Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Chua say "bad culture" - Murray and dirtbags like him - say "bad genes"..,


NYTimes | The subtitle alone is enough to set some readers on high alert. Writing about success in terms of cultural values and traits has always been a contentious proposition in the United States, where it’s typically associated with conservatives like Charles Murray (“The Bell Curve” and “Losing Ground”), who argue that poor people are poor because of bad habits rather than bad situations. The Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson, who is cited in “The Triple Package,” hadn’t yet read the book, but said he hoped that Chua and Rubenfeld were aware that they’re flirting with a Typhoid Mary. “I’m all for culture,” Patterson said, but “culture is a tricky concept. It has tripped up a lot of anthropologists and sociologists.”

It may now trip up a couple of legal scholars too. When The New York Post got wind of the book in early January, it ran an article about how Chua was “doubling down” with “a series of shock-arguments wrapped in self-help tropes” that could be distilled into one incendiary message: “Some groups are just superior to others, and everyone else is contributing to the downfall of America.” Never mind that the book doesn’t actually say this — the suggestion was out there. On Twitter, Chua was deemed a “racist” and a “troll” (sights were trained on the Tiger Mother; Rubenfeld was mostly spared). Within a week, the authors had been accused of everything from scaring readers to boring them, with New York magazine yawning that the book was “dull” and “conventional.”

“I guess we are fearing the worst,” Chua told me in November. Nonetheless, she was holding out hope that this time would be different. She pointed out all the ways in which they qualified their thesis. They ran numbers and collected data sets. They hired research assistants from “every possible conceivable background.” They acknowledged structural impediments to success, like racism. A chapter was devoted to “the underside of the triple package” and how pathological striving can lead to chauvinism and depression. The text itself is 225 pages, but to that they added nearly 80 pages in endnotes.

“The Triple Package” is full of qualifications, earnest settings-of-the-terms, explicit attempts to head off misinterpretations at the pass. “This point is so important we’re going to repeat it,” they write in a section about Appalachian poverty, which they argue was caused by geography and industrial decline, rather than by any lack of triple-package values. This last month of criticism showed that such lawyerly efforts to walk the line between blandness and notoriety are unlikely to satisfy their most vociferous critics. Yet Chua remained optimistic.

“I feel like it should be a book that if you approach it with an open mind, it actually shouldn’t be controversial. It should be thought-provoking.”

Rubenfeld, who was listening intently to his wife, smiled. “We’re just going to get raked over the coals — that’s what’s going to happen.”

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