Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Culture is Cracking: A Return to Toughness

 

It’s probably wishful thinking, but I’m noticing something happening in the culture.  Here are the dots, and here’s how I connect them:

1. It’s official:  for a huge number of students, college is a waste of time.  Not just because they could be out in the world, learning on the job.  But because college is, in many many ways, an expensive, coddling resort.  From Yahoo News:

A study of more than 2,300 undergraduates found 45 percent of students show no significant improvement in the key measures of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by the end of their sophomore years.

Not much is asked of students, either. Half did not take a single course requiring 20 pages of writing during their prior semester, and one-third did not take a single course requiring even 40 pages of reading per week.

The findings are in a new book, “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses,” by sociologists Richard Arum of New York University and Josipa Roksa of the University of Virginia.

2. Tough parents demand a lot from their kids, and the kids are grateful for it.  In her now-famous WSJ piece, Why Chinese Mothers are Superior, Amy Chua lays it down:

In one study of 50 Western American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that “stressing academic success is not good for children” or that “parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun.” By contrast, roughly 0% of the Chinese mothers felt the same way.

What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up.

So her kid must hate her, right?  Not so fast.  From the NYPost, Sophia Chua-Rubinfeld, her daugher, responds:

I admit it: Having you as a mother was no tea party. There were some play dates I wish I’d gone to and some piano camps I wish I’d skipped. But now that I’m 18 and about to leave the tiger den, I’m glad you and Daddy raised me the way you did. 

I think #1 and #2 are related, in a very big way.  Again, maybe wishful thinking, but I’m detecting in the first cracks in the 1950’s and 1960’s philosophy of child-raising and education.  Children need to be praised.  Everyone goes to college.  The most important thing is to build up self-esteem.  All of that nonsense seems to be under attack — and thank God! — as Americans face a more competitive and cutthroat world marketplace.  

Leaving college with a degree in Sociology and $100,000 in debt no longer seems smart, let alone a birthright.  Teachers’ unions no longer have the moral high ground — not even in Boston! — and one of the most popular politicians in America has made teachers union bashing an indoor Olympic sport:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_em1zGagrQ

And then I re-watched this artifact from the 2008 campaign — barely three years old — and it somehow seems hilariously dated, like leisure suits and hippie chicks who say “groovy.”

I connect the dots this way:  the culture is turning away from soft.  It’s turning away from sociology degrees, feel-good parenting, sagging schools, and political daydreaming.  It’s turning back to toughness.

If I were running for president, I’d make note of that.

There are 71 comments.

  1. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Rob Long:

    Again, maybe wishful thinking, but I’m detecting in the first cracks in the 1950’s and 1960’s philosophy of child-raising and education. Children need to be praised…

    But children do need to be praised when they do something praiseworthy. Just like they need punishment when they do something blameworthy.

    The behavior you reward, you get more of. That’s a basic conservative principle, no?

    • #1
    • January 18, 2011, at 11:24 AM PST
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  2. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Chris Christie’s popularity speaks strongly for the potential of John Bolton in 2012.

    • #2
    • January 18, 2011, at 11:24 AM PST
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  3. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    When you don’t reward your children’s outstanding performance (not that the reward need be lavish, simple parental affection will do), you discourage them from pursuing that outstanding performance, just as when you don’t discipline bad behavior, you encourage them to pursue more bad behavior.

    I had parents who, because they thought I was a “genius” and therefore everything ought to come easily to me, never thought to reward me (simple words of appreciation would have sufficed) for outstanding accomplishments. When I accomplished something outstanding, their reaction was, “Oh, that’s just Midge. It’s no big deal.” Or they’d find some detail to pick on.

    Suffice it to say, when great productive effort goes just as unrewarded as lack of effort, you feel considerably less incentive to make an effort. It’s true in the economy. It’s true in family life.

    • #3
    • January 18, 2011, at 11:26 AM PST
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  4. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor

    Rob, that commercial–that is beyond creepy. I missed that at the time. Yes, it seems dated, and everything else you say. It’s also vulgar and grotesque beyond words. What were those parents thinking, allowing their children to be exploited like that?

    • #4
    • January 18, 2011, at 11:33 AM PST
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  5. Underground Conservative Coolidge
    Underground Conservative Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Yeah, Rob, you really baited me on that one. It almost made me sick. Give one of those TV-type warnings next time!

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Rob, that commercial–that is beyond creepy. I missed that at the time. Yes, it seems dated, and everything else you say. It’s also vulgar and grotesque beyond words. What were those parents thinking, allowing their children to be exploited like that? · Jan 18 at 10:33am
    • #5
    • January 18, 2011, at 11:39 AM PST
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  6. Kervinlee Member
    Kervinlee Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Rob, that commercial–that is beyond creepy. I missed that at the time. Yes, it seems dated, and everything else you say. It’s also vulgar and grotesque beyond words. What were those parents thinking, allowing their children to be exploited like that? · Jan 18 at 10:33am

    Few things have made my flesh crawl like that video. Not quite the production values of Triumph of the Will but, well you get the idea.

    What were those parents thinking? Not much of anything, I’m afraid. They were just being swept along by celebrity posing as politics and taking their poor kids along with them.

    • #6
    • January 18, 2011, at 11:44 AM PST
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  7. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Or they’d find some detail to pick on.

    My dad was the same way. His immediate response to everything was criticism. I sympathize. My mom was exactly the opposite, which is also problematic because cheap praise is fleeting. A balance is good.

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: What were those parents thinking, allowing their children to be exploited like that?

    Odds are, their home environments were much the same.

    • #7
    • January 18, 2011, at 11:44 AM PST
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  8. Good Berean Inactive

    Rob, you may be the canary in a coal mine when it comes to the demise of squishiness. Say on, sir, say on!

    • #8
    • January 18, 2011, at 11:45 AM PST
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  9. flownover Inactive

    My oldest daughter has been weighing whether or not to continue in grad school in the second year, as she has landed a job and now running the restaurant that hired her five months ago, I could only advise her to make sure that she took accounting at some point for general purposes. All the courses in public administration that are built to process people right into the government really irked her. I took such pride in her indignation when she complained about it.

    They throw money at the kids , getting 20 k in loans was a no-brainer. And the kids seriously doubt if they will have to pay it back !! They’re filling up the colleges with debt heavy students. Yet they’re going after the for-profits because they actually produce people with job skills like HVAC . Is it because they’re not part of the massive student loan takeover ?

    • #9
    • January 18, 2011, at 11:49 AM PST
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  10. Lady Kurobara Inactive

    Here is the title for your next post, Rob:

    “Rob Long is Cracking: A Retreat from Squishiness”

    • #10
    • January 18, 2011, at 11:54 AM PST
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  11. Chris Bogdan Inactive

    So very creepy – I can’t believe that the left got away with employing that tactic. The only good news that I can see is that they’ve exhausted the “Obama hopey-changey/tabula rasa” meme and 2012 will have to be based on results. Either his results or the results of the GOP-led house.

    I think Rob’s right – the culture is shifting back and conservatives have to act immediately to seize the initiative (if that sort of language isn’t too martial).

    • #11
    • January 18, 2011, at 11:55 AM PST
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  12. Profile Photo Member
    Aaron Miller
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Or they’d find some detail to pick on.
    My dad was the same way. His immediate response to everything was criticism. I sympathize. My mom was exactly the opposite, which is also problematic because cheap praise is fleeting. A balance is good.
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: What were those parents thinking, allowing their children to be exploited like that?
    Odds are, their home environments were much the same. · Jan 18 at 10:44am

    Ahh little grasshoppers. In time you too will see that parenting is a lot harder than it looks.

    • #12
    • January 18, 2011, at 11:57 AM PST
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  13. Profile Photo Member
    Lady Kurobara: Here is the title for your next post, Rob:

    “Rob Long is Cracking: A Retreat from Squishiness” · Jan 18 at 10:54am

    Nothing a good facial and some Ashtanga yoga can’t cure.

    • #13
    • January 18, 2011, at 11:59 AM PST
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  14. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Lady Kurobara

    For Aaron and Midge: Are you aware that Hillary Clinton’s father was hyper-critical? Hillary was an overachiever in school, but if she brought home a test paper with a score of 104 (thanks to extra credit questions), her Dad would rip her head off. “You worthless bitch! Why didn’t you score 105? You good for nothing, etc, etc, etc… ” He was not joking, either. I cannot help feeling that it deeply affected Hillary in some way, contributing to the flawed personality we see today.

    No. Had no idea. Interesting…

    Like Aaron (and now I know like Hilary), it was Dad who tended to be the more hypercritical in our house (not that Mom didn’t have her moments) — but Dad was also pretty unaware of his children in the first place. Perhaps Dad’s uninvolvement was a greater blessing than I thought!

    Fortunately, my parents rarely called me worthless — and when they did, it was more likely to be over some domestic lapse like failing to put the last teaspoon in the dishwasher than over grades.

    • #14
    • January 19, 2011, at 1:00 AM PST
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  15. Profile Photo Member
    Aaron Miller: Chris Christie’s popularity speaks strongly for the potential of John Bolton in 2012. · Jan 18 at 10:24am

    Bolton’s not going anywhere until he gets rid of that Droopy Dog moustache. Think of the youth vote.

    • #15
    • January 19, 2011, at 1:13 AM PST
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  16. Profile Photo Member
    Aaron Miller: Chris Christie’s popularity speaks strongly for the potential of John Bolton in 2012. · Jan 18 at 10:24am

    Bolton’s not going anywhere until he gets rid of that Droopy Dog mustache. The youth vote won’t have it. Rob’s right. Hard times have a way of squeezing excess out of the systems. The level of erudition in restaurant kitchens will climb steeply in the years to come.

    • #16
    • January 19, 2011, at 1:20 AM PST
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  17. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Lucy Pevensie: Midge, I think his conclusions about the best way to offer praise sound like just about the inverse of what you’re describing…

    You want to praise kids for effort. If you tell kids they are smart then they think that effort should not be necessary. And they think that if they have to work it means something bad about their ability.

    Bingo.

    Until midway through college, I was still under the delusion that every time I had to work hard was a sign of of my failure, of incompetence. I would literally hate myself for having to make an effort at something.

    Fortunately, I chose a major and courses (math, honors curriculum) that forced me to learn otherwise. But bad habits learned in childhood are hard to break, and I still have to fight myself every day over this.

    An excellent article on the pitfalls of praising children for native intelligence rather than effort can be found here at Jewish World Review.

    • #17
    • January 19, 2011, at 1:20 AM PST
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  18. Lady Kurobara Inactive
    James Lileks: “Nothing is fun until you’re good at it” is the most curious thing I’ve read today. As if there’s a long horrid slog through the muck of incompetence until you reach hard ground, clamber up, and say: now I can enjoy my craft!

    Getting good at things is fun, too.

    There is real joy in feeling yourself becoming better, stage by stage.

    • #18
    • January 19, 2011, at 1:22 AM PST
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  19. Lash LaRoche Inactive
    Your Grace
    Aaron Miller: Chris Christie’s popularity speaks strongly for the potential of John Bolton in 2012. · Jan 18 at 10:24am
    Bolton’s not going anywhere until he gets rid of that Droopy Dog moustache. Think of the youth vote. · Jan 18 at 12:13pm

    I think the Yosemite Sam look might help with the youth vote.

    • #19
    • January 19, 2011, at 1:36 AM PST
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  20. Lash LaRoche Inactive
    Lady Kurobara

    James Lileks: “Nothing is fun until you’re good at it” is the most curious thing I’ve read today. As if there’s a long horrid slog through the muck of incompetence until you reach hard ground, clamber up, and say: now I can enjoy my craft!

    Getting good at things is fun, too.

    There is real joy in feeling yourself becoming better, stage by stage. · Jan 18 at 12:22pm

    “To business that we love we rise betime, and go to’t with delight.” – William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra

    • #20
    • January 19, 2011, at 1:40 AM PST
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  21. Norm McDonald Coolidge
    Norm McDonald Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    For Aaron and Midge: Are you aware that Hillary Clinton’s father was hyper-critical? Hillary was an overachiever in school, but if she brought home a test paper with a score of 104 (thanks to extra credit questions), her Dad would rip her head off. “You worthless bitch! Why didn’t you score 105? You good for nothing, etc, etc, etc… ” He was not joking, either. I cannot help feeling that it deeply affected Hillary in some way, contributing to the flawed personality we see today. · Jan 18 at 11:40am

    That’s a very interesting observation. Based on what I’ve seen with my own eyes — from a distance — and what I read of her actions in All Too Human by George HuffnPuffeless, that explains a great deal.

    • #21
    • January 19, 2011, at 1:44 AM PST
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  22. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I agree completely that rewarding effort is better than rewarding ability, but not if effort is divorced completely from results. There should be pride in success and shame in failure, though each should be moderated.

    But I’m only talking about goals. I don’t expect anyone to be perfect. Nothing about parenting seems simple.

    Lady Kurobara

    For Aaron and Midge: Are you aware that Hillary Clinton’s father was hyper-critical?

    If you’re accusing me of being Clintonian, them’s fighting words!

    • #22
    • January 19, 2011, at 1:49 AM PST
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  23. Chris Bogdan Inactive

    Lady K –

    that’s exactly why I can’t believe that they got away with doing it. (Actually, I was thinking of this but, hey, po-ta-to/po-tah-to.)

    • #23
    • January 19, 2011, at 2:42 AM PST
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  24. CoolHand Inactive
    Your Grace

    Bolton’s not going anywhere until he gets rid of that Droopy Dog moustache. Think of the youth vote. · Jan 18 at 12:13pm

    He can’t do that!

    He’s like Sampson, except all his power is concentrated in The ‘Stache (TM).

    Shave it off, and he’s powerless.

    Plus, nobody would recognize him anymore.

    The ‘Stache (TM) is iconic, like those huge statues of Stalin in Moscow, except that The ‘Stache (TM) protects your nose holes instead of murdering millions of your countrymen.

    Icons of different things, but icons none the less.

    • #24
    • January 19, 2011, at 3:20 AM PST
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  25. StickerShock Inactive

    Nothing is fun until you are good at it? I think that’s complete nonsense. I can name dozens of things that are loads of fun for me, yet I’m not especially good at them. Skiing, diving, kyacking, gardening, tennis, basketball, painting, sewing, etc……I think it would be a miserable existence to not find enjoyment in things unless I’d mastered them. I can also think of things I’m pretty bad at doing, but have brought me more laughs than I could handle. Playing drums on Rock Band was what the kids used to call an “epic fail.” My son can still crack me up in any situation by just uttering “27%, mom.”

    I know people who are hung up on mastery of everything they attempt, and you know what? They don’t attempt half the things I have & they’ve missed out on so much in life.

    • #25
    • January 19, 2011, at 3:21 AM PST
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  26. Andrea Ryan Member
    Andrea Ryan Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Lucy Pevensie: …I wonder if anyone has read Malcolm Gladwell? …praising kids for being smart or for good results is counter-productive. You want to praise kids for effort.

    I have read Malcolm Gladwell, but it sounds like a different book than the one you’re referring to. His suggested approach to parenting is, also, my approach…out of necessity.

    I’m sure others in Ricochet have this issue, too. I have the challenge of having two very different boys one year apart in school. My younger son is bright and works hard to get good grades, but my older son is extraordinarily bright and breezes through academics effortlessly. So, I find that in order to protect my younger son’s self-confidence I absolutely have to praise them each based on effort. But, it’s a giant frustration trying to get my younger son to stop comparing and understand his grades and intelligence are something to be proud of. I try so hard not to label my children only to find that they’re labeling themselves.

    • #26
    • January 19, 2011, at 3:30 AM PST
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  27. Andrea Ryan Member
    Andrea Ryan Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    StickerShock: …I can also think of things I’m pretty bad at doing, but have brought me more laughs than I could handle. Playing drums on Rock Band was what the kids used to call an “epic fail.” My son can still crack me up in any situation by just uttering “27%, mom.” …

    I am so with you, StickerShock. In fact, it’s kind of fun to make fun of how bad I suck at Call of Duty. And it makes my boys so excited to beat mom. There are few things in life I want to master and when I decide to master them I pull out all the stops. But, everything else is just a giant playground of fun.

    • #27
    • January 19, 2011, at 3:43 AM PST
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  28. flownover Inactive
    Andrea Ryan

    I try so hard not to label my children only to find that they’re labeling themselves. · Jan 18 at 2:30p

    One question though, what’s the dog been reading lately ? Any issues with it’s progress ? I guess contacts are out of the question if he’s an outdoors dog ?

    • #28
    • January 19, 2011, at 3:52 AM PST
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  29. The Other Diane Coolidge
    The Other Diane Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Andrea Ryan
    Pseudodionysius
    Andrea Ryan
    Pseudodionysius: Pseudo, meet Cerberus. Cerberus, that’s Pseudo.

    (Pseudodionysius is currently gargling a box of thumbtacks and is unavailable for further comment this evening.) · Jan 18 at 8:22pm

    Just kidding. His name is Reagan and he loves kitties. And, he’s a giant wuss. · Jan 18

    I’m sure I’ll get over it. Eventually. · Jan 18 at 8:39pm

    With a scream like that you don’t need to gargle thumbtacks. They both leave you in the same condition. · Jan 18 at 9:38pm

    My younger sister has open heart surgery this morning 1000 miles away, so I got up planning to be properly somber and prayerful right after my Ricochet fix. Instead I found myself holding an iPad making ear-splitting screeching cat noises (the iPad, not me, but it was close for a few moments there).

    Have no idea how to turn the volume down so I had to race into the nearest bathroom and slam the door before someone woke up and called 911. Laughed hysterically in silence so my husband wouldn’t have me caught, committed, and forced to have 27 rounds of electric shock treatments against my will. You guys are da bomb.

    • #29
    • January 19, 2011, at 4:19 AM PST
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  30. StickerShock Inactive

    Andrea, I praise more for effort, too. My kids have different strengths and it can be hard for the younger brother to see big sis breezing through. For my academic star, the grades & awards come easy. No need to praise much. I found more reason to deliver praise during her retail summer employment as she negotiated the sales floor politics, learned to deliver excellent customer service, and pushed herself to earn nice commissions. That took more effort and street smarts than school. For my ADD son, I praise him when he’s manages to be organized enough to even know a test is scheduled and help him see the connection between studying and As.

    • #30
    • January 19, 2011, at 4:35 AM PST
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