January 2007

Amy GŁth

nonfiction

Hothouse Kids: The Dilemma of the Gifted Child by Alissa Quart

In the current climate of bigger, better, faster, more, this book serves as an excellent call for parental consideration. Alissa Quart considers less a specific group and more the pressures forced upon children nationally. Her questions and hypothesis are assertive and excellent ones, but one can’t help but wonder if perhaps the opposite is a greater problem facing children currently -- that is, in our culture of hyper-consumerism and minimal attention spans, what about the children not in this book, the children who don’t get the encouragement they so desperately need? That’s not the subject of Quart’s focus in the least, but her focus is so terribly specific that is feels to be neglecting far too many factors to deliver a well-rounded view. She does touch on the topic of children left behind briefly, but not enough to truly feel balanced, perhaps.

One chapter in particular, "Children of God, Teen Preaching Tournaments," while eye-opening, only seems to further divide the already specific audience. But, it is a dazzingly shocking section, a section that could easily support an entire book-length examination on its own. In condensed form, it feels group-specific, whereas expanded upon could perhaps give a wider cross-section of religious expectations placed upon children by various groups.

Still, despite structure that wavers between choppy and brilliant, Quart has wonderfully captured the feelings of both neglect and suffocation that accompany frantic schedules and unbearable academic pressures. She manages to do this while capturing an array of painful childhood experiences and the range of coping techniques called upon to survive these pressured upbringings.

The final chapter, "Rethinking Giftedness: Against Perfection," however, is excellent. It’s both reassuring and encouraging to parents and adults once pressured children themselves. It is here she painstakingly emphasizes her call to focus more on uniqueness and intelligence and less on quantifiable, standard measures of worth.

Hothouse Kids: The Dilemma of the Gifted Child by Alissa Quart
The Penguin Press
ISBN: 1594200955
272 Pages