Education Opinion

Hothouse Kids

August 12, 2006 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The reader gets the impression from Hothouse Kids—the title refers to children whose extraordinary gifts are nurtured in controlled environments—that precociousness is springing up everywhere these days. As Quart tells it, there is an abundance of super-precocious artists, mathematicians, musicians, and debaters in miniature constantly being managed by parents, trained by high-priced tutors, and whisked from one high-stakes competition to the next.

It isn’t that kids are necessarily smarter than they once were, but that they are now expected, as Quart writes, to become “employee[s] of their talent.” Surrendering their leisure time and working at their gifts around the clock, many of these kids become young professionals before the age of 10.

Hothouse Kids cover

Quart’s book is extremely balanced, and she is not willing to argue that an intensive focus upon a child’s gift is necessarily a bad thing. Many children depicted here are completely engrossed in what they do and need little inducement to practice an instrument, say, six hours a day.

On the other hand, the line between coercion and nurturance is almost hopelessly blurred—hence the “dilemma” of the title. Quart details how what she terms the “extreme parenting crowd” can damage kids by harping relentlessly on their gifts. One representative woman, once deemed a girl “genius” by her father, now says, “I totally try to repress my childhood. The ‘enrichment’ bled the joy out of me.”

Paradoxically, as childhood “genius” is worshipped as never before, gifted programs in public schools are being gutted to satisfy the No Child Left Behind Act, which emphasizes boosting the test scores of low-achieving students. Hence, gifted children without resources are being “left behind.”

The overarching goal, Quart concludes, is to find a golden mean between normalizing kids and hothousing them. That is, we should nurture giftedness while resisting the temptation to overcultivate, which inadvertently causes harm.


Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: November 17, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Nearly a Million Kids Vaccinated in Week 1, White House Says
Experts say there are signs that it will be difficult to sustain the initial momentum.
4 min read
Leo Hahn, 11, gets the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Last week, U.S. health officials gave the final signoff to Pfizer's kid-size COVID-19 shot, a milestone that opened a major expansion of the nation's vaccination campaign to children as young as 5. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Education How Schools Are Getting Kids the COVID Shot, and Why Some Aren’t
Some district leaders say offering vaccine clinics, with the involvement of trusted school staff, is key to helping overcome hesitancy.
5 min read
A girl walks outside of a mobile vaccine unit after getting the first dose of her COVID-19 vaccine, outside P.S. 277, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Education Biden Administration Urges Schools to Provide COVID-19 Shots, Information for Kids
The Biden administration is encouraging local school districts to host vaccine clinics for kids and information on benefits of the shots.
2 min read
President Joe Biden, and first lady Jill Biden walk to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Biden is spending the weekend at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)