The scope of this book is extremely wide but centered on how the Blank Slate (i.e., the concept that babies have no innate traits and are totally shaped by environment, especially homelife) has permeated our views of many issues, despite being thoroughly discredited by scientific research.
Dr. Pinker examines such varied phenomena as pay disparities between men and women, the decline of popular interest in art, the effect of parenting styles on childhood development, why violence is related to the concept of honor for inner city youth and the Mafia, and many other topics. In each case, he approaches each issue logically but often in a way that is at first counter-intuitive.
His main point is that we need to reject the dogma of the Blank Slate to get at truth. He also examines how those who reject this dogma can be excoriated by the narrow-minded intellectual elite who wish to promote a scientifically unfounded utopian political agenda.
I loved this book and highly recommend it to anyone interested in this subject. I cannot remember being more influenced by a book I have read.
One day I'd like to listen or read a book that effectively educated me about the history of Chinese Americans, or at least entertained me about a fascinating family. This book promises more than it delivers.
While the Tape family has a few moments of interest (most notably the court case requiring that San Francisco educate its Chinese American children), for the most part, this family wasn't ultimately that interesting. There must be many other Chinese clans that would have provided better material.
The fundamental theme in the entire book is that Chinese Americans were systematically discriminated against in the late 19th and early 20th century. This is an extremely important point. However, by the umpteenth prosaic example of how this affected the Tapes and there contemporaries, the impact has lost its edge..
In the end, I think that choosing a different family would have been better, or perhaps by using more than one family, the author could have mined this topic more effectively.
This book is not an epic, but I am sure there is epic material out there regarding the terrible trials and heroic triumphs of the Chinese in America.
On a separate note, I think the narrator is rather dry. I do appreciate the dual pronunciation of the Chinese names, but for the most part, she is kind of dull.
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