Want to help? Then quit blaming success

Grit. When’s the last time you heard that word, outside of a John Wayne movie? But two Yale Law School professors use that word in a most remarkable article in the Sunday New York Times titled “What drives success?

Can we say it? Some ethnic groups do better than others. Authors Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld offer this statistic among many others to make the point: A NYC public high school, regarded as a feeder for the Ivy Leagues, offered admission based solely on a standardized entrance exam to nine black students, 24 Hispanics, 177 whites, and 620 Asians. Why?

They propose three factors: First, a “deep-seated belief in the group’s exceptionality.” You can succeed if you expect to succeed. Second, an inferiority complex. Contradictory? Certainly. But insecurity is what motivates. It’s a great argument for immigration, a great argument against the welfare state. The third factor is something Bring It! habitués know well: impulse control (aka: delayed gratification). Saving now for reward later. Chua and Rubenfeld nail it:

Every one of America’s most successful groups takes a very different view of childhood, inculcating habits of discipline from a very early age. … It requires turning the ability to work hard, to persevere and to overcome adversity into a source of personal superiority. This kind of superiority complex isn’t ethnically or religiously exclusive. It’s the pride a person takes in his own strength of will.

Most encouragingly, “research shows that perseverance and motivation can be taught, especially to young children.”

That was my response to all the recent prattle among the Emerald City’s liberal ruling class about “white privilege.” It’s their way of excusing 40 years of failure. Blaming success does not work. Demonizing “the one percent” does nothing to help those on the bottom rungs. I wrote this last week in The Capital Times:



Teaching professors’ kids is easy. But if you didn’t grow up in a house full of books — black, white, or undetermined — you will, indeed, have to swim faster. Sorry, there are no shortcuts, no miracle government program. We’ll help, but it is up to you. That was what Kaleem Caire was proposing — a longer school day, a longer school year, uniforms, discipline, hard work, pride in self, respect for the community, no excuses. That’s how you break the cycle of poverty — regardless of race.

You can’t succeed when you embrace defeat. Ald. Anita Weier recycles the recipe for failure when she writes, “Imagine growing up in a large apartment complex that may or may not be well-maintained, surrounded by neighborhoods made up of single-family homes that you cannot aspire to.”

Have you ever heard a more soul-deadening message of defeat? No, you can’t aspire. Don’t even try. You’re a victim! Blame race, blame NAFTA, blame George W. Bush — and vote Democrat!

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