Tiger Mom Amy Chua offers solutions to America’s toxic political tribalism

Incredibly shallow commentary, largely divorced from the extreme political polarization in the USA and the various players in stoking such polarization:

Despite a dangerous torrent of toxic partisanship, America’s undergirding values remain exceptional and can be leveraged to overcome the tribalism threatening it, “Tiger Mom” and Yale law professor Amy Chua said Tuesday at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

Chua staked out an independent, centrist and optimistic position while she scolded divisive voices on the American right and left. Her talk was the sixth and final BYU forum of the school year on “Creating the Beloved Community.”

She earned applause for her praise of the pluralistic benefits of the missionary program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which sponsors BYU. The crowd of 1,834 in the Marriott Center also gave her a final standing ovation.

“America is changing,” she said. “There’s no going back. We are in a period of renegotiating and rediscovering our collective identity. We are struggling to arrive at a national identity that is capacious enough to resonate with and hold together as one people Americans of all sorts — old and young, immigrants and native born, urban and rural, descendants of slaves as well as descendants of slave owners.”

“I think,” she added, “we all need to be much more protective of American’s special national identity, and this is a lesson that both the left and right need to take to heart.”

Chua said the United States alone among world superpowers fits her definition of a supergroup. The term denotes a country with a strong, overarching national identity that simultaneously allows for strong, smaller subgroup identities based on ethnicity, religion, linguistics or race.

“The fact that as a constitutional matter, our national identity is ethnically and religiously neutral makes the United States as a country uniquely equipped to overcome the challenges of political tribalism,” she said. “Having said that, we are at a perilous moment.”

Still, she found room for optimism while she spoke in front of four screens depicting a blue sky with a U.S. flag backlit by a bright sun.

She said tribalism is hard-wired in human biology, that once people connect, they cling to and protect that connection. Tribalism can lead to unconscious bias and memory distortion and lends itself to schadenfreude — pleasure at the missteps or misfortune of others.

She outlined three reasons the United States is experiencing toxic division between its political tribes.

The first is a vast demographic transformation that will result in a nonwhite majority by 2050, according to U.S. census estimates.

“As a result in America today, every group feels threatened,” Chua said. “It’s not just the minorities anymore who feel threatened. Whites feel threatened. Over half of white Americans feel that they are now subject to more discrimination than minorities. And this is not just a Republican thing.”

“Studies show,” she added, “that it’s exactly when groups feel threatened, that’s when they retreat into tribalism. That’s when they close ranks, become more insular, more us-versus-them and more defensive. That’s why we are seeing a new kind of really explicit identity politics today on both sides of the political spectrum.”

On the right, she said, are openly xenophobic white nationalist movements. On the left are openly anti-white movements.

“There’s a growing number of bestselling books, and training programs right on the campus where I work, in which whites are demonized and asked to feel guilty and bad about themselves just for being white.

“The result is more and more resentment and distrust all around.”

The second and third reasons for increasing tribalism are the amplifying factor of social media and the divide between what Chua called coastal elites and working-class heartland Americans.

“Each side sees the other side as evil, un-American and not even worth talking to,” she said.

Those factors are putting tremendous strain on America’s status as a supergroup, Chua said.

“The good news is that we don’t have to choose between having a really strong, group-transcending, collective identity and multiculturalism. We can have both,” she said.

She offered what she called three concrete suggestions for America to overcome tribalism.

First, Americans on both ends of the political spectrum need to protect a strong national identity true to America’s constitutional ideals and historical values, she said.

She placed progressives on dangerous ground when they take a scorched-earth approach to American history and ideals, calling it a land of oppression founded on genocide, ideas she commonly hears at Yale.

Equally dangerous rhetoric exists on the right, she said.

“America cannot remain a supergroup if we start defining our national identity, for example, through our immigration policy in terms of whiteness, or Anglo-Protestant culture, or Christianity or any other term that is not inclusive of all colors and creeds,” Chua said. “To do so would be a movement in the direction of ethno-nationalism, away from what it is that makes us special as a nation whose identity is rooted in principles and ideas, not blood.”

Her second suggestion is to experiment with initiatives to help Americans see each other as fellow Americans, such as incentivizing American young people to spend a year serving other Americans in a different part of the country.

“We really need to do some work to bridge that deep chasm between the coasts and the heartland,” she said.

Chua held up the missionary program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an example she called inspiring.

“I understand, of course, that the Mormon mission is first and foremost an experience of religious consecration and sacred service,” she said. “But at the same time, it’s also a wonderful example and a successful example of an experience of civic engagement in which Mormons from one country, say the United States, live and interact with people from completely different ethnic, cultural and linguistic backgrounds in a way that opens one’s eyes and broadens one’s perspective.”

Her third suggestion is to improve American history and civics education.

“I think we need to think very hard about how we can teach our children U.S. history in a way that tells the truth while still conveying the idea of America as a special nation,” she said. “It is really important that we no longer teach our children a whitewashed version of American history, but I think it’s also important not to overcorrect, which I worry is what we are now doing.”

For example, she noted that hundreds of students and faculty at the University of Virginia signed a letter saying they were offended when the university’s president quoted Thomas Jefferson, the school’s founder.

“George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were slave owners, but they were also political visionaries who helped give birth to what became the most inclusive form of governance in world history,” Chua said.

Chua is the author or co-author of several books, including the international bestseller “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” “The Triple Package” and “Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations.”

Source: Tiger Mom Amy Chua offers solutions to America’s toxic political tribalism

Hambrick, Ferreira and Henderson: Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect

Much more nuanced and sophisticated analysis than the pop “triple advantage” theory of Amy Chua’s Tiger Mom’s claim that cultures blessed with ‘triple package’ get ahead in America sparks uproar:

It is therefore crucial to differentiate between the influence of genes on differences in abilities across individuals and the influence of genes on differences across groups. The former has been established beyond any reasonable doubt by decades of research in a number of fields, including psychology, biology and behavioural genetics. There is now an overwhelming scientific consensus that genes contribute to individual differences in abilities. The latter has never been established, and any claim to the contrary is simply false.

Another reason the idea of genetic inequality might make you uncomfortable is because it raises the specter of an anti-meritocratic society in which benefits such as good educations and high-paying jobs go to people who happen to be born with “good” genes. As the technology of genotyping progresses, it is not far-fetched to think that we will all one day have information about our genetic makeup, and that others may have access to this information and use it to make decisions that profoundly affect our lives. However, this concern conflates scientific evidence with how that evidence might be used — which is to say that information about genetic diversity can just as easily be used for good as for ill.

This information could just as easily be used to identify children with the least genetic potential for academic success and channel them into the best schools

Take the example of intelligence, as measured by IQ. We know from many decades of research in behavioural genetics that about half of the variation across people in IQ is due to genes. Among many other outcomes, IQ predicts success in school, and so once we have identified specific genes that account for individual differences in IQ, this information could be used to identify, at birth, children with the greatest genetic potential for academic success and channel them into the best schools. But this information could just as easily be used to identify children with the least genetic potential for academic success and channel them into the best schools. This would allow us to identifying those who are likely to face learning challenges and provide them with the support they might need. Science and policy are two different things, and when we dismiss the former because we assume it will influence the latter in a particular and pernicious way, we limit the good that can be done.

Wouldn’t it be better to just act as if we are equal, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding? That way, no people will be discouraged from chasing their dreams — competing in the Olympics or performing at Carnegie Hall or winning a Nobel Prize.

The answer is no, for two reasons. The first is that failure is costly, both to society and to individuals. Pretending that all people are equal in their abilities will not change the fact that a person with an average IQ is unlikely to become a theoretical physicist, or the fact that a person with a low level of music ability is unlikely to become a concert pianist.

It makes more sense to pay attention to people’s abilities and their likelihood of achieving certain goals, so people can make good decisions about the goals they want to spend their time, money and energy pursuing. Moreover, genes influence not only our abilities, but the environments we create for ourselves and the activities we prefer — a phenomenon known as gene-environment correlation. For example, yet another recent twin study found that there was a genetic influence on practicing music. Pushing someone into a career for which he or she is genetically unsuited will likely not work.

The second reason we should not pretend we are endowed with the same abilities is that doing so perpetuates the myth that is at the root of much inaction in society — the myth that people can help themselves to the same degree if they just try hard enough. You’re not a heart surgeon? That’s your fault for not working hard enough in school! You didn’t make it as a concert pianist? You must not have wanted it that badly. Societal inequality is thus justified on the grounds that anyone who is willing to put in the requisite time and effort can succeed and should be rewarded with a good life, whereas those who struggle to make ends meet are to blame for their situations and should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

If we acknowledge that people differ in what they have to contribute, then we have an argument for a society in which all human beings are entitled to a life that includes access to decent housing, health care and education, simply because they are human. Our abilities might not be identical, and our needs surely differ, but our basic human rights are universal.

Hambrick, Ferreira & Henderson: Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect

The Tiger Mom Effect Is Real, Says Large Study

Further to the insufferable ‘tiger mom’ and ‘triple package’ Amy Chua (see Tiger Mom’s claim that cultures blessed with ‘triple package’ get ahead in America sparks uproar), a more nuanced and interesting example of success factors that are particularly marked in certain communities by Alice Park:

That leaves the work ethic, which Hsin and Xie found accounted for almost all of the grade gap between Asian-American and white students. And that was driven by two factors, both of which have more to do with social and cultural factors than racial ones. Among the more than 5200 Asian-American and white students from two large datasets that followed them from kindergarten into high school, Asian-American students were able to take advantage of social support systems that helped to translate their effort into success. In their communities, families are surrounded by ways to enhance education – from word-of-mouth advice about the best school districts to resources like books, videos and websites, to cram schools for after-school classes. “The Tiger Mom argument neglects these social resources and forces that sustain and reinforce the work ethic,” says Hsin.

In other words, it takes a village. It also takes a culture that may have less to do with race specifically, and more to do with broader social factors such as immigration.“ Asian-American youth are more likely to attribute intellect and academic success to effort rather than innate ability,” she says. That’s a natural outgrowth of the belief that success – in school, in work, and in life — is a meritocratic commodity; the more you put in, the more you get out. When quizzed about whether they thought math skills were innate or learned, most of the white students believed it was a skill you were born with while the Asian-Americans were more likely to think it was learned, and acquired with effort.

The Tiger Mom Effect Is Real, Says Large Study | TIME.com.

Your Ancestors, Your Fate – NYTimes.com

A somewhat controversial study by Gregory Clark on how ancestry is the best predictor of success. Much more sophisticated analysis than the pop-culture Amy Chua “Triple Package” theory. Suggests greater policy modesty at the individual and governmental level:

Culture is a nebulous category and it can’t explain the constant regression of family status — from the top and the bottom. High-status social groups in America are astonishingly diverse. There are representatives from nearly every major religious and ethnic group in the world — except for the group that led to the argument for culture as the foundation of social success: white European Protestants. Muslims are low-status in much of India and Europe, but Iranian Muslims are among the most elite of all groups in America.

Family resources and social networks are not irrelevant. Evidence has been found that programs from early childhood education to socioeconomic and racial classroom integration can yield lasting benefits for poor children. But the potential of such programs to alter the overall rate of social mobility in any major way is low. The societies that invest the most in helping disadvantaged children, like the Nordic countries, have produced absolute, commendable benefits for these children, but they have not changed their relative social position.

The notion of genetic transmission of “social competence” — some mysterious mix of drive and ability — may unsettle us. But studies of adoption, in some ways the most dramatic of social interventions, support this view. A number of studies of adopted children in the United States and Nordic countries show convincingly that their life chances are more strongly predicted from their biological parents than their adoptive families. In America, for example, the I.Q. of adopted children correlates with their adoptive parents’ when they are young, but the correlation is close to zero by adulthood. There is a low correlation between the incomes and educational attainment of adopted children and those of their adoptive parents.

Your Ancestors, Your Fate – NYTimes.com.

Tiger Mom’s claim that cultures blessed with ‘triple package’ get ahead in America sparks uproar | National Post

Tiger Mom’s latest attempt to generate publicity and controversy, without a more sophisticated discussion of the factors that influence success. Clever packaging of  what she calls “the triple package” – superiority, insecurity and impulse control.

While it is no secret that different groups have overall different levels of economic success (see Table 5: Ethnic Community Specific Challenges and Table 6: Religious Group Specific Challenges), the explanations are more complex than a simple formula:

Asked about the controversy on Monday, sociologists and anthropologists said that despite its merits, the discussion of cultural difference inevitably becomes a minefield of assumptions, stereotypes and political correctness, especially when considered in the Western context.

“It should be possible to discuss cultural differences without evoking charges of racism,” said Morton Weinfeld, who holds the Chair in Canadian Ethnic Studies at McGill University.

“In my view, cultures are important and cultures can differ — otherwise, why are we discussing multiculturalism and reasonable accommodation?”

And yet that discussion quickly becomes “controversial” when groups as a whole are touted as successful, the way Ms. Chua and Mr. Rubenfeld present cultural groups in The Triple Package.

“The implication,” he said, “is that others aren’t.”

Kind of interesting that white Americans didn’t make the cut.

Tiger Mom’s claim that cultures blessed with ‘triple package’ get ahead in America sparks uproar | National Post.