Bryan Caplan  

If I Could Ask Amy Chua One Question

On My Book Wish List... Why do Depressions Occur?...
If I could ask Amy Chua one question, I'd start by quoting two passages from Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

In Passage #1, Chua describes her in-laws' parenting style:
As parents, Sy and Florence were determined to give their children the space and freedom they had been deprived of as children.  They believed in individual choice and valued independence, creativity, and questioning authority.
In Passage #2, Chua evaluates her mother-in-law's parenting style - and by extension her father-in-law's as well:
I didn't mock her, I thought to myself indignantly.  I was just protecting my daughters from a romanticized model of child-rearing doomed to failure.
My question for Chua: How can you possibly describe this model of child-rearing as "doomed to failure"?  This is the very parenting style Sy and Florence used to raise your own husband, Jed Rubenfeld.  And he grew up to be a Yale law professor and a best-selling author, just like you! 

You were raised by strict Asian parents; Jed was raised by liberal Western parents; and you're both hugely successful academics and authors.  Who would have thunk it?  Me.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (10 to date)
Steve Sailer writes:

You should have your agent get in contact with Prof. Chua's agent and brainstorm over how you two could debate on TV.

Wafa writes:

It's about the relative probabilities of success.

Also, I think Chua's tone is actually quite self-deprecating there.

Mark M writes:

Wafa: What are those relative probabilities?

SWH writes:

Chua's approach is guided by a different history, an asian history, of a very competitive world with much poverty. Our future may look more like that history than the easy world in which Chua and her (lucky) husband prospered. I am inclined to prepare my children for difficult times. When times are very good and prosperous, it matters little how prepared you are and what tools you have.

BV writes:


eccdogg writes:

"It's about the relative probabilities of success."

I don't know about you but when I read "Doomed to failure" I think she is saying one of the probabilities is zero.

ajb writes:

I'd also like to know how Bryan treats his own kids. Does he let them get away with doing no homework? Does he care whether they get good grades? Does he worry about gifted programs?
Does he spend on housing in an area with good schools? If so, why? Doesn't the work he cites suggest that there's no evidence these things matter given his and his wife's genes?

rpl writes:


Bryan talks about some of these issues at length in his recent appearance on EconTalk. The short answer is that even things that have no long-run effect can have important short-run effects. Thus, he doesn't advocate a complete lack of discipline because undisciplined children are unpleasant to be around in the here-and-now, even if they don't on average turn out any worse than well-disciplined children in the long run. I expect that good schools and gifted programs would fall into the category of things that don't matter in the long run, but make life better in the short run.

He also allows that sometimes parents need to guide children past pitfalls that they don't have the experience to avoid themselves. So, for example, I think he would agree that you shouldn't let young kids play with poison or knives. He might consider homework to fall into this category, on the grounds that doing at least the basic minimum that is expected of you at school is important in the long run, but that this isn't obvious to a child. I can't say for sure, though.

Michael writes:

Question for Bryan:

I thoroughly enjoyed your book, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids. It was great preparation for my first child, born about three weeks ago.

Right now my wife and I are struggling with the decision to switch to formula. She feels guilty about switching, but is exhausted from breastfeeding. I haven't been able to find any convincing studies either way that accurately control for demographics and test for long-term rather than short-term effects. From your book, I am inclined to believe the long-term effects of either choice would be minimal/non-existent, but some scientific research on this would help us considerably.

In your research, have you come across any convincing studies that would help us decide between breastfeeding and formula?


lemmy caution writes:

Amy Chua doesn't like her husband. There are all kinds digs against him and his family in the book.

"Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• be in a school play


Guess who was a Julliard trained actor.

Comments for this entry have been closed
Return to top