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March Diary
Gay marriage, tiger moms, and more.


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John Derbyshire

How many Americans are secular conservatives? Audacious Epigone went to the General Social Survey to find out.

The constituency constitutes a whopping 0.67 percent, or 1 in 150 people, or two million people in a country of 310 million.

Well, some theological authorities give the number of the Elect as a mere 144. By comparison with that, 2 million is a mighty host.


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Tiger Mom chez Derb?     From a reader:

Greetings Mr. Derbyshire,

I have a minor request which I hope doesn’t cross the line of good manners. After reading you weigh-in on tiger mothering on a societal level, I was somewhat hoping for a passing mention in the February diary of where your own family resolved on the matter. As we are about a week left of March, might I ask you to, without getting too personal on the details, consider sharing your own family’s style in the March diary?

Glad to oblige. First off, the number of people who are sure they have got parenting right is damn small; and that small number of people are all so damn smug about their achievement, the rest of us hate them anyway.

So I’m not speaking with any confidence here. That said, the pattern in the Derb household is a sort of lower-key version of the Chuas’: Mom does the tiger business, nagging and harassing the kids to do homework, music practice, chores, etc., while Dad flaps around vaguely in the background murmuring: “Perhaps we should let them go out and play now, honey . . . ”

Mrs. D. has the Chua tendency, but in nothing like so concentrated a form as Amy Chua herself. There are no tooth-marks on our piano. The music lessons — daughter violin and dance, son piano and school band — were all her doing. It’s she who pounces on the school reports and demands to know why this semester’s grade in Social Science is three points lower than last. (How does she remember?)

Dad is more laissez-faire, sees himself in fact as somewhat like the God of the Deists, who kickstarts the Universe, then lets it run with just an occasional nudge in the right direction. If what I see on the school reports agrees tolerably well with my own estimation of my kids’ abilities — which is, in both cases, modestly above average — I’m content. Music lessons? Sure: but when my son reached the age at which bitter rebellion set in, I argued his case with the Mrs. while secretly admiring his spirit.

You can in fact lead a horse to water and make him drink, but only up to a certain age. After that, reason, diplomacy, forbearance, and some fatalism are far more appropriate than Chua-style bullying, certainly for American kids. My own Tom Sawyer and Calamity Jane are now aged 15 and 18, and I have no illusions about my ability to do much molding from here on out, other than perhaps by example and persuasion.

I am in any case, by conviction, quite a strong genetic determinist. I know myself; I know my brother; I knew my father; and when I look at my son, I know what I’m looking at. Not that I’m necessarily 100 percent happy about it; but I believe I have done my best, and at this point can do very little more.


New business plan needed     Okay, I’ve finished my Turkish course, 16 half-hour lessons on eight CDs from Pimsleur. Now I discover that Pimsleur has the worst marketing model in the history of commerce.

Here’s the page for the Pimsleur Turkish course. There are 30 half-hour lessons altogether. You can buy all 30 for list price $265 (though there always seems to be a discount deal — currently $149.95). That’s the package called “Turkish 1.”



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