Tiger Mom’s Triple Package:  Racism? Realism?

By Shlomo  Maital

                  Chua Rubenfeld        

Amy Chua & Jed Rubenfeld

 “Tiger Mom” is back.  Amy Chua, who wrote a book about her tough approach to raising her two daughters, as an Asian Mom, (Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, 2011)  has a new book, co-authored by her husband Jed Rubenfeld:  The Triple Package.*   In it, they make a claim that several ethnic groups excel in America – Jews, Mormons, immigrants from China, Cuba, Lebanon, India, Iran, Nigeria —  excel, because they are different.  They have the triple package.  First, impulse control, or self-discipline.  Second, self-belief, self-confidence, almost a feeling their ethnic group is superior.  Third, prejudice, or inferiority complex – the feeling they are persecuted, hindered, so they have to do like Avis – try much harder.    The authors make the claim that America in general is lagging because it lacks the triple package – especially, when everyone is trying to make others feel self-confident, worthy, avoiding frustration, and when ‘no child left behind’ focuses on the laggards rather than the geniuses.   The ‘self-esteem’ movement, which wants everyone to feel good about themselves, seems to prevent tackling big challenges that might – heaven forbid – damage our self-esteem though (G-d forbid)…the F word, failure!     

   The book has been pilloried, as racist and worse.  It is not.  My parents were immigrants. And they indeed tried harder.  And they imbued me with the same ethic.  Since when does the thesis that immigrant groups bring energy and the desire to excel become racist?     

    The fierce criticism Chua and Rubenfeld have absorbed suggests they may have touched a nerve.   In a society that fosters instant gratification, impulse control and self-discipline are becoming rare.  Some groups still have it.  They seem to succeed.  Is that racism?  Or realism? 

 * Chua & Rubenfeld, The Triple Package: Penguin, 2014.