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Irish Setter Dad

Whose children will succeed in life, Amy Chua’s or mine?

Apr 4, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 28 • By P.J. O'ROURKE
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• go to Mass naked

• attend a sleepover at Charlie Sheen’s house

• mix Daddy a martini using sweet vermouth

• play the violin within earshot of me

Have you ever heard a kid learning to play the violin? A cat in the microwave is nothing to it. And let me add an addendum to the things my children were never allowed to do​—​put a cat in the microwave. I’m not saying it didn’t happen; I’m just saying they weren’t allowed to do it.

Whose children are going to succeed in life, Amy Chua’s or mine? Her Lulu has that violin going for her​—​there’s hardly a Silicon Valley billionaire, Wall Street plutocrat, senator, four-star general, or pope who isn’t a violin virtuoso. And Sophia, who tickles the ivories, can always say, “Don’t tell Mom I work for Goldman Sachs, she thinks I play piano in a house of ill repute.” But my kids practice too, hour after hour every day. They practice being jerks. And since almost every boss I’ve ever had was a jerk, this gives them a leg up. Plus there’s the cat in the microwave. That shows an inquisitive, experimental turn of mind. You can see how electronic cat-zapping could lead directly to the invention of something like Facebook.

On the other hand, what with all the A-pluses and never being allowed to disagree with teachers, Chua’s kids are headed straight to the Ivy League. The more so since Chua is a Yale law professor. (Oooh, maybe she’s a Nazi and a Commie, making Battle Hymn the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of parenting advice.) The Ivy League is supposed to be good for success. Barack Obama went to an Ivy League school, not that he’s doing very well in his career at the moment. Let’s check on the most successful people in America. Sarah Palin went to the University of Idaho. Warren Buffet went to Nebraska. John Boehner went to Xavier. Glenn Beck didn’t go to college at all. And I’m not sure whether Justin Bieber’s mother even finished high school. Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates did go to Harvard but​—​doubtless this is somewhere on the “never allowed to do” list​—​they dropped out.

My kids fit the success profile. I’ll bet Muffin and Poppet are accepted at the University of Idaho, assuming Wii is a Title IX thing. And Buster will be waving goodbye to Harvard while he’s still in junior high.

Amy Chua, I’ve got bad news. “A” students work for “B” students. Or not even. A businessman friend of mine corrected me. “No, P. J.,” he said, “ ‘B’ students work for ‘C’ students. ‘A’ students teach.” Teaching in the Ivy League gives you a lot of time off, Amy​—​enough to write a crap book, worse than Yale prof Erich Segal’s Love Story. Maybe when you get some time off again you should come to rural New Hampshire and meet the Irish Setter Dad children.

Buster, age 7, is a master of passive resistance who can turn staying up past his bedtime into Tahrir Square. He could hire himself out as a civil disobedience coach to Mahatma -Gandhi and Martin Luther King, if they weren’t dead. Poppet, 10, is a persuasive saleswoman, not to say charming con artist, who can hand you a sheet of black construction paper with a hole in it and convince you it’s a science project on collapsed super-novas. And Muffin, 13, has her own .410 shotgun and knows how to use it.

Try your Chinese Tiger Mom stuff on my kids.

P. J. O’Rourke is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.

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