In order to understand my post please read Amy Chua’s arguing why Chinese mothers are superior. Only after you are done please read my reply.
Chinese mothers are not superior Amy and here’s why.
Jewish Americans are more successful than Chinese Americans and therefore are “superior” in Amy Chua’s terminology (an absurdity of course). Here’s a link to an example of pure Jewish chauvinism that gives you a sense of how Jewish Americans who are only 2% of the population and Jewish people who are only 1 in 500 in the planet fare. Please only read this if you are not Jewish.
But never mind the debate. Amy Chua’s kids get superiority from both parents because Amy Chua is married to a Jewish American. For some reason however, he gets no credit as a father in the story of the two daughters education. This is wrong both from a moral point of view but also from a sociological point of view: Amy Chua’s conclusions are based on a sample of only two, and this sample is biased by the presence of a Jewish father. This father has contributed Jewish parenting which is very different from Chinese mothering and probably a good balancing act to what I see as an unnecessary brutal style that could very well backfire. Indeed China is the country in the world with the highest female suicide rate and the only country in which women commit suicide at a higher rate than men. That in itself would make Chinese mothers sadly not superior at one thing, facing adversity.
Now my credentials. I am a Jewish father of 4 kids ages 20 to 4 with the two eldest at Columbia University and NYU. As a Jewish father I can say that we are very different from Chinese mothers. Here are some highlights of what I would call Jewish parenting.
-we work jointly with mothers, both parents are very involved with the kids education, even in case of divorced and remarried parents such as mine.
-we never call our kids “garbage”, on the contrary, as the term JAP implies, for us they are….royalty. We spoil them, but it works. Our kids are the best simply because they are.
-we are our kids number one fans. We bore others with stories of how bright our kids are.
-if they get a bad grade we go and fight it out with the teacher. Jewish kids may get better grades because teachers are tired of dealing with their parents. We don’t do this to break the rules, we do it because we are truly convinced our kids are the next Einsteins and the teachers are just blind. Once my daughter Isabella got a D and I went to tell her Math teacher that no Varsavsky had ever gotten a D in Math, that my father was a PhD in astrophysics from Harvard, and whatever it took to make a point. While the British lady did not change her mind that time I think she got the message as that was the one and only D that we got as a family.
-we look for originality in our kid’s thinking, we want our kids to be funny, to come up with unexpected solutions to problems, to be almost irreverent. When they talk back we are secretly happy that they have a personality of their own. We rarely punish them. Instead we are quiet when we disapprove and celebrate their merits.
-we want them to be liked and appreciated by their friends, their peers, we want them to have a social life, to fall in love. When they are unhappy we suffer.
I could go on but I think you see where I am headed. And by the way, being a Jewish parent is also an attitude or culture and has little to do with religion. While I celebrate the Jewish holidays I believe that the world as described by the Bible is most likely imaginary. But it is a good Jewish story.
And in any case there is no such thing as being a Chinese parent or a Jewish parent or any parent as such. I am arguing in favor of being a nice, empathic, supportive parent, anyone can be that and I am sure many Chinese parents would be opposed, as I was, at Amy’s style of raising her daughters, no need to be Jewish!
My answer is also on Quora.
This morning I read that most Muslims believe that 9/11 was a conspiracy created by the US government to justify the invasion of Iraq. This worried me. How could the majority of Muslims be so wrong?
But then I thought that the US government and some EU countries did lie to invade Iraq. They lied about the weapons of mass destruction conspiracy and the connections between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.
So if I were debating with any of those Muslims who believe that 9/11 was an excuse to invade Iraq, I would have to say “9/11 was not a US/Israeli conspiracy, there is tremendous irrefutable evidence that it was a terrorist attack perpetrated by Saudi terrorists and led by Osama Bin Laden”. And that part is true.
But then I would have to explain other painful truths. I would have to admit that we invaded Iraq despite knowing that neither the 9/11 terrorists nor the WMD where there. That in our countries we created the false impression that Saddam was behind 9/11 and that many believe this lie now. And this is one weak side of the debate.
If we can create conspiracies about WMD and “muslim terrorism” as if all Muslims act together (Saddam=Osama=Ahmadinejad), attack and destroy the wrong country (Iraq), torture their citizens, post pictures of how we torture them in Abu Ghraib, take some to Guantanamo and approve their torture, share the blame in the killing of 25 times more innocent civilians than those who died in 9/11 and admit to use white phosphorous (chemical weapon) attacking Fallujah; if we can commit such human right atrocities, why is it so far fetched that most Muslims believe that 9/11 was perpetrated by US and Israel in order to invade Iraq and control the second largest oil reserves in the world?
Moreover, in this Wikipedia entry you will be surprised to find out that one third of Americans actually AGREE with the majority of Muslims. They also believe in 9/11 conspiracy theories even though 2% of Americans are Muslims.
Can our argument just be “yes, we do horrible things but not precisely the horrible things you believe we do”? My hope is that, during this decade, we will truly gain the high moral ground against terrorism and cooperate with moderate Muslims to erradicate Muslim extremism without violating human rights in the region. In the end, terrorism is an industry that feeds on angry young men. We have to make it much harder for Muslim terrorists to recruit. As we have been behaving over the last 10 years, it is not surprising that terrorism has greatly increased since 9/11.
How can a country obsessed with privacy as Germany come up with a national identity card system with RFIDs? One of the only ways to preserve privacy is anonymity but with a requirement to go anywhere with these new IDs it is very difficult to be anonymous. This is not just a German problem by the way. Same is the case in other European countries including Spain. An employee of mine spent 3 days in jail for not having her ID in Madrid. I interview her in this video. In any case, the same country that comes up with that national ID also has leading magazine, Stern, writing extremely negative articles about how Google invades privacy. I chose Stern as an example but when I ran companies in Germany for example we could not outsource our customer care because we were not allowed to pass customer information to the customer care centers if we did not own them. This added a lot of costs to our operations all for the sake of privacy. And this was not telemarketing, this was technical support. Privacy concerns in Europe many times clash with the normal functioning of the Internet and technology business. I guess the main difference between Continental Europe and USA in this matter is that Europeans have tremendous faith in government and do not consider their actions as invasive of privacy. For Americans government is one more potential invader privacy. Personally I think that there are more people now who prefer to share than to be private but if you do want privacy it is better not to be online and to be out and about in places where people do not know who you are. In my case I am just the opposite. From this blog on I sign everything I do online and in real life.
The Avian flu is so far not that dangerous, because birds give it to birds, rarely to humans and when humans get it so far they don´t spread it to other humans. Now, if they did, the first and most important preventive measure will be isolation. If we all retreat to the privacy of our homes there will be a much lesser chance for the virus to spread. For those of us who, without the Avian flu, already spend a significant part of the day online, retreating to our homes won´t be hard. We will chat with our friends, use web cams, listen to music, watch movies, blog, etc. So long as we have the internet, seclusion won´t be too harsh. Now for those who are not active on the internet, isolation will be harder to put up with. I read somewhere that AIDS does not reach North African because Muslims, as opposed to Sub Saharans, practice circumcision. Maybe the same will be true for net surfers. We on the net will be fine in isolation, we will be the North Africans. Those off the net, the Sub Saharans, have a much greater probability of getting infected.
Originating off the tip of Africa, hurricanes often flood various parts of the US; sometimes Miami, now New Orleans. In Europe, “hurricanes” are merely very heavy rains. In 2002, Prague was greatly affected by the flooding caused from excessive downpour. You can see there is a striking difference.
When a hurricane occurs in America, news coverage tells not only of the damage caused by the rains, but also of the simultaneous destruction caused by the people of the cities these natural disasters affect! Namely uncontrolled looting is referenced time and time again during these times of crisis.
In Europe, when there is news of rain damage, there is never reference to looting, murders, or any of the atrocities that are happening right now in New Orleans. Interestingly, when the Tsunami hit South East Asia less than year ago, the news was also of death by nature. There was no mention of uncontrolled rioting and looting. Even rival factions in Sri Lanka ceased fighting during the tragedy. The question(s) I am trying to answer now is why these two reactions to natural disasters are not only on opposite sides of the globe but on opposite ends of the spectrum? Why is it that in America looting happens after blackouts or natural tragedies whilst in Europe and Asia focus is seemingly on humanitarian outreach alone?
We have all heard about plate tectonics, the theory that explains how the crust of the earth is divided into moving parts that crash causing earthquakes along its edges. What this theory says is that the earth is made of seven large plates and many small plates that move in different directions in three different ways: they converge, diverge, or transform (as they crash). While this may be purely a coincidence, it appears to me that human beings, in their evolution, have also developed cultural tectonic plates. If we divided the world in “cultural tectonic plates” meaning groups of people linked by language, religion, politics, history or what we define as culture, we would also have seven major cultural plates and some smaller ones. These seven plates would be:
Nature vs nurture. I tend to side with the Nurture side. In general, I believe that education and overall upbringing play a very important role in the personality and skills of most individuals. But in the case of at least a certain type of sexual orientation, given my experience over here in the South Pacific, I have my doubts. Here´s the observation.
Since we arrived in French Polynesia we had 11 dinners in 9 different restaurants. In all of the 9 restaurants waiters were either women or extremely effeminate men. Intrigued about this I asked around and was told that in this part of the world the only men who want to become waiters are the “mahu” or men raised as women. Other men do all sorts of jobs around the hotel, they are gardeners, they carry luggage, they are managers, they steer boats, but they are not waiters, which in Polynesia is considered a job for women only. And what are the mahu? Well they are men who, while dressing and looking as men, behave as women. They walk as women, have high pitched voices, they are men who seem to show you that there´s something radically different not only about men and women´s bodies but about gender behavior as well, and that you can have the body of a man and the behavior of a woman. Now what I find hard to believe is that these men are like this because they were “raised as women”. Is it nurture or is it nature? Are they raised as women or is it that from the time they are very little that´s what they want to be and they are raised accordingly? Aren´t the polynesians on to something that is better, namely accepting sexual orientation early on? Aren´t we in the West forcing would be Western mahus to be men as much as we used to force lefties to be right handed?