Smarty Pants Podcast

Top of the Tots


What child prodigies have to tell us about our achievement obsession


By Stephanie Bastek

March 9, 2018


Americans love a child prodigy: Shirley Temple, Bobby Fischer, Henry Cowell … the list goes on. There’s just something about kid geniuses that enchants us—fascination at how differently they must see the world, and envy at how they’ve got it made. But in her new book, Off the Charts, Ann Hulbert looks at a range of children who’ve made a splash over the past century, and whose lives have informed our approach to child-rearing and education. Nature versus nurture is just the start of the debate—and it turns out there’s no model for raising any kind of child, genius or not, and no guarantee of success, whatever that means.

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Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.

Stephanie Bastek is the associate editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.

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