Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Chinese Mom Syndrome

Amy Chua is a law professor at Yale, but at the moment she is best known as an advocate of “Chinese mothering.”

Following the release of her new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, she wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal that has elicited the most comments of anything to ever appear in the publication. The thrust of her article is that her uncompromising demands for excellence from her two children including no sleepovers, mandatory piano practice, no school sports, and rote memorization of basic math principles combined with condemnation of any grade other an A (even an A-) is the best way to raise children.

She scoffs at the soft American approach of complimenting the weak tries of children in order to enhance their sense of self-esteem. She argues that kids see through the shallow self-esteem ploy because it is insincere, while by earning praise through hard work and outstanding achievement children build a solid foundation for future success in a tough world.

After reading Amy Chua’s story I remembered an old Jewish joke.

A mother is pushing her 30-year-old son through a store in a wheelchair. An acquaintance comes up to her and says, “Mrs. Goldberg, how sad. You’re son cannot walk.” She replies, “Oh, he can walk fine, but thank God he doesn’t have to.”

Two sides of the spectrum. Where do you stand?

Chua has taken a lot of heat for her ode to Chinese parenting. She has backtracked a little, saying the piece was partly satirical in its black and whiteness, but she stands by her approach. Her two daughters have brilliant academic and musical achievements and she claims to have a great relationship with them.

Do you agree with her style of parenting? Should that style of treatment be used with employees in the workplace?

Tiger mother, Amy Chua, with her two daughters. Photo: ERIN PATRICE O'BRIEN FOR WALL STREET JOURNAL

Share this post

Hopeful On Obamacare?

I laud the Republican effort in the House to repeal the new health care law, not because it will succeed directly, but because it will rekindle the debate about how we balance the needs of the uninsured, share the costs, and allocate the control of health care in the U.S.

Everybody knows the old system was a patchwork improvisation which developed over 50 years. We’ve adjusted to it over time, but it really isn’t serving us well with constantly escalating prices and 30 million uncovered. I do not pretend to know how to fix what ails the system, but I assume the new law is a mess of regulations which must be shaped by experience.

I see the health care debate now entering a new and hopefully more realistic phase of negotiation between insurance companies, big business interests, small business advocates, doctors, and patients mediated by government. Health coverage will gradually be worked out over several years with the 2012 election affecting the negotiations.

We will have theater in Congress, but the real action will be the haggling over the regulations and finding out how the insurance exchanges work in practice. The new law may be horrible or it may not be half bad. In 12 to 18 months, after hundreds of wrestling matches in private, we’ll have a better idea of what works.

Question: Are you hopeful about the outcome of the debate, or will Obamacare simply be a disaster?

Photo from Invest2Success

Share this post

Can we do 16 million cars?

Mike Jackson, the CEO of AutoNation, the big publicly held consortium of car dealers, says pickup trucks are flying out of his stores. He sees this activity as a refection of the confidence of small business around the U.S.

Jackson is predicting a two or three year ramp-up to the 16 million car build rate, which has traditionally been the standard of automotive well being. With GM and Ford solidly in the black at 11.5 million units they will be coining money at 16. My question is whether the auto infrastructure can quickly accommodate 16 million. From a precision machining standpoint we are beginning to push the comfortable limits of production now in place. A 40 to 50 percent increase in build rate will strain everybody to meet requirements.

I talked to Kevin Meehan of Hydromat recently about the ability of his clients to expand production. He’s seeing some activity, but he thinks the big Tier Ones in Europe, particularly those in Germany, will be in the catbird seat to provide the sophisticated assemblies that will be in short supply. The Germans maintained their automotive infrastructure, while in North America we allowed the market to gut part of the supply chain.

The opportunity to get fat and happy during the impending U.S. car up tick may be more a bonanza for the Germans than for companies in the New World.

Question: Do you think Fiat is actually turning around Chrysler?

Share this post

Poem to a Machinery Pawnshop

There are at least three cable series currently chronicling the business life of pawn shops. What is the fascination with people borrowing against baubles or selling their junk to professional peddlers for rent money?

I get a kick out of these shows and their genteel predecessor, Antiques Road Show, because the used machine tool racket that I practice is a bastard cousin of the pawn shop. I’m dealing in esoteric machinery which could be fodder for the furnace, or somebody’s stake to a fortune in Turkey or Topeka.

But I’m not only a purveyor of oily, wreaking junktiques from the basements of defunct car making mausoleums. I have my own collections of metal skeletons that have no logical home. Who wants a stock reel for a 4-spindle Conomatic? Who covets orphan bearings for random spindles for who knows what machine that used to be made in a demolished factory in Vermont?

Somebody may want my crusty flotsam and Jetsam, but who buys the pawnbrokers crap? If I’m the supposed authority on machine tool dinosaur bones, who’s my pawnbroker?

Once I almost traded an Acme for a yellow Mercedes convertible. Should have done it. Dumb iron is just dumb iron, unless it’s got a Fanuc control.

Question: Would you have taken the yellow Mercedes convertible?

Share this post