A new book by an American raising her kids in Paris is being met with skepticism, and some charges of stereotyping, by the actual French mothers it so highly praises.
A Parisian mother watches her children at play / AP
Pamela Druckerman, in her new book Bringing Up Bébé and her lengthy and much-circulated Wall Street Journal article titled "Why French Parents Are Superior," isn't just the latest woman to tell American mothers that a different culture does it better. It's also the latest in a long line of books to tell American women, more broadly, that whatever the problem is, French women do it better. They don't get fat, they don't sleep alone, and apparently now, according to the British title of ex-pat journalist Druckerman's new book, their kids don't throw food.
Americans are eagerly picking over every last scrap of Druckerman's argument, which is, essentially, that the French say "no" to their kids and combine parenthood with balanced adult lives. But what do actual French women think of this stuff? Once they look past the flattery, not much.
Sure, the French reaction online to Druckerman's argument includes a fair amount of gloating -- a natural reaction to being told you're good at everything. But mixed in among the sense of superiority, some French women are wondering what on earth she's talking about.
Chief among the gloating responses is the interview that magazine France-Amérique conducts with French essayist Nathalie Monsaint-Baudry, author of a book about American-French interaction from the French perspective. Asked if the French woman is a female model "for the Anglo-Saxons," she responded simply "Yes. She is naturally feminine. The American woman is 'female.'" And she largely approved of Druckerman's outline of the childrearing division. "In the United States, houses are so 'child-proofed,'" said Monsaint-Baudry, "that one has the impression that it's the parents living with their kids, [not the other way around]." The interviewer then inquired whether Druckerman is right that the French meal, wherein even tiny children behave, is perceived as sacrosanct by Americans. "Yes, they admire it," declared Monsaint-Baudry. "Our 'three course meal' is incredibly sophisticated.'" She added that French "humanism" distances French women from "the Chinese mother and the polemics of last year."
Triumphant responses and matter-of-fact reporting aside, quite a few French folks seem to think Druckerman's overstated her case, and that, more broadly, Americans need to chill out with the French stereotypes.
Antoine Oury at book site ActuaLitté notes The New York Times' complaints about "generalizations" in Druckerman's book. "It's hard to call that wrong," Oury admits. The company Druckerman keeps, "as an American journalist exiled in France and currently speaking six languages -- like Hebrew -- surely isn't representative of the methods and educative resources of the majority of the French population." Oury does take a moment to defend Druckerman, calling it "funny (or disturbing)" to see American critics using Druckerman's earlier Lust in Translation, about arranging a threesome, "to discredit her." (To be fair, Rachael Larimore at Slate's XX Factor wasn't trying to call Druckerman a bad mother: she correctly guessed that the disappearance of an article about the threesome was a publicity stunt, and also suggested Druckerman's manic campaign to produce said threesome at her husband's request betrayed an approach that, whether in marriage or parenthood, might have slanted her view of American women and balance.)
But even Oury ends by saying that "what one deplores the most remains the general tenor of Druckerman's observations."
France TV Info takes it further, saying "more and more the myth of the French style of life is irritating." The author, Julie Rasplus, runs through the recent American gushing about French seduction, cuisine, and now parenting, and points out the counter-arguments.
"Viewed from the United States, French women are close to perfect creatures," agrees an article at L'Atlantico.fr. But "the French bourgeoisie Pamela Druckerman was living in don't necessarily reflect global reality," it points out. "Americans, reassure yourselves: little terrors exist in France, too."
There seems to be some agreement from French commenters across the web on that point. A post from Elisabeth Guédel-Treussard at French Morning, though largely approving of Druckerman's book, sums it up. "Pamela Druckerman has never encountered me in a Parisian Monoprix or a New York Whole Foods. If [she] had, she would have seen my kids tearing around on foot to grab candy and wouldn't have written that 'French children don't make scenes in the supermarket.'"
The number of American teens who excel at advanced math has surged. Why?
On a sultry evening last July, a tall, soft-spoken 17-year-old named David Stoner and nearly 600 other math whizzes from all over the world sat huddled in small groups around wicker bistro tables, talking in low voices and obsessively refreshing the browsers on their laptops. The air in the cavernous lobby of the Lotus Hotel Pang Suan Kaew in Chiang Mai, Thailand, was humid, recalls Stoner, whose light South Carolina accent warms his carefully chosen words. The tension in the room made it seem especially heavy, like the atmosphere at a high-stakes poker tournament.
Stoner and five teammates were representing the United States in the 56th International Mathematical Olympiad. They figured they’d done pretty well over the two days of competition. God knows, they’d trained hard. Stoner, like his teammates, had endured a grueling regime for more than a year—practicing tricky problems over breakfast before school and taking on more problems late into the evening after he completed the homework for his college-level math classes. Sometimes, he sketched out proofs on the large dry-erase board his dad had installed in his bedroom. Most nights, he put himself to sleep reading books like New Problems in Euclidean Geometry and An Introduction to Diophantine Equations.
For decades, some psychologists have claimed that bilinguals have better mental control. Their work is now being called into question.
In one of his sketches, comedian Eddie Izzard talks about how English speakers see bilingualism: “Two languages in one head? No one can live at that speed! Good lord, man. You’re asking the impossible,” he says. This satirical view used to be a serious one. People believed that if children grew up with two languages rattling around their heads, they would become so confused that their “intellectual and spiritual growth would not thereby be doubled, but halved,” wrote one professor in 1890. “The use of a foreign language in the home is one of the chief factors in producing mental retardation,” said another in 1926.
A century on, things are very different. Since the 1960s, several studies have shown that bilingualism leads to many advantages, beyond the obvious social benefits of being able to speak to more people. It also supposedly improves executive function—a catch-all term for advanced mental abilities that allow us to control our thoughts and behavior, such as focusing on a goal, ignoring distractions, switching attention, and planning for the future.
After getting shut down late last year, a website that allows free access to paywalled academic papers has sprung back up in a shadowy corner of the Internet.
There’s a battle raging over whether academic research should be free, and it’s overflowing into the dark web.
Most modern scholarly work remains locked behind paywalls, and unless your computer is on the network of a university with an expensive subscription, you have to pay a fee, often around 30 dollars, to access each paper.
Many scholars say this system makes publishers rich—Elsevier, a company that controls access to more than 2,000 journals, has a market capitalization about equal to that of Delta Airlines—but does not benefit the academics that conducted the research, or the public at large. Others worry that free academic journals would have a hard time upholding the rigorous standards and peer reviews that the most prestigious paid journals are famous for.
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
The ancient civilization may have tracked Jupiter using sophisticated methods, but their reasons for stargazing were very different than ours.
We’ve never escaped the influence of the Babylonians. That there are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and 360 degrees in a full circle, are all echoes of the Babylonian preference for counting in base 60. An affinity for base 12 (inches in a foot, pence in an old British shilling) is also an offshoot, 12 being a factor of 60.
All this suggests that the Babylonians had a mathematics worth copying, which was why the Greeks did copy it and thereby rooted these number systems in Western tradition. The latest indication of Babylonian mathematical sophistication is the discovery that their astronomers knew that, in effect, the distance traveled by a moving object is equal to the area under the graph of velocity plotted against time. Previously it had been thought that this relationship wasn’t recognized until the fourteenth century in Europe. But since historian Mathieu Ossendrijver of the Humboldt University in Berlin found the calculation described in a series of clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform writing in Babylonia during the fourth to the first centuries B.C.E., where it was used to figure out the distance traveled across the sky by the planet Jupiter.
After a pair of poor showings in New Hampshire, Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina drop out of the race.
The Republican race is headed to South Carolina with two fewer candidates. The day after finishing sixth and seventh in the New Hampshire primaries, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina announced on Wednesday that they were suspending their campaigns.
Fiorina was always a long shot—she was practically a political newcomer, having only run one unsuccessful Senate campaign. And while her record at HP was vulnerable to attack, Republican figures saw in her both private-sector experience and a woman who could counter Hillary Clinton’s monopoly on a “historic” woman’s candidacy. While many political professionals sniffed at Fiorina’s candidacy, remembering that 2010 Senate race, she broke out after a commanding performance in the undercard to the first Republican debate. That earned her a promotion to the main stage at the next debate, where she scored another victory. But it was all downhill from there. Dogged by questions of honesty and unable to earn media attention, her campaign faded quickly.
This morning I went on Democracy Now to discuss my critique of “class-first” policy as a way of ameliorating the effects of racism. In the midst of that discussion I made the point that one can maintain a critique of a candidate—in this case Bernie Sanders—and still feel that that candidate is deserving of your vote. Amy Goodman, being an excellent journalist, did exactly what she should have done—she asked if I were going to vote for Senator Sanders.
I, with some trepidation, answered in the affirmative. I did so because I’ve spent my career trying to get people to answer uncomfortable questions. Indeed, the entire reason I was on the show was to try to push liberals into directly addressing an uncomfortable issue that threatens their coalition. It seemed wrong, somehow, to ask others to step into their uncomfortable space and not do so myself. So I answered.
Issued last summer, the rules are the centerpiece of the White House’s climate-change-fighting agenda, and they play a big part in the recent, tepid optimism about global warming. Without the proposal of the plan, the United States couldn’t have secured the Paris Agreement, the first international treaty to mitigate greenhouse-gas emissions, last December. And without the adoption of the plan, the United States almost certainly won’t be able to comply with that document. If the world were to lose the Paris Agreement—which was not a total solution to the climate crisis, but meant to be a first, provisional step—years could be lost in the diplomatic fight to reduce climate-change’s dangers.
Most people in the U.S. believe their country is going to hell. But they’re wrong. What a three-year journey by single-engine plane reveals about reinvention and renewal.
When news broke late last year of a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, most people in the rest of the country, and even the state, probably had to search a map to figure out where the city was. I knew exactly, having grown up in the next-door town of Redlands (where the two killers lived) and having, by chance, spent a long period earlier in the year meeting and interviewing people in the unglamorous “Inland Empire” of Southern California as part of an ongoing project of reporting across America.
Some of what my wife, Deb, and I heard in San Bernardino before the shootings closely matched the picture that the nonstop news coverage presented afterward: San Bernardino as a poor, troubled town that sadly managed to combine nearly every destructive economic, political, and social trend of the country as a whole. San Bernardino went into bankruptcy in 2012 and was only beginning to emerge at the time of the shootings. Crime is high, household income is low, the downtown is nearly abandoned in the daytime and dangerous at night, and unemployment and welfare rates are persistently the worst in the state.
In many developed countries, the rate of twin births has doubled or more than doubled over the past few decades, according to a recent study published in Population and Development Review.
In 1975, there were 9.5 twin births per 1,000 deliveries in the United States. In 2011, there were 16.9 twins per 1,000 births. The increase over that time was similar in England and Wales (from 9.9 to 16.1), France (9.3 to 17.4), and Germany (9.2 to 17.2), and a little steeper in Denmark (9.6 to 21.2) and South Korea (5 to 14.6).
This rise is pretty much entirely from fraternal twins—two eggs released during ovulation and fertilized by two different sperm. The rate of identical twins, who develop from one zygote that splits and forms two embryos, tends to stay relatively constant around the world, and doesn’t seem to be affected by any external factors. But the likelihood of having fraternal twins, or dizygotic twins, changes depending on the age of the mother, how many children she’s already had, the country she lives in, and genetic factors.