rice growin’ skillz to pay the billz

03Dec08

check this npr story on malcolm gladwell’s new book outliers:

Can Culture Determine Success?

“One of the puzzles that educators have thought about for years is why is it that kids from Japan, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong [and] China vastly outperform their American or Western counterparts in math,” Gladwell says. “They score way, way, better than American kids do.”

Gladwell says he thought that Asian children might be inheriting a particular cultural legacy from their parents and their society that was helping them succeed in math — and he says he found the answer in the agricultural tradition of rice farming.

“Rice farming lays out a cultural pattern that works beautifully when it comes to math,” Gladwell hypothesizes. “Rice farming is the most labor-intensive form of agriculture known to man. It is also the most cognitively demanding form of agriculture … There is a direct correlation between effort and reward. You get exactly out of your rice paddy what you put into it.”

…. wait what? am i the only one who thinks this is ridiculous? RICE. FARMING. i’m sitting here wondering if i should be shaking my head in disgust or laughing uncontrollably. yes, asians are good at math because we’re all descendants of stoic rice farming families… that’s all we do! truth is, i’m pretty terrible at math… but that’s probably because my ancestors were bonesetters and seamstresses…. very off-the-field kind of labour. granted, i haven’t read the book, (or any of his other ones) so i don’t really know his argument. but this shit is just hilariously crazy! and this motherfucker is #1 on the new york times best seller list right now!!!!! i love how when people of colour are seen to be better at something than white people, everyone doesn’t really know what to do with it except try to find some racial/cultural justification. i mean how many times have we heard “black people are good at sports because…” arguments?

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