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  • Not So Superior Chinese Mothers

    Posted by Shannon Love on January 9th, 2011 (All posts by )

    Via Instapundit comes a question in response to Amy Chua’s interesting article on the superiority of Chinese mothers:

    Then again, as I said above, one wonders why Asians, if they’ve got things so figured out, need to emigrate to the land of the substandard “Westerner” in order to live prosperously and free.

    I think Chua provides the answer herself:

    Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:
     
    • attend a sleepover

    • have a playdate

    • be in a school play

    • complain about not being in a school play

    • watch TV or play computer games

    • choose their own extracurricular activities

    • get any grade less than an A

    • not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
     
    Other studies indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately 10 times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams.[emp added]

    Noticeably excluded from her children’s activities is any kind of team activities. The secret of American’s collective success as a people is our ability to self-organize ourselves on both the small and large scale into highly effective teams The relative inability to self-organize into teams is why China and some other cultures have lagged behind in the modern world. Americans have long relied on activities like sports, theater, marching band etc to teach that one critical American cultural skill. By excluding such activities from her children’s life, Chua is depriving them of one of the most crucial skills an American must have.


    American culture is based on the seeming contradiction of extreme individualism combined with a near instant willingness and ability to join a team to accomplish any particular task. The way New Yorkers spontaneously organized to evacuate Manhatten on 9/11 represented a large scale and dramatic example of the type of self-organization that Americans reflexively engage in on a daily bases.

    Germans and the Japanese also excel at organization and group work but they default to hierarchical, top-down organization. Absent leadership or a predefined structure, both Germans and Japanese have a relatively hard time organizing themselves. American organization, by contrast, is strongly bottom-up with very flat or even nonexistent hierarchies. No other people self-organizes to the degree Americans do.

    I think it clear that we developed this self-organizing skill owing to our unique history.

    Firstly, we have America’s unprecedented internal cultural diversity. As a diverse nation of immigrants, we had to learn how to work with people we did not know personally and who might well come from significantly different cultures. Americans could not rely on previously established modes of cooperation specific to each culture but instead we had to create a flexible and adaptable means of forming teams on an ad hoc basis without any previous planning or standards.

    Secondly, the nature of the frontier forced Americans to learn to self-organize from the bottom up. The mythology of the American frontier (actually nothing but a literary invention) plays up the role of the lone individual but in reality the real story of the American frontier is one of peaceful, voluntary cooperations between disparate people far beyond the reach of established authority and predefined organizational structure. They had no one to mediate or direct so they learned to do it themselves. Virtually all the formal Federal actions in the age of the frontier served to do no more than to formalize the solutions already enacted informally by the pioneers. Those that did not learn teamwork failed on the frontier.

    Long after the great waves of immigration and the frontier ended, we still benefit from our skills of bottom-up self-organization. Indeed, our internal peace and prosperity rely on it. Each American child needs to learn how to form and work within teams and American parents have long been willing to sacrifice study time in academics in order to use sports, theater and other group activities to teach their children teamwork. By contrast, the Chinese parents that Chua lionizes teach their children to become hard working and highly skilled individuals but at the same time they prevent the children from learning teamwork. Those children grow up atomized with a relatively very weak ability to spontaneously cooperate with anyone outside their family.

    A society of atomized individuals cannot self-organize from the bottom-up. Instead, it must be organized top-down by some authority. Historically, China (and most other cultures) has only worked well under a robust and effective autocratic government. Even their philosophies seek to create predefined structures and hierarchies of command. Confucianism in particular establishes a predefined rigid organizational order that starts with defining each individual’s role within the family and then spreads to the greater society from there. Ad hoc, bottom-up organization is a largely alien concept to the Chinese.

    Even Taiwan, which has (increasingly) embraced democracy and free-market capitalism, finds itself organizationally limited. The Taiwanese success lays almost entirely in specialized manufacturing that can be performed by companies small enough to be managed by an extended family. Despite their overall economic success, they have no big multinational companies as do the Japanese and Koreans. Their atomized culture simply can support large, non-family based economic organizations because the Chinese have no cultural experience with spontaneous, voluntary, teamwork. Even in America where Chinese-Americans dominate in many technical fields, you will find proportionately few first or second generation Chinese-Americans in management and even fewer Chinese-American owned companies of any significant size.

    Producing wealth in the modern world requires extensive and large scale teamwork. It requires teamwork on the job, it requires teamwork in private social organizations and it requires teamwork in government. Individuals must have the ability to quickly and easily work within teams both large and small. A society of pure Chinese cannot provide such high levels of organization without the high overhead cost of a political autocracy.

    That is why Chinese struggle in a country dominated by cultural Chinese but prosper so much when they come to America. Non-Chinese American’s propensity for teamwork provides the organization that the Chinese need and they provide it at a low economic and political cost. America is a paradoxical nation in which voluntary, bottom-up collective cooperation creates an environment in which atomized individuals can thrive (as long as there aren’t to many to many of them in the overall population.)

    Chua should be applauded for breaking the contemporary taboo against admitting that cultures differ and that those differences mean that some cultures produce individuals better at some task than other cultures. She should also be applauded for taking a stick to the ridiculous runaway self-esteem movement. However, she errs when she says that Chinese mothers are “superior.”

    She forgets that tradeoffs dominate everything in life. When a culture specializes for proficiency in one area of endeavor, it must sacrifice proficiency in another area. Cultures noted for their food, music and sociability often fall short in economic endeavors. Cultures noted for economic endeavors usually don’t have very interesting cuisines, food or music. Southern Italy is a great place to vacation but its hell trying to get anything built or maintained. Germans get things done by few go to Germany for the food. (There aren’t a lot of German cookbooks on bookshelves outside of Germany but almost everyone has an Italian cookbook.) Examples abound in comparisons of any two cultures. All cultures represent some type of tradeoff and therefore all cultures relatively excel in some areas but fall relatively short in others.

    Chinese culture excels in instilling individual proficiency but at the tradeoff of not teaching small or large scale teamwork.

    (They might also fall short in teaching experimental problem solving an overall adaptability but that’s another post.)

    Although she seems utterly unaware of it, by depriving her children of sports and other team activities, Chua guarantees they will grow up to be highly educated and skilled but they won’t have any experience forming teams or working within them. They will always have to depend on non-Chinese to provide organization. Worse, since a good leader is also always a good team player, her children will never have what it takes rise to the top of any large organization. They will never lead.

    No doubt Chua’s children will be highly successful compared to the general population but they won’t be as successful as they might have been had she not raised them up ignorant of teamwork. They will always be dependent on others who spent their childhoods learning teamwork. Merely substituting a team activity for the time spent training for pointlessly high musical proficiency would greatly enhance her children’s ability to reach their full potential.

    Chua should have adopted the American practice of taking the best of each culture and combining them together to make a superior whole. Fusing the Chinese work ethic and mania for self-improvement with the American talent for teamwork would create incredible people.

     

    89 Responses to “Not So Superior Chinese Mothers”

    1. David Foster Says:

      Isegoria post on the collective IQ of a group working on a task is related to this.

    2. Lexington Green Says:

      Good post. But the roots go deeper than the frontier experience. The English settlers had an aptitude for self organization and voluntary teamwork when they got here. So, Shannon, you are even more correct than you think. (Brazil was a frontier, but none of these supposedly frontier derived effects happened.)

      On these points, my usual mantra, David Hackett Fischer and Alan Macfarlane, and also Emmanuel Todd, are all enlightening.

    3. Shannon Love Says:

      Lexington Green,

      Yes, the costal culture of Northern Europe certainly laid the ground work for teamwork as did long distance seaborne commerce and the subsequent need to manage ships on long voyages. I think America’s cooperative culture is something of a combination of the German and the English in linage. We got the urge to group from the Germans and the individualism and emphasis on individual rights and equality within the group. So we got German teaming up without the top-down authority.

      I do think the frontier was vitally important because clearly we just aren’t Europeans. The frontier created a vacuum of authority and structure. This required the pioneers to innovate organizational forms. This process began with the earliest colonies and was repeated as the frontier spread over the next four hundred years. You see a weaker form in other colonies but nothing to the degree and duration at that which occurred in America. Nothing like that ever happened in Europe.

    4. Jeff Carter Says:

      America is Adam Smith incarnate. We specialize, creatively destruct, and specialize again.

    5. Jim Bennett Says:

      On the main point of the downsides of the Chinese child-rearing system as praised by Chua, Shannon is quite right. It is significant that what is discouraged is precisely those things that give kids the experience of working together as a team and developing self-government. It goes even further. Basically, what Chinese parents are doing is preparing their kids to succeed in pre-industrial occupations. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, occupations were, as a rule, static and based on a fixed set of mechanical motions which, to acquire competency, had to be imparted to motor memory though long repetition. That’s what the apprentice system was all about. It was expected that the motions learned in, say, shoemaking, or masonry, would be identical at the end of one’s working life to those learned in apprenticeship. (This is preserved also in martial arts.) That’s why productivity could be monopolized in guilds; you couldn’t easily bring in a strikebreaker and train them in a few days to do the job.

      The heart of the Industrial Revolution was not so much the assembly line, or “Taylorism” (hyper-specialization); rather, it was turning a job from a set of motions acquired by repetition into a set of procedures learned intellectually, through instructions. In the new system, a job skill could be acquired in months, weeks, or even days; and new techniques and materials could be introduced progressively, provided training was given. Written manuals and instructions even allowed workers to acquire the skills without the direct cooperation of another person. This vastly increased the options of both employers and workers, allowing workers to move from occupation to occupation, employer to employer, and region to region as advantage dictated. Similarly, employers no longer had to pace their expansion to the available trained and guild-enrolled workforce; they could hire raw hands from the countryside and train them themselves. The number of motor-skilled professions shrank, finally being reduced to a few niches like music and athletics. No surprise that musical instrument performance is a big focus of the mothers Chua describes — the technique is good for little else any more.

      On the issue of the frontier experience and the specifically English origin of our self-organizational talents, I have to agree more with Lex. True, all northwestern Europe in medieval times had a robust tradition of self-governing organizations between church and State, and at least some self-governing cities. But these traditions were largely suppressed by renaissance absolutism well before any mass emigration from Germanic countries to North America. There is a substantial observable difference between English colonies and Dutch and Swedish colonies in terms of settler self-organization and self-government — the English ones were self-governing and mostly self-replicating with only the most minimal input from London, and the others weren’t. They were by and large centrally administered, and not very sensitively, by appointed governors. Rather than the frontier changing the English, it’s more likely the reason the English colonies were so much more successful was because they already had these qualities.

      The subsequent waves of German settlement were often well-organized, it’s true. But it’s hard to see much difference between Pennsylvania in early colonial days, which had substantial German (“Pennsylvania Dutch”) settlement, and others in the area of self-organization; similarly the states that had German settlement in the 19th century (Michigan, Wisconsin) were also not visibly different in self-organziation from other states with a prior English self-organization tradition and which had few or no Germans (e.g., Vermont, New Hampshire). Presence of Yankees or Midlanders and absence of plantations was a much better predictor of strong civil society than presence or absence of Germans.

    6. TangoMan Says:

      I’m not really sold on your POV.

      You’ve created a hypothesis. You’ve supplied some reasoning in support of your hypothesis. What’s completely missing is any reference to real world validation of your premises.

      -Why can teamwork be learned by children in school but not by adults in the workforce?
      -How many hours of teamwork activity does it take for children to internalize the worldview which will guide them to increased marginal success later in life?
      -Why can’t the same forced teamwork experiences later in life not be learned and adopted by Chinese-Americans who are entering into the workforce for the first time?

      You’re using a boatload of unsupported premises. What does this mean? we had to learn how to work with people we did not know personally and who might well come from significantly different cultures. We learned how to do that? Really? Can you describe the specifics of what we’ve learned? I’m having a very hard time trying to qualify and quantify this supposed process that all of us in this nation have learned but is unknown to people in homogeneous societies.

      Virtually all the formal Federal actions in the age of the frontier served to do no more than to formalize the solutions already enacted informally by the pioneers. Those that did not learn teamwork failed on the frontier.

      Isn’t this the story of civilization writ large? If it is then all people who live in societies today are the beneficiaries of people who managed to get their societies off the ground.

      Secondly, how exactly are the interpersonal dynamics of settlers relevant to their long distant descendants? Let’s say that you’re right and the teamwork of our ancestors allowed them to flourish. They faced a challenge and they met the challenge and then life went on normally. Fast forward to today. What have I internalized in my life that is drawn on the lessons learned by long dead people? If you respond that my whole way of life has been influenced by the viewpoints they adopted which led them to flourish then that would mean that all our lives are lived in a fundamentally different way than those of people who live in Asia. How exactly is we living our lives differently? Do people in Asia never self-form into teams? How do we know this? If they do occasionally self-form into teams (see Kyoto earthquake response) then why aren’t they learning the lessons that we and our ancestors learned, especially when they can see the benefits that are derived from that experience?

      I think that your essay is pretty tightly reasoned but your premises are just not supported. If some of those premises are knocked out, then the whole argument fails. It looks like you’re just assuming too much to be true.

    7. VictorWhatsYourVector Says:

      I wonder if a little bit of natural selection is also at work?

      It seems to me, that authoritarian societies tend to deal with self-organizers that cannot be assimilated into the existing power structure by eliminating them…

    8. Rachel Says:

      I think too many people are putting too much of an emphasis on the Chinese aspect of this story.

      My great grandmother’s three children all took piano or violin lessons–violin for the boys and piano for the girl–and were expected to make nothing less than an A. Extracurricular activities weren’t an option and it was expected that if they could jump ahead in school they would. And they did, graduating much earlier than the age of 18 and going from high school to college and then to professional schools. The boys became doctors, the girl became a lawyer–professions that were considered to be the apotheosis of academic achievement at the time. All credited the determination of their mother, a stern taskmaster to whom they were devoted throughout her lifetime, for their success.

      They were not Chinese. They were, however, immigrants. As Chua points out, not all Chinese mothers are Chinese:

      I’m using the term “Chinese mother” loosely. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise. I’m also using the term “Western parents” loosely. Western parents come in all varieties.

      The children of immigrants tend to do rather well here thanks, in part, to parents who are determined that their children will not let the opportunities available here go to waste.

    9. Shannon Love Says:

      Jim Bennet,

      Basically, what Chinese parents are doing is preparing their kids to succeed in pre-industrial occupations.

      That is very true and something I had not apprehended.

      There was a great book written in the 90s about the difference between Chinese and American/Western childrearing practices. The difference were best represented by an episode in a hotel lobby. The Western authors were in the lobby with their child (IIRC a toddler) and the child was playing trying to a put a toy or some other object into a slot of some kind (I forget the specifics.) The Western authors did nothing to help to child solve the problem. They just watched as the child experimented with the rotating the object to try and get it to fit.A grandmotherly Chinese mother passed by and, as grandmothers are programmed to do, stopped to interact with the child. Instead of watching passively, however, the Chinese grandmother took the child’s hands in her own and manually directed the child on the correct orientation to solve the problem. The authors also noted that when teaching children to tie shoes, Western parents would manually guide the children a few times and then let the child figure the rest out on their own. In China, parents would manually guide the children until the children could perfectly tie the shoes. Chinese children learned to tie their shoes must faster than Western children but in both cases, the primary lesson that Westerners were teaching was experimental problem solving while the Chinese were simply teaching their children the correct motions to get the job done.

      Clearly, the Chinese method is superior if the goal is to create a highly skilled person in a relatively static technological and social milieu.

      Rather than the frontier changing the English, it’s more likely the reason the English colonies were so much more successful was because they already had these qualities.

      Well, yes and know. First of all, self-government and teamwork aren’t exactly the same thing. You can in theory have one without the other. I would argue that some cultures, India for example, have self-government but relatively little teamwork.

      No doubt that the English experiment in self-governing greatly contributed to both their success in the New World and American culture in general. However, American teamwork is quite a bit different and I think the frontier was the primary shaper of that difference. English teamwork was based on long standing association. Generation after generation of specific families grew up in the same communities side by side with other families. Everybody seriously knew everyone else. They really didn’t have to puzzle out how to work with people whom they didn’t know. The culture had predefined rules for cooperation in almost every conceivable situation. For example, the English class system gave predefined rules for whom would be in charge in any situation. Even their modes of self-government had long established rules, they seldom had to innovate.

      The American experience was vastly different. (All the following are relative of course.) People settled with or near others whom they did not know personally, did not know their families (a big deal back then,) and often did not even share a common culture. They had to puzzle out how to cooperate without relying to heavily on any predefined rules or structure for doing so. Perhaps more importantly, they faced new challenges for which the culture had no rules and they required a level of meritocracy which a rigid class structure could not supply. Americans not only had to figure out how to solve these cooperation problems but had to figure out a mechanism for how tokeep solving new cooperation problems on a continual evolving basis.

      Nothing we inherited from Europe taught us how to create a culture that could continuously create new, often ad hoc, cooperative structures.

      As for your argument about German influence, I think you are looking to strongly at governance and not strongly enough at all forms of cooperative organization such as businesses, emergency response etc. Remember government is only the second largest form of teamwork (at best.) Most of cooperation is economic related and the vast majority of people employ teamwork on the job.

    10. Shannon Love Says:

      VictorWhatsYourVector,

      It seems to me, that authoritarian societies tend to deal with self-organizers that cannot be assimilated into the existing power structure by eliminating them

      I think that is true. Authoritarian societies prefer and might even require rigid, predefined rules of cooperation. People that generate cooperation rules on the fly would be viewed as highly disruptive.

      In the early 1400s, the Chinese sent fast “Treasure Fleets” all the way to Madagascar. The fleets were demolished upon the change of emperors in part because the mandarins did not like disruption caused by the meritoriously selected ship captains.

    11. Shannon Love Says:

      TangoMan,

      You’ve created a hypothesis. You’ve supplied some reasoning in support of your hypothesis. What’s completely missing is any reference to real world validation of your premises.

      Well, it’s a blog post not a book and I assume the reader can fill in the gaps based on their own knowledge of Western and Chinese history and culture.

      -Why can teamwork be learned by children in school but not by adults in the workforce?

      I think it obvious that skills learned as a child are stronger than skills learned as an adult. By your reasoning, we could just dispense with school altogether and let everyone learn to read, write and calculate when they were adults in the work force. Now, obviously adults can acquire such skills if they lack them but it is very hard, very time consuming and they very seldom reach the level of profency of those who learned such skills as a child.

      In the case of teamwork, it can only be learned by experience. No adult team is an exact replica of football, basketball or baseball team. Instead, play such sports simply teaches children how to function within a team. It teaches them think of the team and the collective goal first and themselves second. It teaches them that different individuals have different strengths and weaknesses and that the team must be organized around that fact.

      In the end, teamwork is more an emotional or social intelligence skill. It really can’t be taught in any way save through actual performance. By the time someone is in the workforce and has to produce real work, the cost of learning teamwork becomes very, very high compared to teaching via simulation in childhood. If kids can’t cooperate and loose a ball game, its no big deal. If adults can’t cooperate in a live business, the business fails. If adults can cooperate in government, ugly things happen.

      What does this mean? we had to learn how to work with people we did not know personally and who might well come from significantly different cultures.

      Have you ever studied how human cooperate? Have you ever studied the difference between how different cultures cooperate? If not, then you probably don’t have enough background for me to explain in brief. See my comment above to Bill Bennet. I can provide many specifics if you like.

      Can you describe the specifics of what we’ve learned?

      Again, see my answer above for examples. I’d say we’ve learned a few core talents: (1) We’ve learned to expect cooperation from others even if we have no prior relationship with them of any kind. (2) We’ve learned to assign positions within the team based on individual merit and (3) We’ve learned to include people in teams based almost entirely on their ability to perform a function within the team.

      These seem like no-brainers to Americans and even to a lesser extent Western Europeans but these are radical ideas both in historically and in comparison to most other cultures.

      Isn’t this the story of civilization writ large? If it is then all people who live in societies today are the beneficiaries of people who managed to get their societies off the ground.

      Well, yes but it’s evolutionary theory 101 that different environments and different history create different outcomes. Peoples with similar environments and histories develop similar cultures and peoples from different environments and histories develop different cultures. For example, there is an obvious difference between cultures that depend on the seas and cultures that are landlocked. The former tend to prize merit more because survival at sea depends on individual skill just the people on a single ship. In a landlocked environment, survival depends on the ability to gain the most allies. Sea oriented peoples develop cultures with more flexible class structures compare to landlocked cultures and they are less authoritarian.

      American culture evolved in a relatively unique environment and we developed a relatively unique culture as a result. Of course, we share strong similarities to the other anglosphere colonies like Canada and Australia but since we don’t share the exact same environment and history we don’t share the exact same culture. For example, we prefer much more decentralized government than either because we did not evolve up under an empire/commonwealth.

      Looked at the environmental and historical differences between China and America. First of all, we both come from two entirely separate major cultural groupings. China is primarily a landlocked country with little sea trade relative to its size. America has always been a seafaring nation. China is relatively ethnically homogenous compared to America’s ever shifting ethnic make up. China has a long, long, long history of high centralized authoritarian government. Americans have only ever known decentralized democracy. Chinese settlement of their Western border was always a directed project of the central government. In America, it was a decentralized movement carried out by small diverse groups with little to know oversight. Really, up until the last 50 years and arguably even the last 20, China changed only very slowly. The optimal forms of skills and organization did not change over many centuries. Chinese culture evolved to teach these optimal forms. America has ever since colonial days been caught up in whirlwind of constant geographical, environmental, technological, ethnic, social and political change. American culture evolved to adapt to change.

      Secondly, how exactly are the interpersonal dynamics of settlers relevant to their long distant descendants?

      Because culture is by definition behaviors passed between the generations, I think it self-evident that our ancestors continue to influence us.

      Fast forward to today. What have I internalized in my life that is drawn on the lessons learned by long dead people?

      Well, first of all, our American ancestors who lived on the frontier are not “long dead.” I have pictures of myself as an infant being bounced on the lap of my great-grandfather who as a young man was a late 18th century pioneer. My wife has an aunt who as a five year old met a great uncle who in 1947 went to Washington as one of the last surviving veterans of the Civil War. In his letters, he wrote that he knew to had an long lived relative who had fought in the Revolutionary war. America as a country is only three lifetimes old.

      What have I internalized in my life that is drawn on the lessons learned by long dead people?

      Hmmm, how about a intuitive belief in democracy? Don’t you automatically assume that you have a moral right to have a say in any organization that has political authority over you? Haven’t you always believed that? Don’t you assume that you should judge individuals based on their own actions instead of their inclusion in some greater group. Don’t you believe that all people are equal in dignity regardless of their class, religion, ethnic group etc? None of these automatic beliefs on your part are automatic outside Western culture. They were not even recognized ideas throughout most of Western history. Even today in Western Europe, they aren’t as deeply held as in America.

      You carry around thousands of unexamined behaviors and beliefs from the trivial to the great, that you absorbed through formal and informal intergenerational transmission. That is culture.

      I think that your essay is pretty tightly reasoned but your premises are just not supported.

      Not to be insulting but I think your questions show that the primary problem is your own lack of multicultural study or experience. You seem way more confused by my post than the other commenters who have studied these issues in some detail e.g. Jim Bennet wrote a book touching upon the subject.

      I would suggest you grab a copy of, say, Confucius and study how his perception of social order differs from that of, say, Abraham Lincoln or your own.

    12. Shannon Love Says:

      Rachel,

      I think too many people are putting too much of an emphasis on the Chinese aspect of this story.

      Yes, I agree. However, the degree to which first and second generation Chinese-Americans control and push their children is and has always been extraordinary. I’ve read comments to that effect from 1860s era California. Even the Japanese who were always viewed as harder studying and harder working than whites (which is why they face restricted immigration) were not viewed as being as tough as the Chinese. Again, the difference being that the Japanese are more team oriented than the Chinese and spend more time learning teamwork.

      I Chua is dead on when she tears into modern wussy parents who, in my view, let their children run riot with no attempt to push them or even to establish parental moral authority. We’ve just gotten rich, secure and sloppy. Immigrants from countries with less wealth and less security take child rearing much more seriously than we do because the consequences of a lack of self-disipline and skill were more dire.

    13. Jim Bennett Says:

      Shannon:

      Self-government may not be identical to self-organization but it’s a pretty good marker for it. In fact, the reason “democracy” (better described as “constitutional government with broad representation”) is so damned hard to export is that unless you have that web of self-organizing institutions underpinning the final, topmost layer of representative government, your system is just clans duking it out for loot by slightly less violent means.

      English teamwork was based on long standing association. Generation after generation of specific families grew up in the same communities side by side with other families. Everybody seriously knew everyone else. They really didn’t have to puzzle out how to work with people whom they didn’t know. The culture had predefined rules for cooperation in almost every conceivable situation. For example, the English class system gave predefined rules for whom would be in charge in any situation. Even their modes of self-government had long established rules, they seldom had to innovate.

      Well, not really. England was the most mobile society, geographically and socially, throughout pre-modern European history. (Again, see Macfarlane, Origins of English Individualism.) Its cities were demographic sinks until the 1880s or so; you had to have young people continuously immigrating from all regions into London and other cities, where they had to learn to work with each other. Remember the Dick Whittington story. There was continuous emigration to Wales and Ireland through self-organized colonizing companies of which the Virginia Company (and subsequent American colonizing companies, from Connecticut to Oregon) were copies. (See Davies, The First English EmpireAnd because England was so heavily maritime, the maritime example of ships’ companies formed with crews from all over the British Isles basically self-organizing with only minimal direction from officers was the norm. (See N.A.M. Rodger, The Wooden World) The pattern you described was most typical of landed estates in southern England, perhaps, and to a lesser extent other places, but these were not the parts of England that contributed most to the emigration.

      The Germans of 1848 were very active in forming all sorts of societies for many social and cultural purposes. But the civil self-organizing nature of American life was already very well established before they came — Tocqueville’s famous discussion of that fact was based on his travels in 1831-2. It’s better to say they fit right in. They did have a big influence on the American university system, which they helped recast into something closer to Continental structures. That’s probably the biggest German influence on the structure of American life.

    14. Shannon Love Says:

      Jim Bennet,

      I’ll read up on English internal migration but my studies of the business history and the origins of capitalism in Holland and England strongly suggest that long established ties were the basis of most economic activity. People tended to do business with people they knew and whose families were well known to each other and usually economically interdependent. Even when someone changed locales, they required letters of introduction to have any hope of doing serious business in a new place.

      I think it important that people moved from established organizational structure to another established organizational structure within English society. That is a much different type of change in means of cooperation than two groups of people bumping into each other while isolated way out on the frontier

    15. Mike Says:

      Very nice Shannon.

      I have two kids that get good grades, etc.

      I make them play team sports. Some parents look at me askance when I say that.

      I tell that the importance of team sports is that my children learn how to work toward a common goal with others, many of whom they don’t like.

      Drama productions would likely have many of the same skills imparted. Too bad for the Chua girls.

      Try learning that skill as an adult.

      I have worked in many places that have had at least one person that never learned that important life lesson.

      Kind of a lightweigt comment on my part for this thread.

    16. Lexington Green Says:

      Shannon, following up on Jim’s point, and I hope you will forgive me from getting rather far afield, but this is a fascinating side road.

      You wrote ” People tended to do business with people they knew and whose families were well known to each other and usually economically interdependent.” Much the same dynamic that you describe in England, occurred in the settlement of the West. The settlements that struck deep roots and lasted were usually part of move by fairly substantial citizens, often in groups, often whole church congregations, and sometimes even whole towns. The frontier was at the beginning a grab bag of settlers, as you describe, but that grab bag soon gave way to more organized groups, that arrived already organized as groups.

      This passage is from The Expansion of New England: The Spread of New England Settlement and Institutions to the Mississippi River, 1620-1865, by Lois Kimball Mathews Rosenberry (1909)

      Note particularly the paragraph beginning “The lands thus vacated … .”

      A differentiation of three kinds of pioneers became quite apparent
      with this movement to the West, — to Pennsylvania, to the Genesee
      country in New York, to Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. In the vanguard
      moved a few restless spirits, trappers and hunters primarily, who had
      lived perhaps on the edge of civilization in Vermont or New Hampshire,
      and now moved to the newer “West,” a region ever shifting before an
      oncoming army of settlers. These pioneers built for themselves rude
      cabins just at the danger line, but made no effort to cultivate more
      than a garden-patch about the rude loghouse which served merely as a
      shelter from rain or snow. They were rough men who usually disliked
      any restraint of law or order, and cared not for church or school; men
      to whom an advancing wave of the next class of pioneers was a sign of
      a country too densely peopled and a warning for the hunter to move on
      farther west. Therefore, these forerunners of civilization, who had
      merely ” squatted” on the piece of ground they had appropriated, sold
      a shadowy claim to the representatives of the second class of
      frontiersmen, and moved on to a new forest, to go through the same
      process of building a temporary home, and again selling out and
      wandering from the newer New England townships.
       
      The next class was made up of farmers who either appropriated the
      hunters’ cabins, or built new loghouses of their own,—men who through
      poverty or discontent had taken up the search for a new home; or maybe
      they had the roving spirit which is born in many an Anglo-Saxon, and
      which drives a man to seek new lands and explore the wilderness which
      lies beyond his horizon. These farmers cultivated the soil to a
      limited extent; they “girdled” the trees and burned them instead of
      felling them, and their crops were raised on the ground still
      bristling with the stumps of a charred forest. Of this class some were
      ambitious and faded into the third class of thrifty farmers; but
      others soon became restless, and gathering into a covered wagon their
      few household effects and a group of ragged children, sold at a slight
      profit the lands they had purchased of the hunter or at second hand
      from a company of proprietors, and moved on again toward the setting
      sun.
       
      The lands thus vacated were bought by the representatives of the third
      and best class of pioneers,— those who were young, ambitious, who had
      a little capital with which to buy a farm and rear a family, — capital
      too limited to purchase a home in the East, where land had become more
      dear than suited the purse of a farmer’s son just beginning his life
      independently of his father’s family. To the new home the young man
      brought his bride, and together they saved and planned and toiled till
      the log cabin was replaced by a substantial house, barns clustered
      about the home-lot, and from this group of buildings stretched away
      the acres of wheat and corn. The farmer’s chief desire at this stage
      was to raise more than enough produce for his immediate needs; the
      surplus he sold, and the profits he invested in new lands about his
      home-farm. It is this class which brings the church, the school, the
      town meeting; this class which dreams of a college which shall
      reproduce Harvard, Yale, or Dartmouth; this class which ” aims at a
      seat in the legislature or the gubernatorial chair.”‘

      The Rosenberry book has more detail about particular towns than I wanted, but it has many excellent passages about the essentially unchanging process of western expansion from 1620 to 1860.

    17. Tom Holsinger Says:

      I recall an article somewhere long ago (perhaps the Wall Street Journal), in a galaxy far, far away, which made a related point that American social behavior is rare among most nationalities, specifically in anonymous helpful behavior. The example I recall well from the article, and there were others, was set in Vietnam during, as I recall, either the Clinton administration or Bush II’s first term.

      The reporter, or an observer who talked to the repoter, saw an old woman on a bicycle fall down in some former South Vietnamese city, and I don’t recall if it was Saigon. She had gotten tangled in the bike and her packages such that she could not get up. The crowd going to and fro around her paid no attention until a man dressed indistingushably from the rest helped her up. The observer asked his guide about it and the guide purportedly replied that the man must have been an American. The observer was intrigued, walked over to the helper and learned that he was indeed an American of Vietnamese ancestry (might even have been born in Vietnam but raised in America) visiting Vietnam for some reason.

      I also recall reading, someplace else, that the only Americans who believe other Americans will panic in large scale emergencies and not help each other, are Hollywood writers, Hollywood producers, and economists. 9/11 was a good example of the truth of this.

    18. John Says:

      I’m still undecided about the rest of the thesis, but the idea that organized team sports teach anything about self-organizing team work strikes me as absurd.

      The kind of sports we played in my neighborhood on summer afternoons, with word of the game passing through a kind of suburban telegraph, kids straggling in with a bat here, a couple of gloves there, laying out a field and self organizing into teams, negotiating ground rules and umpiring by consensus, now that was an an example of self-organizing team work.

      The organized team sports of the local athletic association were another matter entirely. It was a politically managed, highly organized, class sensitive, bureaucratic system in which most of the participants were compelled, and in which they had no say whatever about the rules or procedures.

      I do believe the latter was a better preparation for modern corporate life, or modern representative politics, but a poor background for an entrepreneur and a disastrous paradigm for a pioneer.

    19. TangoMan Says:

      In the case of teamwork, it can only be learned by experience.

      Who says so? Adults have a greater ability to assess concepts than do children. When children learn to operate in a teamwork environment they’re basically just following the rules laid down for them by the adults who’ve designed the activity. They’re not seeing the benefits, they’re just performing the underlying activity. With adults who have no experience in a teamwork situation and who find themselves placed into a teamwork dependent work situation, they can assess the social and work environment, they can mimic the behaviors and attitudes of their fellow team members, they can analyze the benefits and drawbacks and modify their behavior.

      Think of someone who doesn’t know the fine details of the table manners expected at a fancy dinner. A child put into that situation won’t know what to do but an adult will pick up on cues given by people who do know what to do. The adult will mimic what he is seeing and through repetition and logic can rely less and less on the need to observe and mimic.

      All you’re doing is saying that teamwork can be learned by experience. That’s an axiom for you. You’re not demonstrating it, you’re not defending it.

      Have you ever studied how human cooperate? Have you ever studied the difference between how different cultures cooperate? If not, then you probably don’t have enough background for me to explain in brief. See my comment above to Bill Bennet. I can provide many specifics if you like.

      Actually I have, to both questions, and thanks for asking. Rest assured that I have the necessary background to be engaged in this discussion. I’m asking what specifically “we” have learned that enables us to work with people of other cultures that is missing in the skill sets of people from Chinese culture. The secondary question I’d ask is whether these specific skills that “we” find useful here will have the same utility in a homogeneous nation like China.

      Again, see my answer above for examples. I’d say we’ve learned a few core talents: (1) We’ve learned to expect cooperation from others even if we have no prior relationship with them of any kind. (2) We’ve learned to assign positions within the team based on individual merit and (3) We’ve learned to include people in teams based almost entirely on their ability to perform a function within the team.

      Are you seriously contending that these behaviors are not seen in non-Western cultures? When a new employee joins a work unit how exactly does the American manager know to assign that person to a position based on the individual’s merit that the Chinese manager doesn’t know? Even later, when the manager can assess the human capital of his employees, what exclusive insight and knowledge about assessing individual merit does the American manager possess that the Chinese manger doesn’t. In the case of self-directed teams lacking a manager to assign positions, the same questions, what top secret knowledge are we using that is indecipherable to others?

      American culture evolved to adapt to change.

      And yet it is China that has been going through the most rapid changes of late. Your theory would seem to preclude their being able to set such changes in motion, deal with the changes and the unexpected developments that result, being able to direct and exploit the changes, being able to adapt to the changes, etc because their culture doesn’t equip them with the tools that you argue we have and that they lack.

      Your model isn’t dealing with reality too well. Like I noted, there is a strong internal consistency to what you’re arguing and you do a good job of filling in the blanks between your major themes, but what’s lacking is real world support for your premises.

      Virtually all the formal Federal actions in the age of the frontier served to do no more than to formalize the solutions already enacted informally by the pioneers. Those that did not learn teamwork failed on the frontier.

      How did children raised on farms in 1680 Boston learn teamwork? Or 1850 Pittsburgh? Those settlers on the frontier, why is it that as Americans they hadn’t learned about teamwork, and thus failed? I thought teamwork was intrinsic to the American experience? How could they reach adulthood, being raised in America, and not master teamwork? To be an American is to be a master of teamwork. It’s something that we live and breath all our lives, so are you saying that the only people who failed on the frontier were immigrants who didn’t live and breath teamwork? What about the immigrants who did succeed because of teamwork? Did they learn how to operate as part of a team in their own culture or did they learn to operate as part of a team by being forced to be part of a team and learning quickly on the job? If they did the latter what is preventing Chinese immigrants to America from doing the same today?

      Germans and the Japanese also excel at organization and group work but they default to hierarchical, top-down organization.

      Take a look at how the Japanese self-organized in the immediate period after the Kyoto earthquake and compare to how the citizens of New Orleans reacted to the Katrina aftermath. Citizens of New Orleans are Americans, aren’t they? Being Americans they’ve internalized all the lessons and attitudes which allow them to exploit “The secret of American’s collective success as a people is our ability to self-organize ourselves on both the small and large scale into highly effective teams.”

    20. Jim Bennett Says:

      Shannon,

      We seem to be in danger of arguing past each other. Certainly the London merchant circles had sets of long-standing commercial relations both within England and with merchant houses in trading-partner nations, from Portugal to Scandinavia. But English history from the earliest days also had internal and external frontiers that were significant, and that saw mixing of previously-unrealted people who formed effective groups without much or any direction from above. The maritime and colonial environment, beginning with colonies in the western British Isles, were particularly so. Because of this influence these groups were heavily represented in the founding of America. (remember that two of America’s founder populations did not come directly from England but from other colonies, Barbados and Northern Ireland respectively, so they were already well-mixed.) Other mechanisms evolved to facilitate trust and cooperation among not-previously-related people, such as the rise to importance of the Masonic order (the first national social circle that Jews could join, for example) in the 18th Century.

    21. TangoMan Says:

      Why are my comments always sent to the moderation queue?

      [Sorry, I have limited control over the anti-spam system. I try to recover erroneously moderated comments ASAP but sometimes it takes me a while to get to them. Thanks for your patience. Jonathan]

    22. chug Says:

      My half-Chinese daughter has first hand experience in piano festivals and competitions with children raised this way. Ugh.

      My experience is that these kinds of parents are uniformly smug and annoying, while most of the children are nice kids. But a few of the kids at every event made me think the Borg had arrived.

      My half-Chinese daughter played piano, club and varsity soccer, and was active in student government and debate in high school. We used to laugh out loud when we’d walk into a piano festival or competition room packed with Chinese parents.

      These piano folks also reminded me of the smug and annoying parents of kids who were really good at soccer starting at about age 13. Same kind of parents-living-through-their-children kind of thing. You rarely heard of these kids after high school – the world is much bigger than a small group of parents you want to one-up using your children.

      Also, Amy Tan described this type of parenting style many years ago in Joy Luck Club. Amy Chau just copied Amy Tan’s characters Waverly Jong and her mother Lindo Jong.

      Any non-Chinese person married to a Chinese person should really see Joy Luck Club. It helps make sense of many things.

    23. Multitude Says:

      There’s actually substantial theory behind what you’ve observed. Hierarchical models are increasingly under stress and strain as the evolution in systems theory, post-structural theory and its corresponding application to organizational models continues to show that decentered assemblages that are more “rhizomatic” (imagine a sea of waving grass with no blade more critical or important than another) than “arboreal” (hierarchical, tree-like, akin to bureaucratic verticalness) are often more able to handle complexity, risk, systemic volatility and extreme velocity in change.

      Such systems are self-adaptive and “plug leaks” more rapidly and innately, making dynamic shapes of the organization that meet the environmental demand. Hierarchies are increasingly too rigid, inflexible and slow to handle these velocities and volatilities, and furthermore, have other pervasive problems such as the consistent tendency of hierarchies to “get risk wrong” due to their centeredness in thought (e.g. the CEO or senior management of an arboreal bureaucratic corporation that overcodes situations with political orientation, which sends the wrong messages and causes the organization to not respond to systemic risks correctly, subsequently wounding or killing the organization).

      Those interested in adapting and advancing their competitiveness should continually look toward this arboreal orientation, raise their children in opportunities that increase its knowledge and practice, and seek organizational experiences that bring this ability out. Those that remain trees only subject themselves to the inevitable trunk failure which will take the whole tree down with it.

    24. Gabriel Hanna Says:

      In the physics graduate program I attended, they tried to keep the foreign Chinese students down to one-third. They did not always succeed, as they did not always find enough qualified American students.

      In this country academics has long taken a backseat to sports and other extracurricular activities.

      As for the poster who said

      “Basically, what Chinese parents are doing is preparing their kids to succeed in pre-industrial occupations. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, occupations were, as a rule, static and based on a fixed set of mechanical motions which, to acquire competency, had to be imparted to motor memory though long repetition. That’s what the apprentice system was all about. It was expected that the motions learned in, say, shoemaking, or masonry, would be identical at the end of one’s working life to those learned in apprenticeship. (This is preserved also in martial arts.)”

      maybe he can explain how calculus and differential equations are motor skills learned through long repetition.

      This is all just stereotypes. Chinese aren’t creative, have to told what to do, and their only skill is rote memorization and muscle memory? Seriously?

      Why are so many physicists and engineers Chinese then? So far out of proportion to their numbers?

      Why do Asian students have to be actively discriminated against in California to keep their numbers down from one-half of new admissions, when they comprise 13% of the population?

      You all can flatter yourselves that Americans have real smarts and not book-larnin’, but it’s a delusion and a dangerous one.

    25. bjh Says:

      We live in Fairfax County, Virginia, arguably one of the most diverse regions of the country. Our school system is actually a “majority minority” district, where aggregated minorities are actually ( as a group) the majority, and causasians are about 47% of the student body. The kids blend beautifully, and there is a terrific mix of virtually all kids in the various activities (sports, cub scouts, arts,etc) EXCEPT what we traditionally think of as “Asian” kids. While we have many many Korean, Taiwanese, and Chinese neighbors, their children do NOT participate in these group activities. And, it may be a chicken and egg thing but their kids don’t really hang out with children who aren’t Asian. And you can’t say it’s because “immigrants” tend to hang out with their own group b/c in this case it’s only true of that particular group. I think it’s mostly because the kids don’t form the bonds and friendships that get made at these other activities, so they end up self-segragating. I agree that the individuality of the activities these families pursue mean their kids don’t learn to function in groups same way our kids do. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. But it is a marked contrast. That being said, our public science and technology magnet school, Thomas Jefferson, which is routinely rated the number one high school in the country, is overwhelmingly populated by Asian students, so you can’t argue with their educational “success”. But what does that translate into later in life? Not sure. And what happens when you miss out on all the childhood experiences that make for a common language and bonding opportunities as an adult? Not sure about that either.

    26. Charlie Says:

      You may be on to something, Ms Love. A Japanese friend once remarked that they feel one Chinese is likely to be smarter than one Japanese but that ten Japanese are likely to be smarter than ten Chinese. When I run that one by Chinese friends, they tend to agree readily.

      Walter Prescott Webb had some interesting ruminations on the role of the frontier in the American (and world) mindset (The Great Frontier, Texas Press). Also, Brian Sutton Smith wrote several fascinating books on his research into the folkgames of children in different cultures, inc. pioneer ones (see Folkgames of Children, also Texas Press). Both books may be long out of print but are likely in your campus library.

      Here in the US, we have the profound problem of having adopted, thanks to Horace Mann, a public school system designed, by Johann G. Fichte, to destroy independence and initiative. Among Fichte’s radical malign innovations: grades to enforce a sense that your work is for the benefit of and approval by your betters. Feedback comes in the form of an arbitrary abstract symbol of no worth. It’s an oh so Prussian system with an almost 200-year history of undermining teamwork, group unity and other desirable traits. We’d have been better off sticking with the little red schoolhouse, an essentially American approach to education.

    27. Bill Says:

      Weren’t we only a few years ago talking about how we were so superior to the Japanese because we allowed the individual to innovate, rather than the homogenous group-think approach of others. Now we’re being told that it’s our ability to work together in groups that is superior. Whatever fits the narrative I guess.

    28. Ryan Says:

      I’ve always thought that “Disrespect for Authority while respecting moral law” is THE only thing that Americans teach well. See most any teen movie like “Rebel without a Cause”, or “Breakfast Club”. The all seem to say that it is ok to break the law (smoke, drink, fight) but you need to be RIGHT in what you do to others. Stand up for the weak. Back up your friends. Befriend the oddball. Follow your dream.
      We teach our kids to change the world for the better no matter how things have been done in the past. That leads to better scientist and engineers better then two more hours of math homework every night.
      I had never thought of the self organization of that teaching but how that you mention it I can see that it is a large part of that lesson.

    29. asdf Says:

      If the Self Esteem movement needs a coating of “multiculturalism” to swallow the bitter pill that their tyranny has been a total flop, then it’s fine by me.

      It seems to me that there isn’t One True Way to raise your kids, no matter what people on the Left keep trying to push. Many cultures and approaches can be equifinal– equivalent in the fitness of their outcomes, especially when you take into account uncertainty in where our culture and economy and technology are going. That’s anathema if you want federally mandated standards for what your kids watch, eat and how they’re disciplined, but if a fad of “let’s do it the eastern way” sweeps across them, then parents will get the real message: that child care experts have no idea what they’re talking about.

    30. Tim S Says:

      Americans, the great organizers. Why we even have one in the white house.
      Organizing sports teams, and unions. This is what has made America great?

      We don’t live in a frontier. Far from it. We live in a semi-organized society. We have a complicated tax code, legal structure, environmental concerns, civil and constitutional rights.

      Joining the marching band or the drama club does not help the newly adult citizen understand these concepts. However, joining these groups might help the self-esteem of the members and the bragging rights of the parents.

    31. KingTaco Says:

      I think a basic ‘big picture’ fault being over-looked in Chua’s “Middle Kingdom Secrets to Success!” method is that what she’s really describing is making one’s child simply grind their way to meeting/excelling at certain social/academic ‘signals’ (straight A’s, playing violin/piano), and that mass-copying of this strategy would only achieve devaluing those signals.

      It’s much like the recent progressive boondoggle of the ‘Everybody Needs to go to College!!!” meme of the last two decades. When everybody does ‘X’, how much value does ‘X’ hold anymore? Getting straight A’s and playing piano or violin at a high level is a ‘success signal’ in our society because it’s not very common for kids to do those things. But if more folks followed Chua’s advice, and there was a noticeable trend up in straight A’s and musical proficiency, that ‘signal’ becomes devalued. You’ll either get a system that values actual ‘intellect’ (application of knowledge), but more likely an increasingly convoluted set of ‘high achievement’ signals to take the old markers place. This occurs now around my home in the Baltimore/DC corridor, just with $$$ in place of ‘grinding’. Seeing two of my parent friends in tears over worry if their child will get into the ‘right’ $20,000 kindergarten (and this is the middle-class we’re talking about) doesn’t exactly fill me with good feeling for where our educational system is heading.

      And to tie this theme more into the post’s point about skills for real-life performance, isn’t what Ms. Chua is shepherding her kids to really ‘credentialism’? Straight A’s and musical proficiency sure won’t leave a kid a slouch, but both can be achieved through practice, memorization, and mechanical execution. The patience and dedication to achieve that is nothing to sneeze at, but it also isn’t necessarily a marker of high intellect,leadership, or entrepreneurial skills. Achieving what Ms. Chua has pushed her kids to will certainly set up child up for ‘success’ as defined by good career placement and high-earning ability. For many, that’s enough. But I don’t see the development of crucial intellectual/entrepreneurial skills that actually makes one a stand-out within their field. What Ms. Chua has done is zeroed on the right ‘social signals’ that herald getting into a top school. Most schools reward the practice/memorization method that the kids are already inured in, so good grades are likely there too. Good grades from a top school usually mean great career placement and earning ability. That’s a fine thing. It is, however, different from a parenting method that produces high-intellect or entrepreneurial young adults. It produces well-credentialed young adults who may or may not stand out in environments where the application of knowledge and strong people skills hold the key to performance. Ms. Chua arguing that more people should follow her method paradoxically only makes it more difficult for people following said method. When your strategy reduces down to ‘Do statically better than the average’, why would you want to raise the average?

    32. ari Says:

      This has application even in America. There’s a question why MIT has spawned million dollar companies, but California has shed off BILLION dollar companies. The best guess is that the Cali lifestyle- so looked down upon- of parties and surf-parties and sociability and frats and so on- has created enough of a net to finance a new company- call all your friends’ and their friends’ and their friends’ family- that you could finance it, and also find just the right tech people. While at MIT, if you had a great idea, you slept under your desk and guarded that idea with your life. You didn’t have friends, or colleagues. You couldn’t call friends for financing, you couldn’t “grapevine” to find the right people.

      I read that, and told my children’s friends mothers. There’s now this whole group that very consciously keep their kids at the park for a few hours each day after school. So far, it has had benefits- two kids were in gifted, and pressured their friend to join up- she had the skills- so now she’s got maneuvering she can do in high school- school parties- kids playing football together ( ask about self- organizing) with tables of parents watching them play- sometimes parents watching them play, or jumping in- a dad who is a pastor joins in, sometimes- he’s helped families- birthday parties. People move away- but keep their kids in touch. It’s pretty terrific.

    33. Brown Line Says:

      Bill, there’s a huge difference between a Japanese salaryman, who is placed into a position in a bureaucracy and told to conform, and the self-organizing, self-governing enterprises of which Shannon writes. It’s the difference, really, between a Western-style marriage, in which, in its ideal form, two individuals freely choose to meld their freedoms to form a unit that can do what neither can accomplish alone; and a Middle-Eastern-style forced marriage, in which one person is subjected to another. Likewise, there’s a world of difference between a model in which the individual is told to conform to the needs of the group, and a model in which a group is formed from the combined needs and talents of its individuals. I’m sure you can appreciate the difference.

    34. Shannon Love Says:

      Jim Bennett,

      We seem to be in danger of arguing past each other.

      I think we are both talking about the same thing but at different levels of scale or degree. I originally wrote a paragraph covering exactly those points you are making but I removed it for the sake of brevity. I suppose I shouldn’t have.

      I don’t really disagree with you on anything except that you see degree of influence of the frontier and immigration as relatively minor and I see them as relatively important. If we both ranked the effects you rank inheritance as one and the frontier as two while I would rank them in the reverse.

      I agree that England’s previous experience with overseas trade and settlement contributed to American culture but I would argue that was merely the initial frontier. Individuals and lineages who thrived on the frontier tended to move on to the next frontier instead of returning home. I don’t think the culture of England itself as greatly influenced by the people who returned from the colonial frontier as America was influenced by having virtually every community in the nation founded by pioneers.

      Also, I think that most colonist in the context of the empire carried far more structure with them than did Americans on the frontier. Imperial settlement tended to be corporate in which an entire integral community with predefined roles and authority. Even when that is not the case, the imperial soldiers and governors usually came first and bulk of the settlers afterward.

      I think that the American experiences of the unstructured frontier differed enough in scale to qualify has a unique and possibly controlling factor.

    35. Tom Holsinger Says:

      Tangoman,

      Your selection of the Kyoto earthquake and Katrina hurricane responses as examples of good and bad group behavior is so off the mark as to lethally impact your credibility.

      The Japanese did practice large scale earthquake drills prior to Kyoto, and the people of Kyoto were quite familiar with those. What was surprising about their actual behavior, though, was the very sharp disparity between Japanese and non-Japanese nationals. The latter ALL obeyed the earthquake drills, evacuated stricken buildings, and those non-Japanese who left their dwelling structures all trooped off to the known pre-designated evacuation assembly points. Many or most of the Japaense nationals, by contrast, refused to evacuate any dwelling structure which had not collapsed or toppled, including slowly crumbling and other obviously unsafe buildings, until emergency response personnel came by and ordered them to leave. This was especially notable when those same residential structures held non-Japanese who evacuated and unsuccessfully pleaded with their Japanese neighbors to join them.

      Your failure to note this, and citation of Kyoto as an example of successful group emergency response, casts doubt on your knowledge of what happened there.

      Your reference to group responses to the Katrina hurricane leads me to suspect your error on Kyoto was not innocent. The dramatic behavioral differences between lower-class urban black Americans and other American ethnicities, including working class and middle class blacks, comes into play here, in particular that the former exhibit sociopathic group behavior.

      Working and middle class black families in New Orleans generally did evacuate in advance of the Katrina hurricane by any means available, including spontaneous group organization of the sort that Shannon Love describes. One example I recall is that a teenage high school boy hotwired a school bus and, with his mother, convinced their neighbors to join them in evacuating to Texas on the bus. The mother collected cash and credit cards from her neighbors on the bus to pay for fuel when her son had to stop at gasoline stations on the way to Houston.

    36. Sarah Natividad Says:

      Hello everyone! As a parent of children with Asperger’s Syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder) I’m somewhat of an amateur student of human social behavior, which I have to explicitly teach to my children. I don’t have formal education in the subjects that the author and commenters here have, so I hope you’ll all bear with me in my ignorance.

      John’s point about organized team sports is a good one. However, I’ve noticed that the formal teaching of organized team sports translates, where allowed, into informal games played in the streets with neighborhood kids. Unfortunately, in some child-raising milieus, unorganized outdoor activity is frowned upon. I fear we may be raising a generation of kids who don’t learn the lessons in teamwork that Shannon praises. Instead, their experience of teamwork will be of the artificial kind promoted in many schools, where teams are forced together and all the work is done by one or two competent people who emerge as leaders. While it’s good that children learn how leaders emerge in a randomly selected group of people, I think there’s got to be a better way to teach that without the destructivity of forced faux “teamwork”.

      Rather than team sports being the proximate cause of American greatness then, I’d point to unstructured outdoor activity in general. That would also help address TangoMan’s point about how early Americans learned teamwork in the absence of football leagues.

    37. Daniel Says:

      Wait what? Until very recently, China was communist, which is the ultimate “team”. Furthermore, the culture places great value on family unity (a team), and working together in society (a team). What Asian parents tend to place less value on is _athletics_, which is _not_ the same as devaluing teamwork. There are only a certain number of hours in a day not taken by school or sleep. An Asian parent is more likely to encourage their child to spend those hours on additional academics rather than extra athletics.

      If anything, America’s strength comes from it’s emphasis on individuality and individual success. This is something that the Chinese (in China) are only beginning to learn, and perhaps going overboard because of that.

    38. Jim Bennett Says:

      Yes, we are talking about the same things, and it is a matter of degree. One problem is that I suspect you are working primarily from economic historians, where I am working more form historical anthropologists, who are better-equipped with the intellectual tools needed to understand the sort of issues you are (properly) concerned about.

      Of course the frontier had a big effect on English-speaking society, and that has always been the case. Most Americans really aren’t familiar with the role of the western frontier in English history between 1200 and 1600 but it has fascinating parallels with later settlements Some historians think one major difference between the failure of Roanoake and the success of Jamestown and Plymouth was that the price of available land in Ireland has risen sharply between 1585 and 1607, making American land much more attractive. (Another argument was that the defeat of the Armada led to the selling-off of large amounts of surplus obsolete militia arms between 1590 and 1610, which made arming the settlers much cheaper.)

      But the amount of land available for squatting in North America, Australia, and New Zealand different in amount and accessibility, and led to a more open social structure than back in the British Isles in all cases. The differences between the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have been way over-mythologized on all sides for rhetorical purposes: in all cases, squatters preceded surveying and land sales and the pressure to regularize title led to free or nearly-free land availability. Study the history of squatting in Australia, which led to the “free selection” system, essentially similar to homesteading, or the Canadian homestead laws, which were even more liberal than the US ones. (Title in 3 years instead of 5; many Americans went north to “double-dip” after selling their US homestead) In New Zealand, Wakefield attempted to deliberately restrict land ownership in the Christchurch (South Island) colony in order to create a more deferential social order, but that collapsed quickly under the pressure of squatting and populist revolt. For a good discussion of Canadian and US homesteading, see Hansen .

      Also, most of the devices used to impart free cooperation of individuals — organized sports, social clubs, hobby groups, etc. — are English in origin. The first organized sport structure was English cricket, which generated rules, leagues, club structure, etc. in the late 18th century. Interestingly, one of the key people in forming organized cricket was Lord Sandwich (yes, the one who invented the eponymous handmeal) who was also instrumental in creating the logistics and supply chain system of the Royal Navy that allowed them to dominate in the Napoleonic Wars, reformed the (eventually, Royal) Marines as a distinct professional body, and in his spare time originated the Messiah Sing tradition. His life was an interesting microcosm of the various strands of English-speaking culture supporting each other.

    39. Jim Bennett Says:

      The Hansen link cited above is http://books.google.com/books?id=9KprBFnHFEQC&printsec=frontcover&dq=james+Hansen+%2Bmingling+%2BCanadian+%2BAmerican&source=bl&ots=gXpzv9iRDJ&sig=MHYrmXKt5AroI1kMaRIDzEL4kSE&hl=en&ei=KI0sTaKABqDqnQeI6snJDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBMQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

      It didn’t publish for some reason.

    40. newb_or_notnewb Says:

      Shannon — your blog is absolutely spot-on!
      Your excellent blog is a great example of why I read more amateur blogs (like yours) than so-called mainstream articles from “professional” journalists. I have older children that have always done very well in school academically (because we teach them the immense importance of it), but I have to say that one of the great “institutions” that is so important in this country for the development of children into productive and mature adults is all of the sports organizations (and there are many to choose from). My children also were heavily involved in these sports organizations and they were great in helping them build their character.

    41. Mr. G Says:

      China, despite its uniformity of language and government, was highly fractured along ethnographic lines and very much along linguistic lines (modern efforts to make Mandarin the only spoken language of China are having some effect). The government did a great deal to enforce family unity (to the extent of laws passed under the T’ang which punished family clans that did NOT live in the same household). But the government made no effort to create or foster organizations or even allow non-government organizations which went beyond the extended family. There was only the extended family and then there was the government. (Cities had trade organizations with some limited power so its not quite so clear cut…).

      Some extended families became much more like companies during the Manchu period, with branches sent out and established in major trading ports in Vietnam, Philippines, Java, Siam, etc. These outlying branches of the family clan would trade pretty much exclusively with the “home” clan but still, to call an organization like that a “family” is really stretching the concept. While they were bound by ties of shared kinship and marriage, the connection was based on shared business interests more than what I would call “family ties”.

      The one activity which met with both uniform social approval and was engaged in by nearly all social groups was education. The Imperial exams acted both as a force for social adhesion (everyone went to schools for initial education) and to atomize the society (only a tiny fraction of those who took the exam actually “passed” and were immediately given jobs within the administration, and by tiny I mean less than 1% of the test takers). The winners in the exam process were immediately singled out and, while lionized in their home district, they were never allowed to actually work in their home region, they could only return upon retirement from government service.

      The modern Chinese ex-pat, coming to a (somewhat theoretical) meritocracy like the U.S. easily gravitates towards seeing the U.S. system as one that can be treated like the old Imperial exams, except with a much higher passage rate. In other words, this is an aspect of U.S. culture which “makes sense to them”. Personally, I think they don’t appreciate the complexity of U.S. society, but they are taking a (to my mind) reasonable approach, given their unfamiliarity with the culture. Are there limits to this approach? Yes. There were major problems with the Imperial Exam system as well. But its not a bad strategy. Will this strategy continue into the future? It could well, if a sizable percentage of their children become highly paid professionals, who is really going to complain that some of the children failed to reach their full (but entirely theoretical) potential?

    42. Shannon Love Says:

      TangoMan,

      Adults have a greater ability to assess concepts than do children

      Yes, adults do have a greater ability to learn skills based on explicit or easily defined rules. It is easier to tech an adult a technical skill than it is a child. However, social (in broadest meaning) skills don’t have explicit, articulated rules largely because every social situation is subtly different. Look at all the books about leadership and teamwork that exist in the business section of the bookstore compared to the number of technical books anywhere about any given subject. That is because the teamwork books are trying to codify a system with no explicit rules that cover all situations. Each book ends up being significantly different (compared to a technical text) the explicit rules are far less well understood.

      Look at the extremes the military has to go through to teach its explicit form of organization and teamwork. You just can’t read a book on military organization or watch a bunch of soldiers working around you to pick it up in a timely fashion. The world of business, community and political teamwork is even more complex because such teamwork deals with a much wider range of variables than does the military.

      And again, I did say above that teamwork can be learned on the job but there is obviously a cost to the individual. How many failed teams would someone have to go through to match the skills of someone who has learned the skills as a child to the extent they perform the skills utterly without thinking. Obviously, the individual who already has the skills already has a big competitive advantage.

      Even more importantly, the individual has to recognize that they don’t understand teamwork. Why would someone who has spent their entire childhood in solitary perfection of explicitly defined skills even suspect that they are missing something?

      All you’re doing is saying that teamwork can be learned by experience. That’s an axiom for you. You’re not demonstrating it, you’re not defending it.

      Not to come off snarky but when you say that people can learn teamwork just as easily and cheaply as adults as during years of childhood team activities, well, you are just stating an undefended axiom. It might seem obvious to you but my research and personal experience strongly contradicts that.

      I’m asking what specifically “we” have learned that enables us to work with people of other cultures that is missing in the skill sets of people from Chinese culture.

      There is no starker contrast between cultures than the difference in the way that American and Chinese cultures deal with outsides. Chinese culture is probably the most xenophobic and ethnocentric of any major culture present or past. No culture has been so arrogant and so unwilling to absorb new ideas from outside the cultures. China has experience essentially zero immigration over the course of its history. The American history is much different to say the least.

      Are you seriously contending that these behaviors are not seen in non-Western cultures?

      Of course not. I’m saying it’s a matter of degree and degree or scale turn phenomena with the same basic qualities into functionally much different things. All cultures exhibit some decentralized, bottom-up organization but none to the degree that America has and does.

      I did provide the example of how Chinese seem incapable of forming and running large companies without the overarching authority of a government.

      When a new employee joins a work unit how exactly does the American manager know to assign that person to a position based on the individual’s merit that the Chinese manager doesn’t know?

      The American is much more likely to assign a person based solely on merit while the Chinese is much more likely to assign based on social relationships. In Confucianism, nepotism is a virtue and not a vice.

      The Chinese manager will expect obedience because he is higher up in the hierarchy. An American manager is expected to demonstrate competence to earn the right to require other members of the team to defer to him. That is especially true in the case of a team being formed in a decentralized, bottom-up manner.

      And yet it is China that has been going through the most rapid changes of late.

      Not culturally. In fact, the Chinese are clearly attempting to cram the modern world into their long standing, strongly hierarchal, centralized, authoritarian model. Of course, they can and are changing but change is not a central expectation of their culture the way it is in West and particularly America. Chinese culture values harmonious stability above all other societal attributes. If they could exist in the modern world without changing, they would.

      How did children raised on farms in 1680 Boston learn teamwork?

      They had teamwork but it was organized top-down using a template imported from England. The settlements on the Eastern seaboard were overwhelmingly corporate affairs that came with predefined structure.

      I thought teamwork was intrinsic to the American experience?

      That’s a straw man. I have repeatedly stated that all cultures have teamwork and that some cultures like the Japanese are even more team oriented than Americans. Likewise, all cultures exhibit some decentralized, bottom-up organization. However, when you look at the degree or scale, it is quite obvious that America excels at this.

      Even within America today there are differences. The Red/Blue divide is partially a divide between regions highly defined by their frontier experiences and those more defined by immigration from peasant cultures in Ireland, Southern and Eastern Europe. In the later case, people went from a rigid, hierarchal culture to the major cities of the Northeast were they preceded to recreate a similar structure using unions and political machines.

      If they did the latter what is preventing Chinese immigrants to America from doing the same today?

      Nothing but it will take time, probably the usual three generation. My point in the parent is that Chua could create “super” children by taking the best of both cultures. She could raise daughter that were highly skilled individuals with strong decentralized, bottom-up team building skills.

      Take a look at how the Japanese self-organized in the immediate period after the Kyoto earthquake …

      Actually, the Kyoto experience reinforces my point. The Kyoto region experienced a bad earthquake circa 1990 and they suffered severe paralysis owing to the breakdown of centralized organization. Following that experience, they consciously began a program of public education to induce individuals and ad hoc groups to take action when cut off from centralized organization. They used Americans has an example. When the next big quake hit, they were prepared.

      …and compare to how the citizens of New Orleans reacted to the Katrina aftermath.

      80% of the population of New Orleans self-evacuated. Those that were left were poor and often dysfunctional. The supposed breakdown in New Orleans was wildly over exaggerated by the media at the time.

      Louisiana is a cultural outlier within America. It is the only state whose dominate culture and legal system did not start in the anglosphere. Instead, it is based on French culture and law. So, from the get go, it had a much more top-down culture than comparable American states. Louisiana was settled by imperial dicta and not by unstructured migration of pioneers. You can see significant cultural differences between southern Louisiana where the French/Imperial influence was strong and northern Louisiana were it is relatively weak.

      In summation, I believe you need to think about large scale phenomenon such as cultures as being defined less by differences in absolute qualities and more by differences in degrees of the same qualities. I believe you need to acknowledge that different histories and environments produce different cultures. I believe you need to acknowledge that many import parts of culture are not explicitly stated.

    43. Jim,MtnViewCA,USA Says:

      “The secret of American’s collective success as a people…”

      Living among Chinese here in America, I don’t really disagree with that phrase but it comes out of my mouth much more slowly during these times. We’re not who we were as a culture and we have a ways to go before we compete effectively with the rising powers.
      I think this is a good time to listen and learn. We should be be humble, there is a lot of improvement available.

    44. mariner Says:

      “Lexington Green” mentioned above that Brazil was also a frontier, but did not develop as America did. I believe one of the necessary pre-conditions for American exceptionalism was Protestant Christianity. During its formative years America was overwhelmingly a Protestant Christian nation; Brazil was Roman Catholic.

      The Protestant Reformation spread the idea of Priesthood of the Believer — each Christian has an individual relationship to God and is responsible for deciding what is right or wrong. The northern and western countries from which America’s first citizens emigrated were Protestant.

      Roman Catholicism is a top-down organization in which God speaks through the Church hierarchy and individual Christians rely on their priests to tell them what God expects of them. I don’t believe John Locke could have written his Treatises on Government or Adam Smith his Wealth of Nations in a Roman Catholic milieu; neither do I believe that American-style democracy could have evolved there.

    45. PaulD Says:

      It is difficult to picture a Chinese mother raising someone such as Richard Feynman, the Nobel prize winning physicist. I was fascinated to read one of his speeches in which he attributed his great success in physics to developing his own “toolkit” of ideas for understanding physics that was completed different from anything he had been taught. His “toolkit” allowed him to see problems in physics in a different light from others and enabled him to develop newer and better insights. He also describes being raised by a father who encouraged and help develop a playful curiousity in his son.

    46. Thomas Hart Says:

      Am I the only one who noticed that her musical instruments were restricted to the piano and the violin? Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of classic movies but I thought of The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. when I saw that. While there are pieces that are for solo violin or solo piano the usual orchestra is made up of much more than the piano and the violin. That may be, and since I can’t play a musical instrument I may be totally off base here, because the piano and the violin are somehow more intellectual instruments. Perhaps they require more coordination between brain and hands than other instruments. Whether that’s the case or not, and whether that’s she believes or not I have no idea.

      I think she’s emphasizing what are thought of as purely intellectual activities and cultural artifacts over what she thinks of as emotional activities and artifacts. Hence piano and violin, probably classical, over trombone, French horn, trumpet, sax, etc. which she probably connects with jazz, pop, rock. Classical music also has less room for improvisation than jazz and other musical forms.

      She says no drama, and nothing connected to performance. That seems to me to be cutting off the child’s emotional growth, and it also may stifle their intellectual growth. Drama and its production is not just about teamwork, it’s also about getting inside a character who is not you. If you play Iphigenia, you have to ask yourself certain questions about how a teenage girl of 1,200 BC is going to feel in this situation. If you play Prospero, what does it feel like to have control over elemental forces? Antigone versus Cleon? They both have viewpoints and opinions which are in violent conflict with each other. Is one exclusively right and the other exclusively wrong?

      I can only speak from experience, but I took part in a high school production of Inherit the Wind back in 1964. This stimulated me intellectually. No, I didn’t become an evolutionary biologist. I became a Shavian. In graduate school I wrote my M.A. thesis and my Ph.D. dissertation on Bernard Shaw’s evolutionary dramas.

      The emphasis on grades is really an emphasis on regurgitation of received ideas for the schoolmarm. Again I can only speak for myself, but when I was in high school I was more interested in reading Zen Buddhism, Sartre and Camus than the assigned readings, so I didn’t do as well as I could have. The point here is that I was more intellectually curious and adventurous than the people who just stuck to the assigned texts and got better grades than I did.

      The kinds of things that can be regurgitated for the schoolmarm, math, chemistry, physics, and here I’m thinking primarily of the high school level of each of these sciences, are pretty well defined. It’s a matter of fact that NaOH+HCl=NaCl+H20. (This exhausts my memory of high school chemistry.) The humanities are not so clear cut. Is there a God? What are the arguments for His existence? Is the ontological proof really a proof, as Anselm thought, or is it merely a statement of self-evidence, and not a proof as Aquinas thought? Is it stretching things to cast Romeo and Juliet as a drama of racial tension, i.e., a white Juliet and a black Romeo; or to adapt it to 1950s NYC teen gangs? These things are indeterminate, and more in the nature of values and perceptions and generally messy, non-factual things.

      The humanities, or liberal arts, are not just those pertaining to a free man, a man of leisure; but also those arts that teach us how to be free through speech and reasoning. Emphasis on just fact based studies, the sciences, produces a good scientist, but it’s not enough to produce a good man or a good citizen.

    47. Anonymous Says:

      I wonder how Chinese mothers compare when it comes to donating time to the various organizations that benefit children.

    48. Bayla Says:

      Hi, I am not here to disagree or agree with what you said, but just to put things in context, I actually know the family. I’m 17 and I’ve played with Chua’s daughters in tennis. Both of her daughters are involved in the sport and play daily. Sophia is particularly very good at it. Just FYI.

    49. Tom Holsinger Says:

      Shannon & Mr. G,

      Please note that there are significant social differences, which may be pertinent to this discussion, between “overseas” semi-homogenous ethnic Chinese and mainland Chinese which evolved over the centuries that the former have been abroad as communities. I am not familiar with what those differences are beyond that they exist. Someone more knowledgeable than I might be able to elaborate.

    50. Robineus Says:

      I’d quibble with the characterization about the Germans. Yes, ‘alles in Ordnung’ (all in order, as in ‘make all in order’) is a big part of their culture, but they are also very much about individual responsibility in getting the task done. There was not a lot of centralized authority cleaning up the country after WWII–citizens did a great deal of that on their own initiative.

      You also see it in the culture of ‘mission orders’ (Auftragstaktik) in their military–give us a mission, and we’ll get it done. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auftragstaktik)

      Lots of the same sort of small organization activity in Germany as you find in the US, with clubs and so on.

    51. newscaper Says:

      A first-person anecdotal data point…

      In the 90’s I was an engineer in electronics manufacturing (laser printers), based in Alabama.
      I also dealt with the Japanaes some, including going to the Mitsubishi facory in Fukuyama to train their workers once.

      Your average Alabama good ole boy (or girl) was much, much better at getting things done by being given the overall goal, general tools and skills, plus warnings of a few gotchas to watch out for, and just getting things done.**

      While the Japanese were somewhat more precise and definitely consistent, they were almost at a total loss when not presented with “Step 1…, Step 2…, and so on.

      I know who I’d want around me in a pinch.

      ** Alabama is a right-to-work state, so these were not union workers.

    52. willis Says:

      “Why are so many physicists and engineers Chinese then? So far out of proportion to their numbers?”

      And so far out proportion to the market demand for their job skills.

    53. newscaper Says:

      Another small question — why do so many of these ‘Chinese’ mothers who are big on the music training always having them play the *Western* instruments??

      More to the larger point — much hay is often made of the fact that many inventions were first made in China, by the big multi-culti types who want to downgrade the achievements of Western Civilization.

      The bigger question is why their culture failed to take advantage of them and put them to use like the West?
      I read a good article on the subject a few years ago (don’t remember where) but they used the specific case of the invention of the mechanical clock as a point of comparison.

    54. Foobarista Says:

      The Chinese parenting approach is an extreme response to “nature versus nurture” on the side of “nurture”. And it’s a heck of a way to make darn sure that fairly ordinary kids punch above their academic weight by dint of sheer grindery and willingness to gut it out. But as everyone mentions, it’s not so wonderful at cultivating creativity or giving already smart kids much in the way of intellectual enrichment.

      Few know this better than parents of “gifted” kids in China itself, where you get this sort of grindery backed by a thousand years of “teaching to the test”. Such parents try hard to send their kids to “alternative” schools in China, or to let them spend time outside the country if they have the opportunity. My Shanghainese sister-in-law, who’s a fairly senior prof in a top Chinese university, went abroad twice as an exchange scholar, at least in part so her intelligent, “gifted”, and rather deviant (by Chinese standards) son could go to school in the US and England for awhile. Another friend in Shanghai who made a bunch of money in real estate sends her kids to English-language expatriate schools that track the American educational calendar with the intention that they’ll go to college in the US.

    55. newscaper Says:

      Regarding this below…
      Obviously Bill did not get the distinction between top-down and bottom-up team formation. idiot.

      # Bill Says:
      January 11th, 2011 at 9:00 am

      Weren’t we only a few years ago talking about how we were so superior to the Japanese because we allowed the individual to innovate, rather than the homogenous group-think approach of others. Now we’re being told that it’s our ability to work together in groups that is superior. Whatever fits the narrative I guess.

    56. George B Says:

      During my career of designing electronic hardware I’ve noticed a difference between Chinese engineers and engineers who grew up in the middle part of America. If I found useful information of some type and gave it to one Chinese engineer, he would tend to keep it for himself. I would have to actively give the same information to all the Chinese engineers of the group. In contrast, if I gave useful information to one of my colleges raised in the Midwest or the Great Plains, the information would spread on its own from person to person as needed. My hypothesis is that the culture of the Midwest and Great Plains developed to deal with a relative shortage of people which forced a basic level of cooperation to survive while the Chinese had a relative surplus of people and a need to compete for limited opportunities to advance.

    57. Carl Says:

      This entire conversation reminds me of one of my favorite movies, Disney/Pixar’s Finding Nemo. There’s a poignant scene between Nemo’s very controlling father, Marlin (the “chinese parent”), and the easy-going turtle Crush (the “western parent”), when Crush’s son Squirt falls into the wrong ocean current:

      Marlin: [panicking] “Oh, my goodness!”
      Crush: “Whoa. Kill the motor, dude. Let’s see how Squirt fares flying solo.”

      Then when little Squirt figures out by himself how to swim back to the correct current:

      Squirt: “That was so cool! Hey Dad, did you see that? Did you see me? Did you see what I did?”

      Louisiana is a cultural outlier within America. It is the only state whose dominate [sic] culture and legal system did not start in the anglosphere.
      I disagree that Louisiana is unique in this manner. I understand that New Mexico (Albuquerque in particular) retains many dominant cultural, social, and legal artifacts of its feudal Spanish heritage.

    58. Shannon Love Says:

      Carl,

      I disagree that Louisiana is unique in this manner. I understand that New Mexico (Albuquerque in particular) retains many dominant cultural, social, and legal artifacts of its feudal Spanish heritage.

      That’s true. New Mexico is the only state with a bilingual constitution. There are still Spanish inspired laws on the books.

      I understand the differences between the two states. My father’s family comes from eastern New Mexico and I spent part of my childhood there. My maternal grandmother’s family is cajun by way of West Texas and I still have a lot of family in Souther Louisiana.

      Long story short, Louisiana is a very old culture that has had very little immigration from abroad or with America itself. The majority of peoples in the south of the state trace their lineage back to before the Louisiana purchase. There’s joke in New Orleans that anyone whose family arrived after the Civil War is a Johnny-come-lately.

      New Mexico has a very old hispanic heritage but it was very sparsely settled by the Spanish. There never was more that few thousand hispanic residents in the territory because prior to the railroads it was hard to make a living in the arid state. Since the 1880s, the majority of the population has been anglo immigrants primarily from the Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky. It is only in the last 40 years, that the Hispanic population has really began to climb.

    59. Shannon Love Says:

      George B,

      If I found useful information of some type and gave it to one Chinese engineer, he would tend to keep it for himself.

      Yes, I’ve had the same experience. A lot of non-Western cultures have that problem. American military officers who train soldiers in the 3rd world have to fight that problem continuously. In a pre-industrial society, information is more valuable hoarded away than shared.

    60. Shannon Love Says:

      Daniel,

      Wait what? Until very recently, China was communist, which is the ultimate “team”

      In a way but the criticle differences is how the “team” is formed and managed. American teamwork is primarily decentralized, bottom-up. and voluntary. Communist “teamwork” is centralized, top-down and involuntary.

      If anything, America’s strength comes from it’s emphasis on individuality and individual success.

      Well yes and no. People have to work together to accomplish all but the most trivial task. But cooperation/teamwork and individualism are not contradictory as long as the individual possess the right to decide what teams he will join and on what terms.

    61. ari Says:

      aren’t there articles floating around on the WSJ fluff page- shellenbarger’s column- or at least that piece of real estate in the paper- saying that the difference in earnings betweern races and people in America is the difference between the number of social connections? Like, someone who is connected to family, only, isn’t really going to make as much as someone connected to family, church, professional organization, school organization, alumni organization, sports organization, kids project organization…so, with five connections one made six figures over a lifetime, but with seven connections, one made seven figures or more over a lifetime. That if you controlled for that, the social engagement thing, you had the differences in income between black men and white men disappear.

      I can think of things you learn in play and on teams. You learn to read faces. You learn to not be so self- centered. You learn appropriate humor. You learn to lose your own place, and still be part of a winning team. You learn to have disagreements face to face, but to gossip only positive things- this is huge- if you don’t get this, you’ll be considered a sneaky backstabber- and fired, or excluded. but you need to learn to confront, and that’s just plain hard. You learn to show off and rejoice with your own side, and rejoice at the show-boating on your side- you learn there’s enough attention on the table to go around. you can share techniques and skills, and everybody wins, not you have a technique and they lose.

      And, that’s why I consciously set out to marry a guy who had played high school football, rather than a tennis player. The football player was poor as dirt, the tennis player was rich- and I’m happy, and certain, quite honestly, that my life is richer for having the team player in my life.

    62. Anonymous Says:

      I read her piece in the NYT. All I could think was “Thank God I’m not Chinese.” You mean, all I have to do is give up my entire existence, eradicate all of my individual inclinations and be completely subservient (in the strictest definition of the term) to my mother and I can play the donkey song on the piano?

      Thanks but no thanks. Living life as a joyless prodigy has gotta suck. Your mom thanks you’re great. Everyone else just thinks you’re a weird dork.

    63. ic Says:

      What happens to the children of Chinese mothers?

      Child 1: A female research scientist who clinched her PH.D at the age of 26 and a few piano recital awards confided in my sister that her mother had robbed her of her childhood.

      Child 2: A male who was to practise his piano lesson while his friends went treat-or-treat finished his high school and refused to go to college. His sister spent the better of the last decade trying to get into a med school.

      Child 3: A perfect child of a Chinese mother: an A student, goes to Chinese language school on Saturdays, plays the piano and/or violin, wins a few recital awards, goes to an Ivy League college, preferably Harvard, gets her MD, marries another MD, buys the best house in the best neighborhood, spends the rest of her life raising a bunch of Chinese kids bragging about their accomplishments in gatherings of Chinese mothers.

    64. marie Says:

      As a hospice nurse, don’t go to the Chinese for a hug. They also have little capacity to care for their dying, they want them shipped out of the house.

    65. Anonymous Says:

      “The secret of American’s collective success as a people is our ability to self-organize ourselves on both the small and large scale into highly effective teams”. LOL

      and this supposedl self evident “truth” of yours is attributable to… wait for it… wait for it… almost there;;;;; yep, diversity” ROLFMAO.

      Way to rewite the round peg of our succesful american history to fit that square peg of your failed pc /socialist value system.

      btw, our culture and success are predicated on individualism, risk taking, egalitarianism, and a small governmenrt structure that will not interfere with an individual’s ability to profit from his own hard work. collectivism your ass.

    66. fidel 305 Says:

      “The secret of American’s collective success as a people is our ability to self-organize ourselves on both the small and large scale into highly effective teams”. LOL

      and this supposedl self evident “truth” of yours is attributable to… wait for it… wait for it… almost there;;;;; yep, diversity” ROLFMAO.

      Way to rewite the round peg of our succesful american history to fit that square peg of your failed pc /socialist value system.

      btw, our culture and success are predicated on individualism, risk taking, egalitarianism, and a small governmenrt structure that will not interfere with an individual’s ability to profit from his own hard work. collectivism your arse.

    67. MaxMBJ Says:

      My daughter, an accomplished classical pianist, competed against these Chinese wunderkids her whole life. In the early days she could beat them simply because they played so robotically. That was the 1980s/early 90s. As time went on, it seemed the Chinese-American music students discovered this deficiency in their playing and, having achieved technical mastery, moved on to the expressive qualities of music.

      And yet … even today when I watch many Chinese musicians perform I am struck by the hollowness of soul they express. They move around more, they wave their arms, they even joke around, but it seems to me a culture that grinds out product like Ms. Chua accurately describes, can never have that missing ingredient.

    68. Anne Says:

      Having read a synopsis of Chua’s book, what comes to mind is the horrific custom of foot binding that persisted in China for a thousand years–a millennium where most mothers were fully complicit in this most painful and life threatening abuse of their daughters. It was the West, specifically Christian missionaries, that sparked a movement against this savage practice.

    69. Splashman Says:

      Wow, fascinating discussion, everyone! I’ve learned as much from the comments as I have from Ms. Love’s excellent post.

      Thank you all!

      I won’t bother positing anything, as I’m in the intellectual minor leagues, but I will mention that a very good friend is Chinese-born, and moved to the U.S. as a teenager. Jim is extremely well-educated and hard-working, and on a personal level he is a nice guy, but on the job he exhibits the information-hoarding behavior described above by George B. That has greatly limited his prospects at our company.

    70. Splashman Says:

      @Fidel, don’t be a jerk. You are selectively interpreting Ms. Love’s terminology so you can argue it. Apparently the words “collective” and “team” and “diversity” are anathema to you. Good luck with the world.

    71. Will Says:

      The author is completely correct. In layman’s terms the Chinese mother is raising children without social skills. The adage “its not what you know but who you know” has always been true and always will be true. I feel sorry for those kids.

    72. chris Says:

      Hmm!! Who invented the Internet?? Who invented the browsers? Who invented the PC? Who found Facebook? etc…. enough said.

    73. Zelda Says:

      I agree with much of the first comment. But I’d just like to share my thoughts on Asian conformity, which has also been mentioned. Just for full disclosure, my husband is Vietnamese and has a “Chinese” mother (I love her, though). But even though we Americans are team players (by choice, not government coercion) and good at it, we also are fiercely independent and individualistic. In Asian countries, no such thing. Notice how Chua insists that her daughters play only the violin and piano. As rigorous and devoted as she is, it is to conformity. Asia may have a plethora of excellent violin and piano players, but where are the composers? There is such dedication to technique and perfection, but, as someone mentioned above, there is no soul. And Asians aren’t stupid. They know this. They are such slaves to perfection that they try to mimic it. But it isn’t really theirs.

      I think Asian cultures place a very high value on society following a strict and vast set of rules. This might make for a very orderly society, but it doesn’t lead to much in the way of innovation. Luckily for Asian societies, they’ve been given an infusion of capitalism and exposure to more Western ideas, so with hard work, especially when compared to the laziness of Western societies, they are back in competition. But I wouldn’t underestimate Western laziness either. There is a certain economy in it, but I digress.

    74. sandman Says:

      After reading the original article by Chua , it can best be described as seriously misguided and a cautionary tale.

      Asian immigrants and their children are all about cutthroat academic excellence, single-minded focus on career success, and passing along those traits to the next generation without fail.

      Growing up in the 1980’s/90’s in an Indian-American household, I can safely assure you that life was not fun. I spent countless Saturday nights studying or being threatened to study. Never stayed out past nightfall in high school. Never even came within a country mile of a dance/sock-hop/prom. SAT prep was one big competition for these Indian parents. Every “party” or get together was all talk about how their son/daughter was doing, how his/her grades were great, and how high their SAT scores were. Woe to the poor parents who had a son who didn’t get those straight A’s! Blowing off steam, partying? Those were for those “lazy” Americans!

      College? Another 4 year pressure cooker filled with threatining late night phone calls like “Are you studying or partying like these silly Americans?” MCAT preparation or anticipation was double the SAT nonsense. Simply getting into a medical school wasn’t enough. It had to be a decent one, not Texas Tech or Louisiana or to that effect. On the day I got in, it was “At least you got in somewhere! Thank God. Now I can show my face around town”
      Partying? Staying out late? Relationships? Those were for those oversexed, lazy Americans!
      Hell, I got yelled at for 6+ hours for wanting to go out for New Years at age 22!!

      Medical School? Another pressure cooker racheted up with even more pressure to not just finish or to graduate, but to get into a great field, preferably a sub-specialty. Family practice, or Internal Medicine? That was for foreign medical grads or losers. Only a surgical subspecialist or other high ranking field. I always felt that I would be disowned and called a burger flipper for McD’s if I did not get into a lucrative, prestigious specialty.

      Alas, I got into “ONLY” General Surgery. For those of you outside of medicine, it is still the hardest, longest indentured servitude in the modern world. 5-7 years of torture that makes a Supermax prison look tame. But getting yelled at by these surgeons was no biggie. Getting yelled at for 20+ years makes your skin thicker than a hippopotamus.

      No good job, no “I’m proud of you” or anything remotely positive from either of my parent’s lips for the 1st 31 years of my life. Only after becoming triple-board certified in General, Vascular and Cardiothoracic Surgery did my Dad, and only my Dad (not Mom) say the magical words of “Good job”. I’m in my 40’s now, and I can count the number of fun days I’ve had with one hand. I would need the Library of Congress to count the number of tough days.

      All of those years they told me “Study now….you’ll have plenty of time for fun later, for relationships later…for spectator sports later, etc.” Yeah, right. I have enough time to catch a cat nap of 2 hours (if I’m lucky) over a whole weekend of 6 difficult, emergency cases.

      I guess I’m an academic and financial success. Whoop-de-doo. It doesn’t make up for years of things I didn’t get to do when I was young….those days are gone forever….

    75. ari Says:

      Dear Sandman,
      Thank you for your sacrifice. I am sure that you are very, very good at what you do. I’m sorry that you are not receiving satisfaction from your skills. I will say, when my father or mother have to have surgery, I am very grateful that they will be in such competent hands, by someone driven to perfection- whether or not they were the driver.

      Having said that, now that you have sacrificed, and are probably making a good living, would you please go find a cute, nice, fun nurse and invite her to a baseball game? If she’s fun to be around, take her on a second date, something mild and carb-y= pasta works. Let her eat and get relaxed, and then interview her, basically. Where is she from- what does she want? Do this until you find the girl with the happy view of her life- she can have a bad life, but be able to see the good points- and that wants children. This might not be the first girl. If she’s not what you want- set her up with a friend of yours that has similar interests to her. Do this for enough months- these couples will help you sort and find the girl of your dreams, if you haven’t already, on all your simple dates. Date the probably right girl for at least six months, to see if she’s really right for you. If she is- propose and get married. Don’t marry for your mother or your father- marry for you.

      Then, get her pregnant. Then, when you have a child- give them the childhood you wanted- and share it along with him/her. Volunteer to coach the T-ball team. Go on the boy scout camp-outs. Go to the zoo. Sit down and play the video game after work with them. Eat at least one meal a day with them- even if it’s a snack at the hospital. It won’t be your childhood, but it will be close. You’ll get to spend a childhood with your favorite person who loves you more than all the world. I know you can give this child every material advantage- but don’t. Give them experiential advantages. I just did a class at Christmas- what every child wanted was to do something with their parents- individually- something with mom, and then something with dad- and a new baby sibling. as well as toys- but the consistent part was something like ‘watch cartoons and eat cereal with mom” and “go fishing with dad.” For real.

      And, the dating paragraph works. I used it. My friends used it. My acquaintances have used it. I expect my kids will use it. It works. I hope you use it. You practically fit the Jane Austin—- a man in need of a wife—-thought.

      best of luck.

      ari

    76. cappergirl Says:

      love the comment by sandman! thanks for shedding light on the idea that people may have different definitions of what “success” actually is.

    77. ari Says:

      While I’m thinking about it, do you have friends? It would seem there are other doctors who are from the same background, and in the same lonely position, without a clue on how to get out. You want the forced social advice? Here goes:

      1. Each week have lunch with a person from a different department than your own. Listen, be pleasant and funny, ask questions. This is just lunch. Find out a few of their good points. this includes hospital management and family practice. They know some things that you don’t, you know things they don’t.

      2. Find the other 40 something doctors in your dilemma- and have a dinner once a month. Consciously mix races, so you don’t turn into your mothers and fathers and one up each other. Consciously say “This is to share what we’ve learned.” Decide on if it’s a presentation, or a roundtable presentation, whatever. Don’t have the time? Have your assistant set it up. Pick a average nice- enough restaurant. Ask for a group rate and a meeting room.

      3. Consider learning a sport. Do so with one or two other people from your background. You don’t know if you like something until you try it, even a little bit. Hire a teacher. You are used to be good, and getting instruction. Why bother winging it now? Give each sport a few months- like, six for something you don’t completely hate. If all of you are sportsless growing up, you won’t feel like garbage if you are all bad. Six months later, switch.

      4. Work on introducing all the people you’ve met to each other. In your intro, state two or three good things, that the other person would be interested in, in that person. A good intro goes really far. They might all end up better friends with each other than you ( risk you run) but they will all like you.

      5. After all this, consider sponsoring a mixer with the new docs coming in, and the older docs like you. I have no idea if you want the drunken barn dance, or a serious dinner reviewing things you’ve learned.

      6. If you don’t know people, you know that the hospital management does, and the managers are all the dorks who partied through college, and flunked med school. So they do know how to mix and match people.

      7. Really work on recommending people around. And, well, can you be helpful to them in some way- even if it’s the name of a preschool, or something like where you bought a belt…..

      8. consider attending a church, just for the sunday school. just a thought- they tend to be really nice people.

      9. In other words,help yourself by helping others, and going along for the ride. You’ll end up beloved and at the center of everything. It’s a good place to be.

      10. All of this is how yankee traders and southern belles ended up connecting everyone, and building America. You can do it. It’s not a big secret. If you want a secret handshake- go ahead, invent one. Nobody’s stopping you.

      and

      11. If you treat your mom with compassion, she’ll be easier to ignore- at least the voice in your head might get quieted.

      ari

    78. Lexington Green Says:

      Sandman:

      Everyone (almost) I know who is in their 40s thinks they screwed up and did the wrong thing in life.

      Everyone sees the past and thinks, I should have done this or that differently.

      They see what other people are doing and say, I should have done that instead.

      Most of the people who think that are not board certified physicians.

      You can provide for yourself, and do a lot of good for a lot of people and make the world a better place with your skills.

      That is better than most people.

      Your parents loved you and wanted the best for you and did what they understood to be best.

      No one looks back on their parents’ handling and says, wow, perfect job Mom and Dad.

      As a parent myself, I see that more clearly than ever.

      Love them anyway.

      Life is good.

      The past is over.

      It is only a prison if you let it be.

      Decide to be happy, starting today.

      (And Ari’s tips sound pretty good.)

    79. TangoMan Says:

      Tom Holsinger,

      There was another aspect to the Japanese response to the earthquake which had nothing to do with “running to battlestations” and that was the self-organizing that occurred all around the striken city. You even had the Yakuza taking initiative and delivering supplies and the civil authorities didn’t assign that responsibility to the Yakuza. People lined up, people assumed command, people assumed subordinate positions, there was order, stores opened up and distributed supplies, all without a top-down hierarchical command structure. That’s TEAMWORK and self-initiatve.

      Your reference to group responses to the Katrina hurricane leads me to suspect your error on Kyoto was not innocent. The dramatic behavioral differences between lower-class urban black Americans and other American ethnicities, including working class and middle class blacks, comes into play here, in particular that the former exhibit sociopathic group behavior.

      You don’t get to redefine the terms of the debate. The thesis here is that American culture imparts a teamwork ethos. Lower class people are Americans. Urban black people are Americans. Where was the teamwork ethos in the Katrina disaster? We know by looking at the Kyoto disaster that the spontaneous rise of cooperation and teamwork most certainly can arise in a disaster setting, so the fact that it didn’t spontaneously arise in the Katrina aftermath pretty effectively falsifies Shannon’s hypothesis that teamwork is some unique feature of the American experience.

      TangoMan: And yet it is China that has been going through the most rapid changes of late.
      Shannon Love: Not culturally.

      What is culture when it is isolated apart from its measurable effects? You’re pointing to American culture and the value of teamwork and claiming that they produce good or better outcomes. I pointed to the outcomes in China. There are significant changes taking place there. The people have to operate in an environment of rapid change. You claimed that “American culture evolved to adapt to change.” Well, it seems that the Chinese culture isn’t doing too badly either.

      In terms of Chinese culture not changing rapidly, there is plenty of evidence that it is. Higher workforce participation rates by women, changing sex role expectations, changing relationships with respect to parental care. Sure, they’re not yet at the same level as those of the West on these metrics but they are certainly in transition, so this too points to another falsification of one of the premises underlying your hypothesis.

      Louisiana is a cultural outlier within America.

      OK, so now you’re invoking the No True Scotsman fallacy in order to cling to your hypothesis. Fine. A hypothesis isn’t really valuable if every time it is falsified an exception to the rule is invoked. This method insures that nothing can ever falsify the hypothesis.

    80. Tom Holsinger Says:

      Tangoman,

      Your failure to mention THE most remarkable fact about the Kyoto earthquake, which got much attention in the emergency management community, undermined the factual basis for your post at issue. You ignored the elephant in the living room.

      Viewed in the most charitable light, the culturally idiosyncratic, if not unique, initial reaction of so many of Kyoto’s Japanese population in refusing to heed the earthquake drill training obeyed by all non-Japanese was a flaming datum about the unwisdom of comparisons between Japanese behavior and those of other cultures in disasters. It makes such comparisons suspect absent a cautionary admonition about culture-specific behavior, and drawing of attention to the peculiar behavior of Kyoto’s Japanese population in refusing to evacuate even dangerously crumbling dwellings.

      Then you firmly established that this omission was not inadvertent. The great majority of the population of New Orleans evacuated immediately prior to the impact of Hurricane Katrina. Almost everyone who wanted to get out did get out. The ones who didn’t simply were not a valid sample of the behavior of ANY cultural or ethnic group save the American black urban underclass.

      You knew that use of such a group to generalize about the behavior of ordinary Americans was invalid and used it anyway. And you failed to note that you were comparing such a socially impaired group in New Orleans with the complete mass of a city’s population in Kyoto.

      You used knowingly misleading data to prove your point. This was lethal to your credibility.

    81. ari Says:

      Why are citing New Orleans about anything American? New Orleans was a Spanish/ French possession. It’s physical plant- the buildings, the map, th “French Quarter” look nothing at all like the rest of America for a reason.It didn’t willingly join the Union- it was sold. The English came in- and set up “uptown.” The Irish came in, and settled on the “Irish Channel.” The germans and sicilians came in. Haitians came in. Slaves came in. None of them mixed- not even at church. There are guidebooks for you to find your right church- former slave, Haitian, French, German- all catholic, none mixed. They weren’t geographically mixed. They didn’t mix at school- they set up private parochial schools-and the public schools are for the dregs of society. And, you know what, the public schools didn’t teach. It’s a plantation society, even at the public school level: there are two high- level public schools- both magnets- there’s a third magnet that was a majority jewish school that is now a magnet for black kids, basically. This school has graduated a valedictorian who was not literate. The other schools simply don’t even try to teach the kids to read. I’ve sat in a high school classroom there where one child- a transfer from another state- is the only literate student in the class. C-A-T was too much for these kids. The schools that have students like that- are being shut down by NCLB. For all its flaws- it did find out the sins of the failing schools.

      And, this is in left-wing publications, so I’m not being politically right- New Orleans was the most settled city in the nation- least in- migration, least inter-marriage with outsiders- least geographic churn. There are maps listing how near everyone in the city was within five blocks of the entire rest of their extended family. Michael Lewis writes about people who live in a house with their grandparents on one side, and the other grandparents on the other- and that was considered normal. New Orleans did not at any point join in the vast geographic churning that characterizes most Americans.

      Picking on New Orleans as normative is about the same as insisting that b/c the Amish eschew electricity- Americans using flashlights and the internet are anomalous.

    82. ari Says:

      While I’m at it- the amish use buggies. That makes General Motors un- American? Just checking.

    83. TangoMan Says:

      You knew that use of such a group to generalize about the behavior of ordinary Americans was invalid and used it anyway.

      It’s not invalid just because you say so. Again, you don’t get to redefine the hypothesis to your liking. The hypothesis was that American culture imparts a teamwork ethic into its citizens and that Asian cultures do not and that this behavioral feature explains outcomes. If Shannon wants to modify his hypothesis so that it excludes the black underclass of Pre-Katrina New Orleans he’s free to do so. Until then that population segment qualifies as American and they failed the teamwork test that we witnessed in Grand Forks, Kyoto and other disasters. When he carves out an exception I’ll take another look and search for another exception to his revised hypothesis. This is how hypotheses are tested.

    84. Lexington Green Says:

      New Orleans is well known as atypical. It’s underclass was known to be particularly bad.

      Katrina did more damage in Mississippi, but society did not collapse. Same event, worse material impact, much less severe consequences.

      The Katrina episode is not a very strong counter-example to Shannon’s generalization.

    85. Tim P Says:

      Teamwork is highly overrated. Behind any team there most always is an individual. A star individual, a leader, a doer. I am coming from software engineering background and know that software is written by one or two individuals who drive, map, and “pioneer” the whole thing. The “team” is a necessary baggage and helps them achieve their goal faster. The team members need to be directed, babysat and handhold every step of the way. Without that the team will go whichever direction. I noticed the same thing while studying in an American College. Teachers would require most of the work done in teams. That never worked well. There always were one or two individuals who wanted to succeed, they wanted to do the work and they did it. The rest “team members” where there just for the ride. They were happy that someone were doing the job. Because of these two highly personal experiences (one in academia, one in the workplace) I would say that the notion of “teamwork” is highly overrated and is probably (my opinion) used as a good instrument in fostering patriotism. For it is very convenient to be used in an effort to build up positive feelings of a great nation. It does help people feel more secure and does bring up warm positive feelings in any American citizen. I have nothing against teamwork, but think that the model is a misnomer, since there are always one or two “star” individuals who drive the effort.

    86. The Foreigner Says:

      Perhaps I missed it, but I don’t think too many have mentioned opportunity costs in this discussion. A society composed solely of mothers such as Chua will be a society with an overabundance of second and third-rate classical pianists.

      And have a deficit of world-class athletes and actors.

      (Having lived in Taiwan, I’m not 100% in agreement with what you’ve said about the country. But that’s a pretty minor point.)

    87. Trent Telenko Says:

      TangoMan said:

      >How did children raised on farms in 1680 Boston learn teamwork?
      >Or 1850 Pittsburgh?

      Have you every heard about this thing called the Militia?

      Or America’s Militia tradition?

      Does the name Paul Revere (Boston Silver Smith, 1774) ring a bell?

      Have you bothered to look at the on-line lists of volunteer Civil War Infantry, Artillery & Cavalry companies, batteries and regiments raised in Pittsburgh?

      Hint:

      http://www.pa-roots.com/pacw/cavalry/cavalrynew.html
      http://www.pa-roots.com/pacw/artillery/artillerynew.html
      http://www.pa-roots.com/pacw/infantry/paregimentsnew.html

      TangoMan, you are suffering from a Michael Bellesiles intellectual moment.

    88. ari Says:

      yep. there are stars. they don’t necessarily have to do the crap=work. and the people around them learn how to be a star. and maybe, sometimes, they decide to step up.

      you can’t have an all- star team.there’s a psychologist/sociologist who studied that. there were four man houses on campus. there was the leader, the jock, the joker, the hanger=on. they said “what about an all-star group?” So they moved people around, and the four all-stars became…..a leader, a jock, a joker and a hanger-on. There are not- quantifiable skills they bring to the table, sort of like social multi-vitamins.

      I think about this, alot. My job for a long time was facilitating my boss. I didn’t look like I was doing anything, just listening, and sometimes making weak jokes to the staff- but he was able to manage three disparate companies he owned. I left, and he was down to one within six weeks. Plus, boyfriends- they’d get a promotion within six months, or begin their own company. Guys would bring resumes to my job, to petition to date me. The guy I married- in grad school within six months. He says he did it- but he’d wanted it for ten years- and then I show up, and hold his hand. I left the guy who got to interview for top CEO of a public company- I was bored at that point. He’d started in the middle, and had had a promotion every year. I wanted kids, and I wanted the guy who could give me children worth thirty years of my life, my figure, and presumably my career.

      Personally, I’m a fan of ambitious moms. Chua has my respect. I just have bigger plans than piano recitals. It takes thirty to forty years to hit fruition of a first ambition, and I want my kids to keep going for a whole, effective century. Norman Borlaug is my ideal- more people alive and well- fed b/c of him, than anybody in the 20th century. But- they have to have that internal engine and drive. It’s about a ten year period of brilliance. I can have that while they play the donkey song, or I can have it when they are thirty, and can really make things happen. The guy who did Three Cups of Tea- a goober up until he found his engine- but he has life experience, and that internal well of joy. The boys feast on documentaries about world conquerors- god bless the history channel. Ten years in the Navy Seals would rock. Med school would be good for the older one. I’m teaching the younger one what I know about engineering companies. What I don’t know- I’m honest.

      and, really, part of my job was taking miserable, lonely people and coaching them into social happiness. I had to do things like insist one guy join the company softball team. He thought he had a different problem- but he needed softball first. another guy was told to eat breakfast with his pregnant wife. a third- the wife was told to go spend $1,000 of her husband’s money- the same he’d spent on strippers- and what store to go to. When he got the bill- she had his full attention for what needed to be said. At my last job, one of the final things for the boss was a schedule for a date for a weekend, including menus. Weird, but effective.

      ari

    89. Esther Says:

      Having just returned to the USA after seven years in China where my work was entirely in education I have concluded that the Chinese system of education is not superior to the USA’s. The Chinese are desperate to develop “creative, innovative learners”–their words, and yet they cannot break the mold into which they have been poured–lecture and regurgitation which results in making excellent test takers. And all who are innovative and creative and do not memorize well still fall to the wayside with their 85%-90% grades, and the society is the poorer for it. The Chinese know this but for fear of the one way by which they can enter the university (the Gao Kao) they hang on to old ways, which in their own words turns out great test results, but poor life learners. So many who have finished university with the highest grades still feel “stupid”. Why? Because they do not know how to think logically, how to problem solve, how to organize their life. The Chinese themselves report that not only are there growing numbers of students seeking admission to American universities, but there are increasing numbers seeking admission to American high schools to make sure their students are ready to study the way that American students learn to study-independently, creatively and innovatively.

      Another thing that I learned working in China is that Communism does not build “community”. It builds a kind of cut throat competiveness. Students, professors, in fact noone really trusts another person with ones ideas, thoughts, creative desires. This diminshes true team work, colaborative learning and innovation which is so necessary for maintaining a dynamic culture.

      We don’t need to compare test outcomes with China. We have our weaknesses, they have their strengths, but Heaven forbid that we should ever seek to copy them or exchange what we have for what they don’t want to have. If parents here raised our children in the same pressure cooker atmosphere which they do, and which they constantly deplore, we too would have straight A students who cannot solve life problems on their own, who don’t dare to speak up for fear of being put down like the proverbial nail, who don’t know what is happening in the rest of the world–unless it is on a test–and then they would know exactly what all the other students know and no more.

      I’ll go with the free wheeling, often chaotic but creative education system we have here and work to improve it, but never exchange it.