow-minded approach to children with a misguided
      macroeconomic view of nations and society, wrapped in a pseudo-racist
      and dangerous understanding of the topic. And Amy delivered! This book
      is a treat to every preconceived notion you’ve ever had, mixing and
      matching studies left and right in a delightfully drunken attempt to
      make an argument. The oversimplification of complex cultural topics is
      refreshingly naive. I particularly enjoyed the attempts at dodging PC
      mines by unintentionally setting half the minefield off.

      The LA Times review:,0,163067.story#axzz2tKRX77tG

      • kushman

        Frank, if you read the book yourself, you wouldn’t need to copy/paste somebody’s comments.

        • Guest

          Freedom of speech troubles you?

          • kushman

            why would it trouble me? On the contrary. My family immigrated here because of the freedom and opportunities this great country offers. You’re the one getting defensive, so I guess it bothers you.

          • Guest

            So did you use your freedom to read the review?

          • kitsune_rx

            Frank, you also have the freedom to not be here and not comment on a subject which very obviously bothers you.

          • Guest

            So do you!

          • ced1

            Did you read the review? He gave you a link.

  • Aaron

    This conversation seems both very interesting and remarkably obvious. Hard work and persistence lead to success? Having a chip on their shoulder can motivate people? It seems like anyone who ever got good grades, progressed in a career, became a good athlete, musician, etc…knows exactly this. Oh, and there can also be pressure that isn’t super fun? I don’t find any of this insightful.

    Self-esteem isn’t the same as teaching work habits? Carol Dweck has been saying this for decades. Maybe when Po Bronson wrote about this six years ago it was new to popular culture.

  • Steve

    Regarding of the messages we send our children, I don’t agree that “you are not good enough” is the proper antidote to meaningless praise. Both are judgments – perhaps the best course is to stop being judgmental. I like Carol Dweck’s forumulation – where she promotes the “growth mindset” over the “fixed mindset”. That is, we are neither judged as wonderful or inadequate. The emphasis is on the fact that we can grow, learn and achieve, no matter what our present abilities.

    • Guest

      If only Amy Chua would have applied that to herself.

  • Paul_Thiebaut_III

    I failed 2nd grade, dropped out of high school, and earned my BA when I was 27. What changed my trajectory was self-awareness of my inner drive and curiosity — my culture. At 29, I founded 10 Books A Home, an early education nonprofit that aims to prepare under-served children for kindergarten. My belief has been that children need to develop values about education in their homes in order to have the greatest potential to succeed. Largely, as the authors stated, success potential boils down to culture. Material resources are important, but not the key to success potential.

  • jurgispilis

    Regarding the comment that Asians do so much better than American is easy to explain. There are 320 million Americans. There are 7.5 billion people on the planet, more than half of whom are Asians. Asians are a huge group, from Chinese to Lebanese, from Iranians to Vietnamese, from Russian to Indonesian.

    Which group do you think will have the larger number of smart people? It’s simply a matter of numbers. A bigger sample size vs. a smaller sample size.

    By the same token.there would be more baby killers among all people on the planet as compare to a small subset (i.e. the population of America).

    • thucy

      There’s an obvious flaw in your logic: US-born Asians remain a minority (statistically) in the US, however, they are over-represented in engineering, the sciences and medicine.

      • jurgispilis

        Good point. Much like the Jews. I see lots of people poaching tin cans and bottles out of trash receptacles on my block. They are predominantly Asian (specifically Chinese).

        My physician is American. My dentist is Asian (born in Iran, rather than US-born – so he doesn’t fit in the group you describe.). In the firm where I work, one colleague is half-Taiwanese by blood, but US-born. Many Asian work at my firm, but primarily in a data entry capacity. True, they work hard, but so does everybody else, except, of course ____________________(you fill it in).

        The problem with any study tracking foreigners in the US, is that of incorporating into your study the fact that many leave the US. You might measure him as student-visa holder at a US university, you might track him as an employed engineer on an H1-B visa, so you would count him in the successful column. But what happens if he leaves the US and the study. His company could fail, and his visa expires, he could have personal issues at home that need attention, he might have health issues, etc. Certainly, you can agree that a foreigner is much more likely to leave the US as a native-born person.

        • thucy

          My physician is American. He is also Chinese. His family has been in California even longer than my family (1905).
          Your dentist is from Iran, and you say he is Asian? This is a curious thing. Are you sure? Which ethnic group within Iran does he come from? How does the US Census classify him?

          • TrainedHistorian

            The UN classifies Iran as part of SW Asia. Your points are really irrelevant to the point that the immigrants who stay are NOT a random sample. Those who leave probably include those who cannot compete well in the US.

  • Alex

    Chua’s and Rubenfeld’s definition of success seems to be only about wage and social class. I hope their book is much more than that definition.

    • Guest

      Hope springs eternal… These two are basically provocateurs

  • Judi

    Why is success measured in grades and a few selected professions? The authors miss the point of a child’s happiness and the importance of self worth without having an A+! What about making sure that your child chooses a profession that is their life’s purpose and that they are passionate about? If you are physician, but you are depressed and going through the motions….is that success?

    • thucy

      I know quite a few Asian physicians who would agree with you… every cultural group has had to conform to expectations that don’t really suit them.

  • James Ivey

    Could you take moment and review the bona fides of the authors? Does either have any sort of sociology background?

    It seems like “success” is treated as an end in and of itself. Is there any research mapping “success” to happiness. Personally, I’d rather that my daughter grows up to be happy rather than successful.

  • Sam Badger

    Not every privilege which helps people attain a high economic class has to do with economic class itself. Turkish Americans might do very well, but Turkish Germans are more likely to go into working class professions. The process of immigration can be very selective. Also, there are other structural disadvantages – Native Americans tend to have the worst socio-economic status, but it has nothing to do with a “triple package” and everything to do with 200 years of structural discrimination and systemic assault by White America.

  • Lance

    There’s been a serious lack of numbers relative to global pop given in this interview. This is very much a soap box speech.

    Wealth, social connections, and luck, play far more of a role for success.

  • Jean

    While Ms. Chau and now her husband continue to try and find meaning in parenting, society and their own heritage they overlook an aspect of the foundational question that prompted this new tome.
    Is it possible that the groups they were NOT seeing increase in their law classes at Yale is due to the increasing “shut out” of middle class families at elite, not better, universities? As a college counselor at a private high school in the Bay area, middle class students are attending these elite universities less and less or attending and incurring huge loans. They are caught in a financial aid system that makes attendance at Harvard, Yale, Stanford etc. prohibitive due to unrealistic expectations to pay by the government and a working poor income that does not qualify them for the free tuition these schools offers to very low income families.

  • thucy

    “The children who were lied to (in the first test) grabbed the marshmallow (in the second test.)” -Amy Chua

    I have to give her credit for pointing out the role of corrupt authority figures on performance.

  • thisismyaccount

    Amy Chua & Jed Rubenfeld are completely unqualified to talk about this subject. How does law professor = sociologist?

  • Aaron

    I agree with Jed’s on-air comment about success meaning reaching your goals, we can define our own goals, etc…But then how do you say one group is “doing better” than another if you don’t know whether the “doing worse” group is pursuing the same goals?

    • Guest

      Jed Rubenfeld (means “field of turnips”) used that defense to avoid looking like a racist or being engaged in tribalism.

      It was disingenuous.

  • I teach in a private Silicon Valley university where the ethnic mix of students is something like ⅓ white, ⅓ East Asian, ⅓ Indian, with a sprinkling of African American and mixed race students. In this high octane learning environment, all of the students are exceptionally motivated to do well in classes by way of preparing for high profile, high earning careers. But “doing well in class” more often than not means “getting good grades,” not necessarily learning deeply, risking being average in something that is not your field or with which you’re inexperienced. The result is that students — fueled by the “high expectations” of their parents in most cases, spend much of their time grade grubbing. They’re stressed, overwhelmed, insecure, and often incredibly unhappy. I’m all for passionate learning and high motivation for a life of meaning and value, but these kids never seem to get the message that they don’t have to be good at everything, that they can just kick back and enjoy once in a while, that “good enough” is fine much of the time. It’s often just heartbreaking to see the stress these bright, thoughtful, but thoroughly human, and therefore limited, students are. I remind them all the time (as I teach religious studies) that even God was a B+ student — “very good” was the best grade God earned even by divine evaluation!

    • Guest

      I’m pretty sure Yahweh was only a C student.

  • wbeeman

    My experience teaching students coming from highly ambitious
    families is that there is a danger of over-control by parents who
    have narrow views of success: medicine, engineering, possibly law or
    business. They cynically push their kids into music in order to gain
    admission to elite schools, but rarely allow them to major in the
    humanities or social sciences. I have had hundreds of these students
    in my office in tears because they are being pushed into
    professional training that they hate.

    As a comment, listening to Chua and Rubenfeld, they appear personally never to have given up the obsessive over-achieving ethic they seem to have pushed on their kids and advocate for others. Their hyperbolic defense of the somewhat questionable thesis of their book was completely off-putting.

    William O. Beeman
    Professor and Chair
    Department of Anthropology
    University of Minnesota
    Minneapolis, MN 55455
    (612) 625-3400

    • Guest

      These two are certainly out of touch. Not unlike Tom Perkins…
      It’s almost like they think 1%ers are the new Aryans or something. Creepy!

  • cathie1

    What kind of success are we talking about here? Does winning spelling bees lead to success in science, business, the arts, politics, humanitarian endeavor? Does it correlate with critical thinking and problem solving? I wonder how many spelling bees Steve Jobs won? Or Picasso, or Martin Luther King?

    • kitsune_rx

      To answer your question, those two things probably do correlate. Spelling is probably correlated to memory, reading and writing skills. So yeah…

      • cathie1

        Any hard data?

  • HiloHattie

    Rubenfeld says it isn’t all about materistic gain; Chua says she’d be happy with a ‘starving artist’ daughter? Does anyone believe either claim!
    This is the gravest concern about their polemic… the development of the whole body-mind-spirit being is put behind the career and economic ladder of success… a spiritually vacuous ideology.

  • cathie1

    One more question: were the Marshmallow Study data sorted by culture or ethnicity?

  • TrainedHistorian

    Like most analysts in America, they way pay too little attention to class and the economics of supply & demand. Immigrants from India and Nigeria certainly are not representative of their societies: look at the extremely high illiteracy rates in both countries. America does not receive a proportionate share of the largely illiterate low classes and low castes from those countries. If all the low caste Indians and all the poor Nigerian peasants could come here, they would not do so well relative to average Americans, and the authors would not be make this kind of overgeneralization about the “immigrant drive.” That is particularly the case because our economy no longer rewards the lower-educated as well as, say, in 1945-1975 (when we, not coincidentally, had far lower immigration rates).

    The fact that current immigrants from Mexico and Central America for reasons of geography and economic interest–(big agriculture and other employers’ desire for dirt-cheap labor)– are disproportionately less-educated and less “successful” is avoided by them because it would undermine their “immigrant drive” overgeneralization. Undocumented immigrants have much lower educational levels than both natives and legal immigrants, and so overall they do not rise so high. Of course the authors do not want to compare current “immigrant groups” as they themselves admit: instead they compare Eastern Hemisphere (i.e. high barrier- to-entry) immigrants to groups whose ancestors immigrated into a very different economy, one that once rewarded free manual labor relatively well. (Once it even gave away “free land” (confiscated from Amerindians) to people willing to work it).

    I’m all for counseling individual families to instill drive and education in their kids, but this cannot ipso facto do away with the lack of a living wage at the bottom in a glutted labor market, still less can it do away with our economic inequality. Current dynamics of supply and demand here are such that even if we all were educated this way, there would still be plenty of people on the bottom. Look at all the PhD adjuncts, and now even lawyers struggling to make a living wage; they were educated in the authors’ way (superior: we’re more interested in education than average Americans, inferior: average Americans think we’re nerds, and PLENTY of impulse control i.e. lots of studying when they could have partied instead). But they are the victims of PhD, JD oversupply. (Yes, there can be an education glut). There should be more honesty about the fact that education and impulse control do not always lead to high incomes either now or in the past (look at all the poor but genteel educated folks in Dickens’ and Austen’s England at the mercy of the less educated rakes who inherited more money).


  • kushman

    how you define success? Look at the homeless population here in SF… how often do you see Indian, Asian, Nigerian, or a Russian Jew on the street begging. You don’t!

    • Guest

      Poorly reasoned! The beggars of India Nigeria etc don’t have the cash to come here. Furthermore migrants have different attitudes and motives than natives have

      • kushman

        You’re poorly educated! The discussion is not about the beggars of India, or the famine in Somalia.

        • Guest

          A second childish response, I see. You made a dumb argument and now you can’t live with my pointing that out. So sad!

        • TrainedHistorian

          No, he is not poorly educated. His point is relevant, and your original argument was “uneducated” or put more fairly, simplistic. Eastern Hemisphere immigrant are not representative of their societies. We don’t get the 30% of Indians who are illiterate and 40% of Nigerians who are illiterate, let alone the beggars of those societies.

  • Man of Letters

    I listened for more than half of this program — about 40 minutes. Maybe this question was raised by a caller and I missed it, but I am curious…

    They talked about Asian and East Indian culture as creating a pressure for success. But they didn’t talk about Jewish culture. If it is acceptable to posit that some might be more successful because of the culture in which they were raised, why not bring up the Jews? They brought up Mormons, after all.

    Before you start calling me Hitler, hear me out. All I’m saying is that Jewish communities seem to be rather tightly knit. I know many Jews who come from very successful families, with parents and grandparents that expect their children and grandchildren will be successful.

    I guess I’m asking: Do they feel it is acceptable to carefully suggest that Asian, East Indian and Mormon families are more successful on average because of cultural pressures, but they are not willing to say so about Jews?

    If so, why not? Is it because the legacy of the Holocaust has made that topic too taboo?

    What do you all think?

  • kitsune_rx

    So many haters in these comments. Hey, this is a free society, continue to let your kids do what they want to do, and if they come begging to move back in with you when they’re 35 and unemployed, don’t say no one warned you.

    Here’s the thing. A part of me wants to defend the ideas in this book because I believe in it based on my own experiences and based on how they did their studies. I want a more educated and more well off society for everyone. But then a part of me also congratulates those who want to ignore these ideas and let their kids “make their own choices”, as if they fully understand how to. I want our fast food restaurants and retail stores to be fully staffed with low cost employees so my costs are kept down.

    Good deal either way.

    • Lance

      There’s no data backing up the claims made that the triple package has more weight for success in life over winning the birth lottery, Social connections, already having money, or luck.

      The book is based on an immigrant % that is not even close to representative of their groups total population.

      It’s not hating to question a poor thesis.

      • kitsune_rx

        Take a stats class. Patterns in a population of a billion can be estimated by using a 500-1000 member sample with ~3% margin of error.

        I don’t do population studies for a living, but what I observe in my everyday life follows the pattern described in Amy Chua’s books.

        • TrainedHistorian

          BS. You are the one who needs to learn basic statistics. Eastern Hemisphere immigrants to the US are NOT a RANDOM sample. It does not matter how large your sample is if it’s BIASED. Fact: India has a 25% illiteracy rate & almost 35% of females are illiterate. Indian immigrants to the US are certainly NOT 25-35% illiterate. Same with Nigerian immigrants: Nigeria has almost 40% illiteracy, almost 50% female illiteracy. But Nigerian immigrants to the US are not 40%-50 illiterate. Therefore it is indisputable that we do not currently get a RANDOM sample of immigrants from Asia or Africa. Conversely, immigrants from C. America and Mexico are much closer to their national average. In fact historically they have been somewhat less educated than their national average, although we do not get those on the very bottom either. They are therefore much closer to a random sample of their societies. Why aren’t the authors focusing on them? Because they are not as successful relative to natives, so do not support their simplistic thesis.
          The lack of randomness in samples is why it makes no sense whatsoever to compare immigrant groups in the US to natives. It only makes sense to compare samples in countries that have minimal net migration. Alert: India and Nigeria do not outperform most countries in literacy, economic living standards, and many other positive social indicators.

          • kitsune_rx

            TrainedHistorian, you should stick with history. The self-sampling criticism is one of the first things they addressed in the program and they talk about it many times. Mind blown yet?

          • TrainedHistorian

            I should stick with history? I have a graduate degree in Demography, so I had to learn plenty about statistics, knowing what bias is,what a non-random sample is etc. No, the authors most certainly did not adequately address the problem that Eastern Hemisphere immigrants to the US in general, and South Asian and African immigrants in particular ,are currently very unrepresentative of their societies,. Nor do they address the fact that Mexican/C. American immigrants as a whole, and particularly “undocumented” ones do NOT outperform natives for the obvious reason that they are significantly less educated than natives.

            Their approach to these issues is very unrigorous and would not pass a peer-reviewed publication standard for academic- level demography or even sociology.

  • kushman

    Most immigrants won’t spend $4 for coffee, ever! Unlike “Americans who buy one everyday and then go out for a “happy hour” charging their credit cards and wondering why they’re broke again at the end of the month. But they’re happy. Immigrants save their money and invest in themselves and their kids. Americans think about happiness (immediate gratification) while immigrants think long-term, = success. (Marshmallow experiment)

    • thucy

      I work with a large number of immigrants, and honestly, their spending habits are all over the map. But compared to a Americans, who have been conditioned for decades to “live large”, well, yeah, the immigrants I wirk with are both more frugal and organized. They also network more assiduously.

      • Guest

        You misspelled work, and you shouldn’t making sweeping generalizations about Americans.

    • Guest

      But many immigrants do give their life saving to coyotes and Triads however to get here.

      In a sense, the $4 is paid to a coyote called Starbucks taking you to a better life … Not.

  • Karl S

    Foundational values missing

    This discussion centers on the modern attributes of what many Americans call success, winners, achievement and exceptional-ism (awful term), divorced from the greater value of what you do with and how you think about your success. This separation or compartmentalization of success concentrates focus on wealth & power and lacks the depth and breath of the greater social value and responsibilities to something greater than ourself. This leads us to what has become acceptable today a distorted concept of what we call our “Best and Brightest”

    Our “Best and Brightest” college graduates move into jobs in finance industry and create spectacular person success at the cost of crashing the world economy. Demonstrating their deep disconnect from the rest of humanity they don’t apologize in fact they feel there is no reason for to apologize for they feel no personal responsibility see no cause and effect from there actions. They are by definition successful, they are the Best and Brightest, they are exceptional, entitled to carry on as before and indeed they do.

    In a one dimensional value scale of success this works but not in a broader world view with a value system base on a deeper understanding of humanity. These college grads may be our “Brightest” but certainly not our “Best”. They are moral and ethical cripples who lack a substantive value structure (a product of their times).

    To teach our children values that include a globe view. To look at the world and have a world view that takes responsibility for being a citizen in that world, now that’s a book I would like to read.

    So, a challenge, Amy Chua and Jed Rubinfeld you’ve had fun with “Pop culture” stuff now try taking on the more defining issues of success, success as defined as a holistic process achieving greater depth and breath of values than merely wealth and power. I’d like to read that book.

    • Guest

      They seem to be trying to forge a new kind of supremacist narcissism centered not on an ethnicity (e.g. Aryans) but on the capitalist super-man who, like Ayn Rand’s character John Galt, has utter disdain for the 99% and memorizes a laundry list of reasons why the common man is inferior. But they’ve picked out their favorite super-men in the form of certain ethnic groups that have what it takes to join the overlord class. I recall hearing the Nåzis did the same, measuring crania and so on. I doubt Chua and Turnipfield have the gall to recommend disposal of those who are unfit in their view, though.

  • What does this say about African Americans. “African Americans” are by definition the descendants of Africans who were enslaved and brought to America. The term “African Americans” was given to them because it was know that they are of African descent but the country of origin/ethnic groups of origin was not known due to the history of slavery which cut ethnic/regional ties. In fact, African Americans originate from various ethnic groups because “many tribes/ethnic groups” became one–the African American tribe/ethnic group. African Americans were not immigrants. They did not immigrate to America. When talking about immigrants, African Americans are left out because they did not immigrate to American. They were imported to America. Recent African immigrants to America are Tunisian Americans, Egyptian Americans, Libyian Americans, Morrocan Americans, Nigerian Americans, Ghanaian Americans, Kenyan Americans, etc. but not African Americans. (And many people of the African continent are not black racially but all African Americans are black racially.) Their history and culture differs from African Americans. All African Americans are black (racially) but not all blacks are African Americans. African Americans are a branch of the black (racial) tree.

    Let’s see, slavery of about 350 years and Jim Crow of about 100 years took away from African Americans their culture, history, languages, heritages and even names . They were beaten, raped, denigrated, castrated, lynched and taught to hate themselves by the slave master. Although slavery and Jim Crow are over, the effects and slavery and Jim Crow live on and African Americans carry that burden in their history, culture, languages and heritage. (For example, if you are a Mexican American and want to patronize a Mexican American attorney, you can look for a Mexican American name like Lopez, Juarez, Martinez, etc. among attorneys in the phone book and most likely that will be a Mexican American–in California. If you are an African American and want to patronize an African American attorney, since the names were taken in slavery, you will need to make many calls to friends and relatives–which may be difficult and not get you the results in a timely manner.) This explains why Nigerian Americans and other black immigrant groups do better than African Americans who have been in the USA for generations. That is, the difference is in culture (as the Chua and Rubenfeld postulate). To come to grips with this, America must come to grips with slavery and the continuing effects and legacy of slavery. Unfortunately, now America is in “blame the victim mode”. That is, African Americans are blamed for the negative effects of their culture–self-hate, self-denigration, crime, unemployment, low education, etc. An honest assessment would conclude that just as Jazz, the Blues, Rap and even Rock and Roll flow positively from that “twisted” (twisted by Slavery and Jim Crow) culture– those problems are also the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

    • TrainedHistorian

      I don’t buy the names argument. Afro-Caribbean names are virtually undistinguishable from African-American ones: i.e. predominantly English, yet it’s known that Carribean immigrants do better. Why? because they are a more “self-selected” group. And they are not a random sample of the population in the West Indies. This is the main reasos why the authors’ arguments about immigrants are so weak. Immigrants are not representative, and in general the more difficult it is for a nationality to immigrate to the US (whether because of distance or expense) the more unrepresentative (more educated) they will be.
      I think you are missing the biggest CURRENT negative legacy of slavery. As a group, black Americans have on average much less capital/ property than immigrants as a group or those descended from immigrants whether Asia, Europe, Africa or the New World). They brought none and were forced to be other people’s capital/property. Property, unlike individual experience, is handed directly down through families, and can accumulate over time. Blacks as a group are disadvantaged in this respect: less property was handed down over fewer generations. On the other hand, so-called “white Americans” as a group may look wealthier on paper than they are because a few spectacularly wealthy families skew the average.

      • TrainedHistorian, I wrote my comment and mentioned a few factors that come from the experience of 350 years and slavery and 100 years of Jim Crow. I don’t believe in “one-factor analysis” because more than one factor is usually the cause for anything.

        Yes, the “names” factor is one reason for the relative impoverisment of African Americans. It’s not the only reason but it is one reason. And what you mentioned as what I’ll call the “property equation” is another legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. Yes, I agree with you some people benefited and due to their legacies continue to benefit directly financially from slavery and Jim Crow. And I agree with you African Americans were detremented by slavery and Jim Crow and their legacies have been that their descendants have continued to bear that direct economic detriment of slavery and Jim Crow.

        I didn’t mention whether black Caribbean immigrants do better or worse than African Americans but in fact they do better than African Americans. And the reasons include the cultural reasons (a legacy of US slavery and Jim Crow) as mention by me and suggested by Amy Chua & Jed Rubenfeld. Frankly, I believe that the “self-selected” argument is likely—if true–to be a minor factor. And if I recall correctly Chua and Rubenfeld addressed that.

        In any case, to all other ethnic groups–Nigerian Americans, Jewish Americans, Jamaican Americans, Cuban Americans, etc. coming to America (the USA) was a desired and liberating experience. To African Americans coming to America (the USA) was an undesired and enslaving experience. The difference is like the difference between night and day!

        I’m not sure what the “biggest” current legacy of slavery is. What you mentioned is a legacy of slavery and the negative legacy of slavery is large and all encompansing. That is, there are many large negative legacies of slavery and Jim Crow that are carried by African Americans. When it comes to slavery, their is plenty bad and more than enough bad to go around. But slavery took away the languages, histories, cultures, names and heritages of African Americans and such things permeate how a people look at themselves and the world. In fact, I would argue that culture serves as a protective mechanism and that without the protective mechanisms of their culture for 350 years of slavery and 100 years of Jim Crow, African Americans have been “sitting ducks” for all sorts of societal ills. (Culture can be seen as analgous to immunizing a people, a society against societal ills.)

        In fact, Steven Biko (of South Africa and he was killed for his fight for justice) said that the greatest weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. Accordingly, if you twist a people’s culture, that will have long lasting effects. African Americans and not Africans in Africa, or African immigrants to the USA or in African Caribbeans seem to have adopted counter productive cultural traits to a greater degree that stem from slavery and Jim Crow. For example, calling each other the N word, adopting European standards of beauty, perceiving as the “standard” European nose, lips, skin, hair, eye colors, perceiving each other as “less than” because they are black/African American/African, not wanting to patronize each other for similar reasons, etc.

        Michael Jackson, a famous African American said famously “It don’t matter if you’re black or white” yet he spent a fortune to try to become white by changing his nose, lips, skin and hair and he made sure that he would not have black children. African American women spend much money dying their hair orange, red and blonde (unnatural colors for them but natural colors for white women) and they spend a fortune on weaves and wigs. Music videos for African American male singers often feature white or mixed race or biracial women as the object of their affections and interest and leave out dark complected women.

        Again, the negative current legacy of slavery and Jim Crow is broad and strong with African Americans but the most destructive is what it has done to their culture–as suggested by Chua and Rubenfeld and Steven Biko–because it is through culture that the world is mediated and understood and managed and conquered. Everything happens through and cultural lense. (About 40% of the slaves coming to the New World came from what is now Nigeria and environs. Yet, as Amy Chua & Jed Rubenfeld reported, Nigerians do better than African Americans. The difference is not genetics. The biggest difference is culture, and all that culture entails–history, heritage, languages, etc. And all of these thing were lost, stolen or strayed in the 350 years of slavery and Jim Crow.)

        • TrainedHistorian

          I agree with you that single factors do not explain complex phenomena, including the current relative lack of black American economic “success” conventionally defined. However, I really think your post puts way too much emphasis on “culture” rather than more objective factors. English names actually HELP rather than hurt black Americans and Caribbeans, since other things being equal, an English name on a resume or other anonymous application will be favored over something more exotic (studies have shown this). Adopting non-English names on a large scale certainly aren’t going to help black Americans in the economic “success” department.
          As for some of the cultural factors you mention: Caribbean immigrants are also descended from slaves, and slavery in some parts of the Caribbean was worse than in the US in some ways (Barbados and a few other islands had much higher slave mortality than the US). Alas, their ancestors too suffered plenty of trauma. But Caribbean immigrants do better than both Caribbean natives and black Americans. Why? Because it is a more select group educationally/economically than either one. This is part of my general objection to the authors’ selective use of immigrant groups. (As I pointed out above, they do not want to compare Central American/Mexican immigrants to natives because the former are less “successful” economically than the latter, for the obvious reason that they are much less educated).

          I agree that black American women spend too much money on hair products relative to whites, but then white American women spend too much money on diet and other body-reducing fads relative to black women. Black American women actually have a much more positive body self-image than white American women. So being excluded from the sex object tradition has its up side as well as its down side. It’s no great privilege to be a sex/desire object, as most women who have experienced this when they’re young often find out. And black Americans have much lower suicide rates than white Americans, so I do not buy the argument that you seem to be making that black Americans are forced to see themselves as “less than” white Americans. A concept like self-hate is simply too hard to measure objectively. The only objective measure is differential suicide rates, and those undermine the notion that black Americans are so much more full of self-hate than white Americans or any other group.

          I think it’s important if black Americans want more conventionally-defined economic “success” to concentrate more on issues that are more objectively economic in nature: such as tax policies, benefit policies, immigration policies (hint: constantly flooding our labor supply with low-skilled immigrants from cheap countries is worse for those already on the bottom than those on the top) and so forth. The cultural issues that you bring up are easier to pronounce on than actually changing policies where one group’s economic interest can be pitted against another, but ultimately the link between the cultural issues you highlight and conventionally defined economic success in the current US economy is not likely to convince those who do not already believe in this link.

  • Jocelyn

    KQED calls the book controversial. I say they should call it what it is: racist.

    Allow this Time Magazine review explain, why this “Tiger Mom” needs to check her superiority complex at the door. I think Time’s author, Sukeru Mehta, had taught us that this Yale professor needs a history lesson.,9171,2163555,00.html

  • cathie1

    Kitsune may be right about reading and writing skills, but as to memory (while I am a fan of memorization, being a musician) I do think there is more to critical thinking and problem solving than memorization.

  • Christina

    I have no idea why they were on Forum-totally unqualified to discuss complex social issues and make such broad statements relating to “success.” Never did I hear “at what price?” What price do our children pay when they are told they are NEVER good enough, when success only looks like an Ivy League school? Sounds like a great recipe for a self-absorbed neurosis.

  • fchurch66

    A very racist book, amazed that it is getting so much media attention. Their factual stuff is really wrong. 2014 and we have not learned a thing. Better to have someone on who actually knows about race like Tim Wise. Pathetic.

  • John

    This book and woman are straight up racist. Disgusting.

  • Winnie

    I moved with my family to the US when I was 11 years old from Hong Kong. My parents are not very educated – mom only finished 5th grade, and my father only finished high school (he later got his AA degree in the US). I agree about the superiority and inferiority theory. I never felt good enough around my family. I was always on the honor roll, belonged to the National Honor Society, was President for my class for 2 years, and I never got a single praise from my family. I was popular among my peers but I wouldn’t say that I conformed. Although I got good grades and was active in other school activities, I cut classes almost daily, hung out with many friends who were sort of the losers of the school, and did a lot of underage drinking (so much that I was sick of alcohol by the time I got to college). I did not become a doctor or a lawyer either, but was very successful in all the professions that I chose. I changed my career three times and was very happy with my accomplishment in each field. Now I am a mother and wondering if the way my parents raised me was the way to go. I have to say that I am still not happy about how little praises I got growing up, when all I ever did I did because I wanted approval from my parents and my older sister.

  • house_cat

    What Chua and Rubenfeld are offering is racial theory repackaged for 21st Century sensibilities. This article thoroughly debunks their pseudoscientific thesis.

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