1. We’ve been following the story of Vicki Abeles’ education documentary Race to Nowhere with great interest this past year, cheering it on as best we can. Slate ran a feature on the ruckus the film is kicking up around the country, rightfully placing it in the context of its doppelganger, “Battle Hymn of the Anti-Tiger Mother.”
Chua’s thesis is that if you let up, your kid will become a coddled American slacker. Abeles offers the antithesis. She argues that part of America’s greatness is born of our misfits and dreamers, that our gift to our children is time to engage in “aimless” play.
Race to Nowhere also introduces us to a culture of rampant cheating, which students see as the only way to keep up; rising numbers of medicated kids, some of whom abuse attention-deficit drugs to finish all their assignments; children nearing emotional and physical collapse over the expectation they must be dazzling; and young people trained to be so fearful of making mistakes or taking risks that they are unable to cope when arriving at the workplace. And then there is the agonizing story that bookends the movie—that of a 13-year-old girl, a perfect child so undone by her perceived failures in middle school that she committed suicide.
2. As a further rejoinder to Chua, there’s a touching article in the NY Times Magazine about recovering tiger fathers, entitled, The Korean Dad’s 12-Step Program:
“Traditionally, in the Korean family, the father is very authoritarian,” Joon Cho, a program volunteer, told me a few weeks before this session of Father School began. “They’re not emotionally linked with their children or their wife. They’re either workaholics, or they’re busy enjoying their own hobbies or social activities. Family always comes last.”
In 2000, Father School spread from Korea to the United States, and the program — part 12-step recovery, part Christian ministry — was tailored to meet the needs of Korean immigrant fathers dealing with Americanized kids who wondered why their fathers weren’t more like the touchy-feely dads they watched on TV. Since then, Father School has exploded. It now operates out of 57 American cities and has graduated nearly 200,000 men worldwide.
“They are ready to cry,” said Young Chung, a veteran Father School volunteer, as he looked out at the sea of men arranged at a dozen or so small tables in the gymnasium here in this heavily strip-malled suburb of Los Angeles. “All you have to do is touch them.”
3. Next, New Scientist takes a look at a different piece of works-righteousness fallout, what’s come to be known as The Quarter-Life Crisis:
“The problems start, says [British psychologist Oliver] Robinson, if they end up in a job they don’t like or in a relationship that doesn’t fit them. ‘This leads to a feeling of being one thing outwardly but feeling inwardly that you are someone else, which causes a discrepancy between your behaviour and your inner sense of self.’”
4. I was pleasantly surprised to read about all of the theology of the cross going on in Mark Ruffalo’s new film, Sympathy for Delicious. Ruffalo’s been a favorite since You Can Count On Me, and I loved him in The Brothers Bloom and The Kids Are Alright. In an interview with Christianity Today this past week, he expressed more than a little, um, sympathy:
Our adversity leads us to the experience of faith. We can talk about it all we want, but it’s through suffering that you know it. We started to come upon this theme in the movie: Maybe there’s a blessing in our hardships, and that’s really where you grow as a human being, and that’s where you learn compassion. That was our journey. I saw that happening with Chris. I watched him turn toward his Catholicism in a real experiential way. Then when I had my brain tumor, that opened up for me what I had seen him go through.
When those things happen, you tend to shake your fist at God and say …
Why me? What have I done? Why have you forsaken me?
Time and perspective can soften those initial reactions.
Yes. You spend your time shaking your fist and being angry, but turning to God at the same time. Because the act of shaking your fist at him is a way of turning, a way of engaging, a way of acknowledging him.
…Everyone is running around looking for a fix on the outside. We want our noses fixed. We want our depression fixed. We want our teeth fixed. We want our hair fixed. They’re all on the exterior.
5. NPR did a nice little write-up on hoarding this past week, carefully noting that the disorder is not a form of OCD as many people believe, but of depression (which seems to be pretty self-evident if you watch the shows). In other words, it’s a outward manifestation of an internal problem, and therefore not really susceptible to external solutions (i.e. big clean-ups).
6. Locally, Mockingbird and a few of its cohorts got some love in the cover story of this week’s Cville, “Signs of a Crossing.” The cover, which features contributor/musician/journeyman Sam Bush, is particularly bodacious:
7. In TV, 30 Rock ended on a not terribly inspired note, a stark contrast to the first-part of the Community finale which aired last night. There are some other great comedies on TV right now (Parks and Rec, Modern Family, Cougar Town) but nothing touches Community, which, this season, has scaled truly ridiculous heights of ridiculousness. And ingenuity. And cleverness. Mark my words: next season there will be a “too-clever-for-its-own-good” backlash, which is a meaningless charge if ever there was one. Otherwise, The Killing on AMC, while still finding its voice (the mayoral stuff in particular drags), is much more than a noir-ed up Twin Peaks or Veronica Mars retread. I’ll be very interested to see how the second half of the season plays out.
8. Finally, in the you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up department, there’s this bit of Jesus camp, pun intended. Rebecca Black eat your heart out: