Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Chua’s article

I received many interesting emails related to Chua's article:


Thanks for another thought provoking email.  I wanted to point you in the direction of Carol Dweck's work, in case you're not familiar with it.  Dweck is a professor at Stanford, formerly at Columbia.  She's spent several decades looking at patterns of performance in children and adults and how they are correlated to the kind of praise received from parents/teachers/colleagues, and the beliefs that people develop about themselves as a result. In short, her conclusion (also good advice to investors!) is to teach people to focus on effort and process, and never to praise specific outcomes.  Praising talent or results leads to self-defeating cognitive and social functioning, high risk aversion, and low self-esteem, even while enforces all of the outward signs of self-confidence.  Fascinating stuff!  


I thoroughly recommend her book, Mindset, which is for a broad audience including parents, managers, coaches, and teachers:



Or her book for a more academic audience, Self-Theories, which I particularly enjoyed:





#1 is a great article.  Reminds me the article raises an important point made in the book "Mindset":  kids tend to associate competence with self-worth, and correspondingly, they associate failure with lack of self-worth.  This discourages kids from trying new things that promote personal growth, and works against the development of a sense of resilience, which is essential for success.  "Mindset" argues that one should separate competence from a sense of self-worth for this reason.  Worth a read:






You and your readers might find the article in the January 10th issue of the New Yorker on psychoanalysis and China quite interesting as it sheds another perspective on human behavior in China.   I don't have time to summarize it, but a few passages have stuck w/ me.


1.      In referring to the teens at Foxconn (where I have visited and worked w/ the Chinese employees there), the author, Evan Osnos, writes: "Beyond the drudgery of the assembly line, workers in their teens, or barely out of them, were struggling to live far from home, save money, meet spouses, and educate themselves in their time off, all under the eye of a state w/ no organized outlet for complaint.

2.      The article quotes The Lancet, "nearly one in five adults in China has a mental disorder, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a figure that put China in the ranks of the most mentally ill countries in the world.

3.      Other figures are beyond dispute: Suicide is the leading cause of death among young people.


Although I have spent time in China working alongside professional educators, I will not presume to be anywhere near the authority of Chua or of course Kristoff of whom I hold high regard.  That said, I am not convinced that the Chinese parents' striving and pushing for academic perfection connotes as "positive" a child rearing approach as the tone in the article leads me to believe. (Nor am I saying that the US model of some parents who overindulge their children with TV, video games, etc is the way to go either. JFYI—my kids are both in their twenties now and grew up w/ a "no TV" rule Monday through Friday until reached their senior year in high school. We also had no video games in the house even now.)


I am all for "hustling" but I think we need to be cautious of oversimplifying and emulating  practices which may not be "all that they are  cracked up to be."

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