Synopses & Reviews
Critically acclaimed author Alissa Quart breaks the news about an issue that will be of urgent concern to parents and educators as well as adult readers with gifted pasts: the dilemma of the gifted child. While studies show that children who are superior learners do benefit from enriched early education, the intensely competitive lives of America's gifted and talented kids do have risks. The pressure can have long-term effects in adult life, from debilitating perfectionism to performance anxiety and lifelong feelings of failure.
Quart traveled the country to research the many ways in which the current craze to produce gifted kids and prodigies has gone too far. Exploring the overhyped world of baby edutainment and better baby early education programs, she takes a hard look at the claims about educational toys and baby sign language. Taking readers inside the ever-more elite world of IQ testing, she reveals the proliferation of new categories of giftedness, including terrifyingly and severely gifted and examines the true value of such testing. Profiling the explosion of kid competitions from Scrabble(tm) and chess to child preaching she uncovers the dangers of such heated pressure to excel so early in life and exposes the prodigy hunters who search science and math fairs for teens to hire for Wall Street investment firms. Critiquing the professionalization of play, she visits with kids who've been identified as prodigies from a four-year-old painter whose works sell for $300,000, to an eight-year-old professional skateboarder who is backed by nine corporate sponsors. Surveying expert assessments of the necessary role of unstructured play in child development, she warns about the disappearance of recess and the pitfalls of children's overstuffed schedules today. She also profiles the growing divide in opportunities for wealthy kids versus those from middle and lower income families who are losing out as gifted programs at public schools are gutted in the wake of the No Child Left Behind Act.
How should parents and educators draw the line? How much enrichment is too much, and how much is too little? What are we doing to our gifted kids? Alissa Quart's penetrating in-depth examination provides a much-needed wake-up call that will spark a national debate about this urgent issue.
"Quart's follow-up to Branded shifts her focus from rapacious companies to parents, whose obsession with 'creating' or 'nurturing' giftedness, she argues, has led to a full-blown transformation of middle-class childhood into aggressive skill-set pageantry. While Quart wonderfully details the daily grinds of genuine prodigies (in everything from violin to preaching to entrepreneurship), the real force of the book is in showing how gifted childhood relentlessly tested, totally overscheduled and joylessly competitive is being created by striving parents of all stripes; such 'enrichment' not only doesn't necessarily work, it can be harmful. A chapter titled 'The Icarus Effect' presents child-prodigies as worn, depressed adults; 'Extreme Parenting' and 'Child Play or Child Labor?' show the bizarre (and often profit-based) forms prodigy-mongering is taking: 'Phoenix has started her own knitwear business,' one parent crows, 'and though she is only 12, she can do it.' Probing interviews (the kids are brilliant, robotic, frenetic, forlorn and every shade in between) are matched with educational and psychological data, with beautiful cultural riffs (particularly linking mathletes and Wall Street) and deep engagement: a former gifted kid herself, Quart interviews, interprets and assesses with a sympathy for her subjects and their caregivers that is emotionally profound. She turns in a remarkably evenhanded analysis and argues for 'multiple intelligences' and enrichment for 'strong learners' in public schools. Quart's second book is first-class literary journalism." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Much of her reporting is fascinating....In an effort to tackle virtually every aspect of the gifted world, Quart leaves her reader exhausted and without a clear sense of the unifying bigger picture. Still, her warning is worth heeding." Christian Science Monitor
"...Hothouse Kids is social criticism, not sideshow....Quart's message, thoughtful, often eloquent and bracingly frank, injects common sense into the overwrought rhetoric of parenting." Los Angeles Times
"[A] thoroughly reported, wide-ranging, clearly written study of the gifted child industrial complex." Denver Post
"[F]illed with sweeping generalizations based on a cursory examination of anecdotal evidence, limited personal experience, and a selected few works in the field. Parents seeking advice on how to raise their gifted...child will not find it here." Library Journal
"[O]ne-on-one interviews and insightful reports from the field give this book its sparkle....A challenging read for educators and parents alike." Kirkus Reviews
Quart provides a revelatory and provocative examination of the enormous pressures being brought to bear today on children designated as "gifted" by both schools and parents and how all of the special programs, classes, and competitions meant to ensure they will be highly successful can have serious "revenge effects" and troubling long-term consequences.
About the Author
Alissa Quart is the author of the acclaimed book Branded. She writes opinion pieces and book reviews for the New York Times and has written for the New York Times Magazine. A former gifted child, she started writing novels at age seven and won numerous national writing competitions. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.