January 16, 2014

Amy Chua enters Jenny McCarthy Hall of Infamy

Per the History News Network, her new book, which I had heard about on NPR, is utter quackery, a mix of Social Darwinism and blatant racial stereotypes. Hence my header.

A Tweet on that page gives you the snark to justify that header:
Tiger Mom: Some races are just better http://t.co/qx1ZQZZoir - Dear Amy Chua & Jed Rubenfeld, the 1920s called and want their theories back
How so?

Here's a bit longer version, including about her racialist claims:
The author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which celebrated the superiority of Chinese American parenting styles, is set to publish a follow-up book in February. Co-authored with her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America appears to be more of the same, expanding her cultural determinist argument, which imagined Chinese parenting as both superior and a pathway to inevitable success, to now include seven more groups (Jewish, Indian, Chinese, Iranian, Lebanese-Americans, Nigerian, Cuban exiles, and Mormons), whose success is attributable to their possessing the requisite values and cultural attributes. The selected groups, all of whom are immigrant groups, the selective grouping (only Cuban exiles; Lebanese-American but Nigerians), the lack of intersectional analysis, not too mention the dehistoricizing, reveals a flawed premise at its face.
Yeah, the idea that a certain group of exiles became geniuses for and upon leaving Cuba, the idea that Nigerian immigrants to the US are somehow smarter than other modern African immigrants, the idea that Lebanese-Americans are brilliant compared to Syrian-Americans? All wrong. (By the way, Amy, a century ago, racialists such as Charles Davenport thought Ashkenazi Jews were idiots.) 

And, more on the idea that Lebanese immigrants magically outperform Syrian ones? That Nigerian immigrants outperform others from Africa? She ignores an obvious discriminatory element: Most the Nigerian and Lebanese immigrants are Christian, the others Muslim.

Her own people were the subject of racial stereotypes in the U.S. 150 years ago, too. Indeed, in American, per James W. Loewen's detailed book, "Sundown Towns," the first sundown town in the U.S. was anti-Chinese, Rock Springs, Wyo., in 1868, and not anti-black.

Anyway, given the pull quotes above, you don't need to read the book unless you're really desperate for a healthy dose of pure-on pseudoscience. (That said, given Skeptic magazine's past history with genetic-based racialists Vince Sarich and Frank Miele, I'm curious what sort of review Michael Shermer's gang gives to the book.)

Also more seriously? Yes, Chua is Chinese and not Japanese, but some of the Japanese-American critiques from within its own culture as well as outside of the "model minority" trope should give her pause, one would think,

One other observation? Given that Chua is a professor at Harvard, this once again illustrates that the only guaranteed return from a Harvard education on a resume is an easy entree into the lifestyles of the elite. Her book on hyperpowers, as she calls them, claiming tolerance for minorities was the reason for their success, also seems thin soup.

Finally, per the header? If we can have annual Darwin Awards, we can have a Jenny McCarthy Hall of Infamy for pseudoscience whoppers. Last I checked, things like sociology and cultural anthropology were sciences of some sort.

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