Posted by: CS | January 28, 2014

What Drives Failure?

Writing in the New York Times Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld of the Yale University Law School, identify three factors that they believe account for the success of certain ethnic or religious groups in America:

The firs t is a superiority complex — a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite — insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. The third is impulse control.

Any individual, they say, from any background:

can have what we call this Triple Package of traits. But research shows that some groups are instilling them more frequently than others, and that they are enjoying greater success.

As to the sense of superiority, this may come from many sources they suggest. For example:

… every one of America’s most successful groups tells itself that it’s exceptional in a deep sense. Mormons believe they are “gods in embryo” placed on earth to lead the world to salvation; they see themselves, in the historian Claudia L. Bushman’s words, as “an island of morality in a sea of moral decay.” Middle East experts and many Iranians explicitly refer to a Persian “superiority complex.” At their first Passover Seders, most Jewish children hear that Jews are the “chosen” people; later they may be taught that Jews are a moral people, a people of law and intellect, a people of survivors.

As to the source of insecurity, being the child of immigrants is immensely helpful, they suggest:

A central finding in a study of more than 5,000 immigrants’ children led by the sociologist Rubén G. Rumbaut was how frequently the kids felt “motivated to achieve” because of an acute sense of obligation to redeem their parents’ sacrifices. Numerous studies, including in-depth field work conducted by the Harvard sociologist Vivian S. Louie, reveal Chinese immigrant parents frequently imposing exorbitant academic expectations on their children (“Why only a 99?”), making them feel that “family honor” depends on their success.

As for impulse control, they state simply:

… every one of America’s most successful groups takes a very different view of childhood, inculcating habits of discipline from a very early age — or at least they did so when they were on the rise.

What is fascinating about these claims is that exactly opposite principles are widely applied in education across the Anglosphere. Some kid has a belief in the superiority of his native European culture: obviously a nasty little racist in embryo. A boy thinks males are better at math than females: obviously a nasty little male-chauvinist sexist pig in the making. A kid thinks his acceptance by a selective entry school demonstrates intellectual superiority, heck that’s why the Brits did away with the free selective-entry  grammar schools, which had for hundreds of years provided smart kids of the lower classes a ladder for social advancement. A boy thinks a man must be prepared to bear arms to defend his rights: obviously a violence-prone militia member or Ku Kluxer in the making.

As for instilling a sense of inadequacy, forget it. Self esteem is the goal of today’s educator. No child left behind, which of course means no child to be allowed to get in front however academic or intelligent he may be, although if it’s a she, then it could be OK.

And as for impulse control, have we got a bunch of drugs for you.

From which it seems necessary to conclude that while some immigrant groups manage to shelter their children from the worst harm imposed by our vastly expensive public systems of education, our own kids are being set up to fail.

Steve Sailer’s take on Chua and Rubenfeld here.




  1. […] deride Western civilization, whether they be highly philoprogenitive Muslims settlers in Britain or Asian cultural supremacists at Yale University. Moreover, the limited capacity of America’s military has been clearly demonstrated in Iraq […]

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