Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld

Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld are professors at Yale Law School. Chua, one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2011, is the author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which unleashed a firestorm debate about the cultural value of self-discipline, as well as the bestselling World on Fire. Rubenfeld examined the political dangers of “living in the moment” in Freedom and Time; he is also the author of the international bestseller The Interpretation of Murder.

Their new book is The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America.

From Chua and Rubenfeld's Q & A with CNN's GPS Digital Producer Jason Miks:
You’ve suggested that there is a problematic aversion to comparing some kinds of data, for example between cultural groups. Is this a problem, do you think, in America today?

Chua: I think it’s a terrible problem, and I actually didn’t realize it was quite this bad until this latest book. Of course I knew it would be somewhat controversial and thought provoking. But I think there’s not a single statement that we make that is not backed up by a study. So when we say that Asian-Americans have SATs scores 140 points above the average, that’s just a fact. Or when we say that X, Y and Z groups have median incomes almost twice the national average, then it’s from the U.S. census.

So I think the idea that you can’t give a statistic or say that a group is exhibiting a certain characteristic at any given point – for example, that they are studying 70 percent more hours – without being accused of chauvinism and stereotyping is a problem. And I think it’s going to make it very difficult to devise really good policies on education or poverty reduction policies. Of course we need to fix our institutions. Of course it’s not a level playing field out there. Of course the priority should be eliminating structural barriers to getting jobs. But why should it be mutually exclusive? We should also be able to look at what some cultures are doing, and if we say that this is an area that we can’t talk about, then we are tying one hand behind our back.

Rubenfeld: We’ve actually been called a lot of names because of this book, and it’s astonishing how much people are willing to misrepresent or misunderstand what we have written just because we touch on these sensitive subjects. So, for example, over and over you can find in the media the statement that we claim some groups are better than others. But we actually never say that. We simply point out that in this moment in time, some groups are doing better than others. That’s simply a matter a fact that anyone can look up. And the information comes from the U.S. Census, so are they saying the Census is racist?

We state facts in the book, and we also point out that the groups that are doing better change over time – it is very dynamic. Twenty years ago the groups would have been different from today, and 20 years from now the groups will be different again. It’s a very dynamic story that couldn’t be more...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue