Saturday, June 18, 2011

Responding to the Tiger Mom

Amy Chua, The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

This is a hard book to analyze.
Chua is right that her daughters could not have achieved the level of excellence that they did if she had not pushed them very hard. What she does not offer any real account of is why she chose those things – piano, violin, and schoolwork (content never addressed) – as the kinds of excellences to insist on. She says her acid test that Chinese parenting is best is the reverence that Chinese adults have for their parents. But she admits that this only works when it does.

Chinese motherhood works best when motherhood is the mother’s only job. How she sustained her demanding career while investing in these insane levels of watching and pushing her kids is hard to understand. I don’t know how she had enough hours.

She says what she likes about the violin and classical music is that is hard, has clear high standards, and offers control. It is not clear why she disdains sports, which is what most demanding Western parents focus on. It is not clear to me why it does not occur to her to focus the same attention on the intellectual subjects that any member of her family – herself, her husband, or her father, most obviously – made a career of. Her sister appears to have approached her career with full attention, which is a counterpart of her father’s career.

I think Chua does not take her own intellectual work with the same seriousness that she takes her daughter’s music. She only mentions her books as an angle for a successful career that would have her at the same place as her husband. She never mentions her teaching, and only barely mentions her students.

I think the hidden critical edge of this book is that she thinks brilliant Western academics – her peers, teachers, and competitors – fail if they merely succeed in their careers, but do not have hugely successful and obedient children. She seems to assume that Western kids will be lame. She gives us tantalizing hints that her career is, in fact, successful – which she passes off with admirable Western casualness – around the edges of how hard she works on her children.

This is why I want the tiger mom to make a case for why this content – any content – is worth that level of insane intensity and unpleasant social relations.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Big-Spending Men Not Seen as Good Husband Material

Women view flashy spending men as good for a fling, but not for a husband.

This is not so surprising - I am glad to have the study, by Jill Sundie, confirming it.

What surprised me about the Live Science story on this study was that they thought the right question to ask was whether men view flashy spending women as good for a fling. They don't.

The right question, I think, is whether men view sexually displaying women as good for a fling, but not for a wife.

I think I know the answer to that question.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Teen Deflowering Doubles the Divorce Rate

Half the girls who have sex before they turn 18 are divorced within ten years.

Only a quarter of those who wait are divorced within ten years.

(From Anthony Pauk's study. The nuances are interesting, but the headline is really gripping.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Exuberance Binds Us In Marriage

One of Kay Jamison's central ideas in Exuberance is that emotions are the glue of society, and the happy emotions bind us the most. She extends this idea down to the thickest and most important of cultural bonds, held together by the most powerful of happy emotions:

Exuberance attracts and then bonds animal to animal; in doing so, it helps create the emotional ties necessary not only for communities to thrive but for potential breeding pairs to commit genes and energy to mate, reproduce, and raise young together.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why Do Males Fight the Dragon?

'Cause chicks dig it. [Fish version]

Guppies, even, show a range of intrepidness. Most, sensibly, will keep their distance when placed near larger fish. A fearless and curious few males, however, will swim toward a potential predator. Not surprisingly, they are more likely to be eaten, but those who are not prove to be more attractive mates to the surviving female guppies. Trepidation cuts both ways.

Kay Redfield Jamison, Exuberance: The Passion for Life

Monday, June 13, 2011

Gratitude as High Thought

I ran across this wonderful sentiment from G.K. Chesterton:

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Powerful Women Rarely Have Sex Scandals

Why don't women politicians have nearly as many sex scandals as men?

A New York Times article on this subject offers two interesting points.

“The shorthand of it is that women run for office to do something, and men run for office to be somebody,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

Men are more likely to view the sexual opportunities that come from power as a fruit of the "somebody" they have become, rather than as an obstacle to the "something" they want to do.

Second, Dee Dee Meyers, who survived the Bill Clinton sex scandal when she was his press secretary, says that men in power feel invincible.

I connect this idea with Susan Pinker's contention that women, no matter how powerful, are more likely to feel like imposters.

This makes me expect that men ease up on their self-control as they become more powerful, whereas women increase their self-control as they become more powerful. This increased self-control would explain why women in power as so much less likely to engage in scandalous sex. And because power requires increasing vigilance for women, but not for men, that would contribute to why fewer women than men are willing to seek power in the first place.