Current Trends

Just when we thought we were done after suffering through the drudges labeled Chinese tiger parenting, Bringing up Bébé, Pamela Drukerman’s take on the French approach to child rearing, all self-prescribed experts taking to task American parents, and believed the only books bashing larger western, American society were written by disgruntled politicians and other political operatives to be left on shelves without interest, infamous tiger mother Amy Chua is back. This time poised to reignite the culture wars by listing those cultures, who when they immigrate to the United States, are the most successful and continue to be so throughout the generations; though the book, The Triple Package co-authored with her husband Jed Rubenfeld, isn’t set to hit store shelves until February 4, critics are already quick to again put Chua and her ideas in their place, hopefully far away from on mass consumption. But unlike before, the critique consists less of genuine humor and the concept of who would ever do such things to a child, even beyond the soon to be publication’s accusations of race bating, and instead uses humor to voice a real concern about what it is exactly she is promoting. Fearing it harkens back not only to the greatness of early America but also dangerous thought patterns such as eugenics, the notion you can create positive human traits by selective breeding, mentioning Jews the way she does in relation to wealth and prominence revives the flames of what began the Nazi movement in WWII Europe, particularly dangerous now with anti-Semitism on the rise across the globe and, the exclusion of entire groups reeks of slavery, the  devastating impact of which ran rampant in the Antebellum south. The idea it is ok to own another human being, because they are by their ethnic existence inferior, worthy of concern as the Supreme Court just rolled back portions of the voting rights act. Frankly there are words for people like Chua attention, the word starts with W, comes to mind; honestly she’s no better than Snookie from Jersey Shore along with all the other reality stars doing anything to get their faces on TV. It’s been two years since her last book thrust her into the spotlight and she misses it; unfortunately America may pay the price for her twisted nostalgia in more ways than irritation, consternation and misplaced shame. They may pay for it with a greater cultural divide, greater violence, greater discrimination, eerily pointing to an American holocaust in the making.

More than those she left out of her greatest Americans list, the English, the Irish, Italian’s, who literally built huge parts of the United States from the ground up, is the missing component common to all the ones she included, entrepreneurial skills. Foundations to American achievement as well; currently the only Americans highly achieving are those who began their own business, had a product to sell or a one of a kind skill, skill set to market. Here almost all of the groups she identified possess inherent, natural talents for creating, running a business; next, at least two of the countries these individuals, families are coming from are areas of severe economic oppression. Nigeria is a nation on the African continent, an entire continent plagued by war, instability, tyrannical governments, food shortages, starvation and desert land that refuses to grow anything, without which you cannot have an economy. Secondly the Iranians, Iran is currently under crippling economic sanctions meant to curb their nuclear program to avoid an Islamic militant, Arab country possessing a what; nuclear bomb. In both cases of course they arrive here and thrive, placed in a, however slow but functional, economy; mirroring this situation the Lebanese- Americans, Cuban exiles. Put in an area with opportunities there is nowhere for them to go but up; Indian and Chinese immigrants do so well not due to extreme parenting models or ingrained cultural traits that end in uniquely strange personalities, a combination or neurosis. Instead they excel here absent the over population and hyper competition for basic employment, basic survival present in their home countries. Further it isn’t just that she left out African Americans in light of President Obama’s historic tenure in the White House, ignored significant swaths of successful blacks, anyone in varied forms of entertainment. A lucrative, money generating section of society she likewise discounts apparently because she holds not talent in it, the Morgan Freeman’s, Denzel Washington’s, comedians like Steve Harvey, talk show hosts, philanthropists like Oprah Winfrey, Geoffrey Canada, news anchors, co-anchors like Gale King, prominent black politicians, educators, judges. It’s the why they were both excluded then, adding insult to injury, shamed in print for wanting the same rights and freedoms as their white counterparts, the same rights and freedoms she herself, along with every other immigrant class, native born citizen enjoy. Said authors, both from minority groups themselves, elaborating, blaming the civil rights movement for removing the superiority narrative from African Americans as a whole. Not the years of imbedded discrimination against flat noses, dark skin, cornrow hairstyles and oh, you live in that neighborhood. One can guess Chua, who won’t let her children watch TV, doesn’t either and therefore she didn’t see the following CBS News segment profiling a young man who is not only black, not only a stereotypical American, dubious success story in that he is an athlete, but a math major who once he has reached his aspirations in the NFL, or if he doesn’t, wants to go on for a PHD in mathematics. Spending the intervening time off the football field teaching and publishing papers such as instabilities in the sun, asteroid, Jupiter 3 body problem, hints the outraged tweet: “the 1920’s called they want their ideas back.”

 Ah yes we have seen the evidence, results of Chua’s famed triple package a superiority complex, insecurity and impulse control at work as of late; superiority in the 72 year old who shot a father in a Florida movie theater for rudely texting his daughter’s babysitter during the film, apart from Chua herself who readily admits she doesn’t know how to enjoy life, insecurity can be seen perhaps in the Sikh temple shooter who thought they were Muslims, aka terrorists, or was simply sick and tired of “towel heads” stealing all our jobs. We’ve seen it in every tyrannical boss, either so full of themselves or skittish about their own job performance, they were a torment to be around, forget work with. One commenter on an opinion piece announcing the books arrival, remembering her last controversial offering to the literary world even said in essence, if this is how she treats her kids, imagine how she would treat her employees. But let’s say for a moment she’s onto something; her triple package still ignores the darker side of the immigrant story always present in American history depicted in book after book, news story after news story; workers in early America who didn’t hire Irish because they talked, dressed funny. Paralleled today in the discrimination felt by Muslims, people who wear turbans, head scarves, who can’t get jobs, struggles, then and now, to learn the most complicated language in existence, people here unwilling to help, few places teaching those willing to learn all hampering how far they get. It dismisses the simpler goals of immigrant groups, individuals like the Iraqi war cameraman who came to America wishing for a stable place to raise his children, happy his oldest will soon be able to vote, willing to take a job as a janitor to if it means providing for his family, because we no longer value artisans, have no use for his camera skills. It hardly explains that by the 3rd generation such unflagging success has dwindled; experts don’t know why but critics and skeptics can probably tell you. Ms. Chua would say it’s because by the 3rd generation drive and attributes exemplified in the triple package have been lost to fully Americanized children and parents lusting after 21st century American ideas. Aforementioned package fails to detail the realities of greater pooled resources among those who do come here and succeed, on the converse side their beginning as low wage workers with greater upward mobility from word one, continued achievement predicated on unfair practices like only hiring their own, or source where exactly immigrants just arriving managed to get the money for college. Unless perhaps being the first in their family to go to college, checking their ethnicity box and speaking about their immigrant experience in America makes for a wonderful college entrance essay putting them at the top of the pile, the subtle or obvious bias favoring Asian and Indian students based on their culture’s talent reputation. The fact Asians immigrating to the United States now in 2012, 2013, surely to continue into 2014 are better educated not by their home country, but come higher on the educational ladder, ready for college, came here for graduate, PHD studies exclusively, come money in hand for the education they plan to obtain. Some who have relatives who can put them up, recommend then for a job, truths that mommy and daddy’s money, from their top paying job, paid for second generation child’s PHD. Easily discarded are the ones who lived 18 to an apartment in their college days to afford school, weren’t as fortunate with financial aid to finish, achieve a PHD, employment opportunities, status symbols, rather hold a basic job, manage to support their family, maybe own a small business and despite not being pinnacles of success by American standards, more importantly by Chua-Rubenfeld standards, are happy.

Finally in discussing the attributes themselves, impulse control is a funny thing, aside from the people at the top of the previous paragraph who seem to have it until they don’t, culminating in instances like the Asian man who brought a gun to his ESL (English as a Second Language) class at a New York community center and began shooting, the authors only relate it to delayed gratification and perseverance through difficult tasks. One sweeping under the rug his wife’s own self-deprecating temper tantrums, threats to destroy their child’s favorite dollhouse over piano practice, endless rants concluding in exasperated questions about did he have goals for the family dogs; the other cherry picking its meaning to make their rather circular argument. Sadly again her book, following in the footsteps of so many, boils everything down to grades, test scores, income, job status/title pointing to the ‘triple package’ as the sole reason why Asians, Indians and other non-western raised children, people go so much farther, earn PHDs, are at the top of their fields, their career ladder. Yet instant gratification, in the great social equation of what’s wrong with this generation, has been replaced with any gratification. College graduates, particularly post 2008, fight just to be employed, have a job, pay down their student loans, and no, these are not students who majored in Peruvian bongo drums, lesbian dance theory coming out wondering why they can’t find decent paying work. These are students showcased by the class of 2009 majoring in staples marketing, biology, architecture minus critical real world experience to propel them forward. Impulse control doesn’t explain how Asian, Indian, Jewish, all the co-author’s laundry list of students, manage to gobble up limited, nearly extinct internships, apprenticeships to complete their educations in fields like engineering, science centered lab work; none of the triple package attributes do. Possibility that whole hiring your own thing, what the Chua girls will no doubt do, crib off  mommy and daddy’s knowledge and connections to master their goals. It omits what Chua did to support herself, put a roof over head while going to school, if she even had to being a woman in the 1980’s when women didn’t usually leave home permanently until after they married, living in a “Chinese model” household having parents perfectly willing and able to provide room and board while she earned that PHD, or in her case, law degree. Unlike students today, working medial jobs to support self, taking a “lesser” career goal based on how soon you can finish classes, training and actually hold a job. It couldn’t be the impulse control, we’ve always chided the current crop of young people for never having, keeping them closer to home, taking a job in a local tire factory as opposed to relocating to another state, gallivanting across the country in hopes of a career, could it; because more important to current college goers than what job title they hold, how much money they make: security, sustainability, aims of helping people, giving back, establishing community centers, but I digress. What Chua should be writing about, considering her B.A. in Economics and her specialty section of international business law studied in law school, is what pro-growth policies we need to create an economy sustaining the amount of workers we have, components of trade agreements that would be positive for the U.S. economy vs. the ones currently in operation, soon the be in operation, TTP to name one. She would be better off, if her goal were the public good, talking about where our economy has gone and the true why; solid manufacturing jobs shipped to Mexico and China, computers, robots and other automation leading to a jobless recovery, numbers of people in minimum skill, minimum wage jobs, because that’s where jobs are being added. Or that by the time her grandchildren are born said automations mean radically changing what work, as we now think of it, looks like. Thus explaining the validity of the New York Post’s opinion calling the book “a series of shock-arguments wrapped in self-help tropes,” adding that, “it’s meant to do what racist arguments do: scare people.”

Worse than the hodgepodge throwing together of superficial, supposed facts to make a point no one really cares about anyway, the undeniable, tangible fact the Pew study they cite is from 2007 before the financial crisis turned the country on its head, worse than the blatant race touting and race shaming are the correlations, extrapolations and amalgamations made between Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and The Triple Package in reference to criticizing American parenting, American education and American success. One such article used Chua’s latest impending book to go back to talking about tiger mothers, education and how poorly educated American kids really are, how truly incapable they are of competing in a global economy, their lagging even behind previous generations; both author and their citations point to profound ignorance in history and business. Students ready to graduate high school who could not identify Adolf Hitler, give the dates for the civil war, didn’t know who we fought in World War II,  know the bill of rights guaranteed freedom of speech and religion. Interestingly enough though, they know those freedoms are guaranteed in the constitution and could doubtlessly give the why behind fighting both wars, infinitely more important in assessing the bigger picture. This next to a common core advocate paraphrased talking about the PISA international scholastic test and if we don’t get our scores up to at least the Canadians how much gross national product we will forfeit, how doing so would be enough to increase worker wages 20% across the board; incidentally so would better refined corporate regulation and tax code reformation. However all of the examples of deficient information, deficient learning have absolutely nothing to do with getting a job; proving them a completenonsequitur. Knowing John D. Rockefeller was the first billionaire not Bill Gates reads more like a Jeopardy question; to say nothing of it’s not history or business exclusively rather history of American business. I know because I took a college course entitled just that, curriculum only required for business majors or offered at business schools, liberal arts colleges with general education mandates to degrees. Class reading included a book called the Robber Barons describing in detail the horrible tactics Rockefeller and others used to amass their wealth at the common citizen’s expense; which in turn is irrelevant unless and until you plan to show how it lead to the great depression, policies that got us out of it ignored, giving us recent the great recession. Contrasted is the article author’s father growing up in rural 1930’s sans advances computers, i-pods, smart phones, he calls distractions, studying poetry, physics, calculus coming out more educated than 99.9% of “contemporary Americans,” a subjective term; notably missing any comments on science, engineering, math, technology outside PISA. Plagued with its own problems in representing just one wealthy Chinese (America’s top competitor), province, Shanghai, a secretive relationship remaining undisclosed as to how they were allowed to participate; also undermining the test, cross cultural dynamics between each country’s school system eliminating needed constants rending the test an equal assessment across all countries evaluated, so say Denmark’s renowned  statisticians. Likewise unremarked upon, any understanding emphasis placed on scientific, mathematical engineering areas might explain why kids have such abysmal knowledge in the remaining subjects. Never mind the father’s education was in India holding a completely different economic makeup, chief motivation was to get out of poverty, escape a life of hard labor. Something degrees in the United States no longer do, no matter what subject is learned or how well it is mastered, since we have PHD holders flipping burgers. Suspiciously absent is what his father did for a living with his superior fountain of knowledge, either in India or coming to the states, any comprehension of what history, business, any PHD acquired aficionados do with their expertise; think Newt Gingrich’s comment on the Palestinians and please shut up.

Similarly perceptions of America’s jobs gap, skills gap and reality of those two gaps are very different things; the true skills gap can be traced to what it always has been since the late 1970’s, an entwining of employers who can’t go to high schools, colleges and open their mouths about what they need and repeatedly judging job candidates on minor flaws that have nothing to do with capability to do the job advertised. Go into any middle, junior high, high school telling students you need trigonometry to do their manufacturing job and not only will the student’s jaws be in the floor, but their teachers as well.  Despite the man at the beginning of the preceding video complaining about applicants who can’t put a sentence on a résumé without a major grammatical error, immediately disqualified because they are looking for perfection; had he known anything about human brain wiring he would have understood people who are good at math, good with their hands have less of a facility with writing and English, and since he needed the former skills, should let it go. Not stated was if they were bullet pointed phrases often used in entry level, beginning résumés under headings like additional work attributes, skills and abilities, but ascertaining that would mean actually reading the résumé in question vs. putting it through a computer keyword search, making a decision on a 30 second cursory glance. Further, lo and behold when the manufacturing owner, shadowed for the piece, took the step and went to his local college, talked about a training program he got 20 students in a 16 week program paid for by the state of Nevada, two of which he hired; note too it was combined with an internship creating trainees ready to work somewhere. Notoriously politically and socially incorrect Bill Mahr and Mike Rowe of America’s Dirtiest Jobs can say what they want about blue collar work, building things, doing things not looking cool opposite degrees in animation, film making, liberal and visual arts, yet it’s more apt they’re not seen at all. Go to numerous webpages sporting products, opinion pieces, fan fiction, advocacy groups and you will see no less than one ad for entities like Full Sail University offing degrees in scrip writing, ads for places that have degrees in Animation for Anime cartoons, tech schools offering variations on computer science, including applications for Hollywood; even degrees for nursing, medical administrative assistants, social work, but never manufacturing. Subsequently it’s not about the kind of teachers, guidance counselors or parents they have; obviously Mr. Rowe wanted such work and should not have been dissuaded from it the way he was. Still remember people admitted to the Nevada program were first tested for aptitude, then interviewed for attitude; the other reason we have so many garnering degrees in performing, visual, literary arts is because that is where the bulk of their talent lies. Students who were in remedial math in high school are unlikely to grasp trigonometry in 16 weeks, nor someone who hasn’t seen the inside of a school in over 5 years. Commenters on the CBS manufacturing story were quick to point out the work process at job A is different for job B, job C requiring new training for each workplace, reducing the versatility of training. Additionally how many graduates are utterly divorced from their career fields upon gaining employment, the likelihood Peruvian bongo drums, lesbian dance theory may augment their steady employment as library children’s storyteller or parks and rec dance instructor, where a BA, MBA  in business means slammed doors, a return to their parents couch. Our wildly successful math major puts a roof over his head by teaching; Chua herself isn’t a typical example of Asian success seeing as she isn’t practicing law at the heights of her field, but makes her bread and butter teaching too, simultaneously writing headline making books denigrating the very country who gave her the opportunities. In a few years I think he’ll have no problem forgiving parents with torn out joints at 55 thanks to 20-30 odd years operating a jack hammer, pinched nerves from repetitive factory work, a man forced onto disability after years of driving an 18 wheeler wrecked his knee, wanting different, wanting better for their kids. Unmentioned just how many times older workers keep having to reinvent themselves from scratch to remain gainfully employed, avoid being underemployed.   

Certainly there are ample reasons to elongate school years, school days, possibly keep kids in k-12 education up to 21 ensuring they know what they need to about their world, until reading studies showing 4 day school weeks improved focus, test scores, reduced absenteeism for students and staff. There is a body of evidence for making higher math like trigonometry a requirement for high school graduation until you understand research that indicates teaching algebra before high school leads to lower math scores later on even in highly proficient students, or how many won’t use it even in today’s economy, just how many dropouts a move such as that would ultimately create.  Common core sounds like common sense except upon realizing common core won’t help the child who moves around a lot due to parents in the military, who travel often for work, chronically ill children who miss school regularly, kids shuffled around in foster care; who missed the dates of the civil war, have trouble identifying Hitler and don’t remember key pieces American history because one school started in one place, another in a different place, them coming in the middle, missed it. Paying attention, putting more credence into the PISA results, boosting student performance appears reasonable until you comprehend it holds no bearing on getting a job, future success even in countries who rely heavily on it; when China, with the best educated students, has college graduates living in hovels with no indoor plumbing, outdoor cooking, cramming themselves onto busses by the thousands going into the city to look for work or that the most readily available jobs in China are factory work. And while what Chua describes as the triple package might have been the needed triple package at the founding of this country, into the 1920’s, as far up as the 1960’s and 70’s, it assumes we still need a triple package at all, and this specific package, to instigate a revival of the best of America. When from the 1980’s right on up to and including present day, the useful triple package seems to be networking, who you know, who you can come in contact with, location, where you were born within the United States, where you can get to, whether that’s in going to school or making the decision to travel cross country to achieve a dream, pursue work, lastly a healthy portion of luck. I can imagine how my oldest uncle’s life would have been different if he were lucky enough to be educated in a more modern time where high school class options included horticulture and landscaping for a man who could identify plants and trees by their leaves, loved gardening  more than he was overly proficient in the 3 R’s; vs. working 22 years as a janitor and living in the trailer park. Or how my youngest uncle’s life might have been drastically different had he been born in New York, L.A., Nashville able to pursue his love and talent for music, as opposed to being trapped in the Midwest  putting his dexterity to use in factory work. I can imagine where I would be in my own career ladder if I had been better able to connect with people particularly those who could have facilitated my dreams and goals to become an accomplished writer. Still I have a freelance job, a boss loves my work and my own reasons for not going further, not because I am a perfect grammarian, not because my work has never seen a typo or missing word, but owing to my unique perspectives, critical thinking analysis garnered from doing education more on my own terms, playing to strengths not being neurotic about overcoming my weaknesses. Triple package or not, we don’t need to turn parenting, education, business on its head; we need businesses to pick up the ball as they have in the past and learn to ignore pathetic attention seekers even those who went to law school. Putting too much leverage onto specific traits is too high a price to giving into someone who simply misses their former glory.