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Sloth Dad versus Tiger Mother

The Spectator compares the view of social mobility seen in The Triple Package (by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld) with that in The Son Also Rises (by Gregory Clark)

Read the full book review "Oh no. Have I let my children have too much self-esteem?" by Toby Young. He opines:

"Two new books have been published recently on the thorny issue of social mobility, one optimistic, suggesting various things parents can do to maximise their children’s chances of success, the other pessimistic, concluding that a child’s fate is more or less sealed at birth. Paradoxically, the optimistic book is incredibly depressing, while the pessimistic one is quite reassuring..."

On Chua and Rubenfeld:

"The message is essentially the same as Chua’s previous book, The Battle Cry of the Tiger Mother, which is that if you want your child to do well you have to duplicate the kind of upbringing Chua had at the hands of her Chinese immigrant parents. First, you must instil them with a sense of ethnic or religious pride — in Chua’s case, her parents told her that their civilisation was greater than any other. Second, drum into them that unless they work hard and do well they’ll bring shame upon their families and, ultimately, their tribe. Third, use every opportunity to teach them the benefits of delayed gratification...."

"It’s hard for a white, middle-class parent like me to read The Triple Package without being overcome with a sense of ennui. Clearly, I’ve done absolutely everything wrong. As I write, my four children are slumped in front of the television watching Jack The Giant Slayer, having spent no longer than ten minutes doing their homework — a nightly ritual that is so painful I will soon abandon it and just hand them their smartphones as soon as they come back from school. No doubt Amy Chua’s daughter will soon be giving piano recitals in concert halls in Vienna, while my own struggles to get beyond the Chopsticks phase."

On Clark:

"But all is not lost, according to Gregory Clark, the author of The Son Also Rises. Clark has carried out a study of inter-generational social mobility in England, America, Sweden, India and China going back eight centuries and concludes that there’s not much parents can do to improve their children’s prospects. Clark’s data shows that there’s very little social mobility anywhere in the world — yes, even Scandinavia — and it doesn’t vary from country to country or epoch to epoch."

"Clark doesn’t come right out and say it, but the implication of his research is that social status, like hair colour and IQ, is largely an inherited trait. That is, parents don’t pass on their status to their children via cultural practices, such as the ones singled out for praise by Chua and Rubenfeld, but through their genes."

"Clark is a liberal and wants people to draw the conclusion that any unequal distribution of wealth is iniquitous. After all, if status is hereditary, then a meritocratic society is no fairer than an aristocratic one. But I’ve come to a different conclusion, namely, that it doesn’t matter how much Hollywood schlock my children watch, they’ll still turn out OK. After reading The Triple Package, that’s mightily reassuring."

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