There’s been a bit of public navel gazing by the Asian-American community lately with the tigermom and paper tiger articles, and I suppose I should comment since the topic tracks some of the things I blog about. Namely Asians, education and positive life outcomes.
I’m late to the discussion, but better late than never I suppose. Many in the Asian activist community criticized Chua for her (out-of-context) excerpt in the WSJ, but my view, influenced by data in such works as The Nurture Assumption, is that parenting matters less than we think it does. Our IQ and personality are, if not immutable, at least rather difficult for the average person out there to change.
The Paper Tigers article is interesting insofar as it made the feature article of a big magazine, but it’s topics are familiar to those in the Asian activist community. I post at the forum yellowworld.org that was namedropped in the article and they found the specific thread that was quoted. The quote originated from a longtime critic of Asians who exemplify the model minority … uh model. He’s actually considered a bit of a singular topic whack as he injects every discussion he participates in with vitriol for elitist Asians.
Anyways. The discussion generated by the article has tracked a familiar path. We haven’t broken new ground. There have been no epiphanies. Wesley Yang’s article is so intensely personal that I’m not sure how many other Asians can identify with him except for hitting the bamboo ceiling. I used to be concerned with the bamboo ceiling, and I still am in certain respects. However, the bamboo ceiling is partly self-inflicted because some aspects of Asian culture don’t lend themselves to getting ahead in western culture. Activists tend to get a little overwrought thinking about it, but I’m starting to get more comfortable with it.
If I want to get ahead in western culture I, as a rather unremarkable person, would need to change my personality. I would need to fight the influence by my parents and the thousands of years of culture and history behind their methods of raising me, not to mention the possible influence of genes. But I just don’t care that much. It’s too much work to constantly fight my upbringing and “natural” tendencies. I had a taste of what it’s like to get ahead, and I you know what? Someone else can have it. I don’t want it. I’m also not especially concerned about Asians not getting their share of leadership positions in the US. There are plenty of Asians who rise to leadership in Asia without fighting their core values and personality. There are plenty of Asians that aren’t limited by the bamboo ceiling simply because they are the gatekeepers.
In the end, I suppose I’m unmoved by those complaining about the limits in US society because Asians already have it pretty good over here on average. Our life outcomes beats those of all other groups. Asians have the lowest rate of teenage mothers, have the highest average education and median salaries, and have the lowest rate of incarceration. If we aren’t all CEOs, at least we’re not living in a box under a bridge. I find it hard these days to get worked up too much about that. There’s injustice of course, and I don’t dispute for a moment its reality. But it’s a very upper middle class to elite style injustice. Exactly how many tears do you shed for a Harvard grad that can’t seem to get on the board of directors at his Fortune 500 company? I mean really. Having said all this, I reserve the right to change my mind in the future about all of it.