READY OR NOT by Kay S. Hymowitz


Why Treating Children as Small Adults Endangers Their Future--and Ours
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A flawed yet fascinating look at the changing nature of childhood. Hymowitz blames “psychologists, psychiatrists, educators, child advocates, lawmakers, advertisers, marketers, [and] storytellers” for fostering what she dubs an “anticultural” model of child rearing. Rather than view their children as works-in-progress who need to be “inducted by their elders into a pre-existing society” or culture, Hymowitz believes that today’s hands-off parents have been encouraged to think of their offspring as “autonomous, independent individuals discovering their own reality.” Anticulturalism begins at birth, the author asserts, aided by recent neuroscience-based theories that present babies as “information-organizing individuals,” who operate as pint-sized scientists making sense of the world around them, As a result, everything from play to love, from Matisse to Mozart is reduced to “data for the computerized brain” instead of “food for the soul.” The process continues with the growing child’s exposure to “anticultural education,” featuring trendy theme-based learning in which students take the lead, and to the media, whose “teening of childhood” teaches kids to be tough, cool, and ironic before their time. Hymowitz longs for the days of something called “republican childhood,” in which parents molded their children into democratic citizens by striking a balance between freedom and restraint. But nostalgia blinds the author to the ironies of her position. Rather than being “anticulture,” today’s kids are the natural end products of culture. The author’s real quarrel lies with the debasement of pop culture itself—a much larger issue. Similarly, Hymowitz gives only cursory attention to rampant consumerism, television, and peer pressure, all of which fill the void left by parents who lack the time to do the sort of nurturing she envisions. Hymowitz writes gracefully and weaves observations drawn from a variety of fields into an argument that is witty, erudite, and exhaustive. But because the author has used her considerable talents to construct an “anticultural” straw man, this book’s parts are greater than its whole.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-83624-6
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1999