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Paul Graham's "Why Nerds are Unpopular" - the best

Today I've accidentally found something, which is by far the best reading I've had in months. It's a long article written by very bright gentleman who's name is Paul Graham.

So I've decided to share it with you just in case some of you haven't heard of it before:

"Why Nerds are Unpopular" http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html

Its written in light, captivating style and goes far beyond its title.

Just a quote:
"I know a lot of people who were nerds in school, and they all tell the same story: there is a strong correlation between being smart and being a nerd, and an even stronger inverse correlation between being a nerd and being popular. Being smart seems to make you unpopular."

Vlad Gudim
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Wow.

Just, wow.

This should be on the required reading list for every education degree in the country.

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Yet while insightful, I reject the premise.

I too was a nerd in high school, yet I wasn't the social outcast made out in the article.  In fact all of my friends were nerds too, but they also weren't social outcasts.

The difference was our parents I think.  Ever since I was in elementary school, my parents encouraged certain friendships while discouraging others.  This all happened in the time before social heiarchies formed.  Encouraged friendships included those with well behaved semi-intelligent students.

The interesting thing that happened, was those that weren't top tier stepped up to become top tier.  It was our own social heirachy where intelligence was prized.  We were all friends, did normal teenage things that the popular kids did, but we never socialized with the popular groups.

We managed (with the aid of our parents) to form our own social class that didn't frown on people that were nerds, but encouraged the practice.

The biggest benefit to this system was that not many of the members were also part time members of other systems.  Some were athletes some were fashion queens.  It infused a lot of different groups of people together.  Some people that were more nerds than others were frowned upon, but those in the middle played the roll of protectors.

One of my friends was definately in the smart nerd category, while another one was in the smart popular category.  They never really interacted, but those in the middle (like myself) played buffer.  Both were my friends, and we all stood up for each other.

In our own heiarchy it was cool to be smart.  You could be a nerd and be smart or be popular and be smart.  The only requirement was that you were smart.

Looking back now, so many of my high school alumni know who I was even though I know so few of them.  We were all popular by association, even if we were a nerd.  We weren't the most popular group in school, but it didn't matter.  We formed our own isolated social structure outside of the traditional bounds, and it made those high school years some of the best of our lives.

To date we are all still friends.

Elephant
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

How does that invalidate the premise? It sounds like your parents took active steps to circumvent the problem, and succeeded. But that doesn't mean the problem doesn't exist, or Graham's analysis of it is wrong.

Having a life vest doesn't mean the sea doesn't kill those who don't. ;-)

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

"What bothers me is not that the kids are kept in prisons, but that (a) they aren't told about it, and (b) the prisons are run mostly by the inmates. Kids are sent off to spend six years memorizing meaningless facts in a world ruled by a caste of giants who run after an oblong brown ball, as if this were the most natural thing in the world. And if they balk at this surreal cocktail, they're called misfits."

Brilliant

ken
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

One of the interesting things about the article is the bit about living inside a bubble with no external forces to provide an incentive for improvement.  It leads to barbarism, cruelty, and a popularity contest heirarchy.  I believe that there is no real limit to the size of that bubble.

Meaning, the planet we live on is such a bubble.  If we don't decide to perceive some sort of reason to improve, we are going to behave as nothing more than prisoners.  Doing something that is measurable on an absolute level may be an incentive to improve the inside of the bubble, but politics itself is frequently just a popularity contest within the bubble.

I don't want to minimize the value of the article by turning this into a political debate or a flamewar of any kind.  I just wanted to point out that it seems to extend beyond just schools and prisons.

One thing it didn't discuss specifically that it could have, is that nerds tend to make other people feel inferior.  Perhaps not deliberately (though sometimes it is deliberate), but it still happens.  People tend to strike out at those who make them feel inferior.  It takes a certain level of emotional maturity to be able to ask someone for help, and teenagers who are concerned with being popular certainly don't want to be seen associating with a nerd, so they won't ask for help.  It's easier just to pick on them.  Cooler, too.

anon
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

I just felt that Paul was indicating that there was no escaping the tragedies created by suburbia.  My parents did indeed start me down the path, but I had to finish the walk on my own. 

I think kids become trapped within these stereotypes only if they choose to.  Largely I think they might not know better, as TV and Hollywood only portrays the stereotypes described in the article.  I don't think Suburbia forces kids into these stereotypes, but rather, kids don't know anything but these stereotypes and they pick one that they best fit into.

Even still, if I had to break up my high school class into stereotypes, the groups wouldn't be depicted on a scale of popular to nerd, but rather based on their extracurricular activities.  Band Members, Choir Members, Track Athletes, Field Hockey Athletes, Basketball Athletes, Computer Club, Chess Club, Math Club, Drama Club, and then there were students that didn't have any activities but just hung out with each other.

Maybe high schools have changed a lot in the past 7 years since I've graduated, but the way that the media and hollywod depicts high schools is a far cry from the behaviors at my high school.  There were popular students and nerd students, and those that isolated themselves from the entire process.  On the whole though, students were more defined by their activities then by their social status.  Only if they had no activities could they soley be defined by social behaviors.

Elephant
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

---
There's a strong correlation between being a nerd, and absence of any/all social skills.
---
    --My nerd theory


Nerds are awkward.  I don't agree with Paul Graham's assertion that nerds choose to be nerds, or choose to be smarter at the expense of being popular.  Most all nerds are awkward, somehow.  Socially, physically, etc--you make the list; we all agree.  It's like Adam Sandler's film "Billy Madison"--when he returns to high school, he is no longer cool, and has to sit with Paul Graham's younger self at the cafeteria.  It's not because he chooses to be smarter, it's because he is forced into the lower echelon.

It's the path of least resistance.  Nerds become nerds because they bray like a horse when laughing, or because they're the stinky kid, or because they're so clumsy they can't even dribble a basketball (much less actually catch a football), or because they're runt small.  That's what makes it miserable for the kids--they have no way to choose.  Paul tries to smooth it over (a little) by saying we all choose our popularity to some extent, but that's mostly untrue.  Most kids have no say in the matter.


Oh, and as for me, I was (was) runt-small.  And I hate(d) socializing in general.

pds
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

I find it weird that everyone talks about the popular kids but at the same time seem to hate them.  Why call them "popular" when they are no better liked than anyone else.  I agree their is a social hierarchy in some schools but my high school experience was closer to elephant's.  I think is because I grew up in an upper middle class suburb in which every kid was driven to go to a good college and be financially secure just like his parents.  In that kind of environment just about everyone wanted high SAT's or to take AP classes.  These things were envied and so a lot of the so-called popular kids were actually very smart.  Within the smart kids, there were clearly socially awkward or physically unattractive D&D playing dorks, and better looking more poised individuals.  I never felt more or less popular than any of them.

name withheld out of cowardice
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

My observation (albeit a decade or so dated) was that the most common predicate of popularity was a history of participation in team sports, and that the A tables had their share of highly intelligent individuals, just as the D table had its share of the academic dregs (as Milhouse says "I'm not a nerd, Bart. Nerds are smart. I'm a geek.") Obviously the D table generally had more time to pursue overt intellectual displays (such as "knowing computers"), and this may have given an aura of intellectual superiority to some marginal individuals.

Why team sports? Humans in virtually all numbers, big or small, break down further into "tribes" based upon similarities. Team sport is a natural similarity to leverage when bonding into "alliances". These networks of individuals have a huge leg up over socially detached individuals when it comes to the big popularity game. Add to this the fact that team sports imbue social skills, self-confidence, and physical abilities. I would wager that the boardrooms of big business are filled with the ranks of former team sports enthusiasts.

Dennis Forbes
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Dennis:

John Stossel did a spot on popularity and spoke to "experts".  They said that for a girl popularity is related to looks and clothes.  For a boy it is related to athletic ability and sense of humor.

Sounds about right.

name withheld out of cowardice
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Quite an excellent essay. Perhaps not as much regarding nerds specifically but for spelling out the economic reason for why we have these modern "prison schools" in the first place, and how such environments inevitably lead to some fucked-up mini-society.

However, I disagree with Graham's assertion that kids _must_ be locked up in those schools because they're economically useless until they're grown up. True, improving the citizens' economic usefulness was the original reason for why obligatory schooling was introduced in the 18th and 19th century, but school was much shorter back then. Most of what kids learn in today's schools is in no way related to their jobs as adults.

There's no reason why we couldn't cut back compulsory schooling and send teenagers to early vocational training instead. Or rather, there may be a reason but it's not some requirement of work specialization but rather artificially keeping down unemployment numbers...

Chris Nahr
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Chris,

Mr Graham makes his economical point, saying that children need to be locked up to allow their parents get on with their jobs and not to worry about their kids simply hanging around on the streets.

Again some of you mentioned that they had school environment  nothing like described in the article. Well, lucky you. I spent 9 years in the "ordinary" school before attending privilege one for 3 years and I must say its quite a difference between them.

Everything in ordinary school was exactly the way described.

Moreover, maybe Joel or someone else can tell us a bit about national service experience (the same type of closed involuntary society) most of each is not very exciting.

Vlad Gudim
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

This topic brings back memories.  I always tried to branch out in high school, from acting in plays to playing piano in the jazz band to singing in choir, to avoid being too one-sided.  When I entered college, I was offered the chance to be in the honors program.  I declined, because I didn't want to hang around a bunch of nerds all the time; I wanted my social circle to be more diverse.

In my last year of college, I was talking with some of my closest friends, and it turned out that they were all in the honors program; I was the only one who wasn't, simply because I declined to be in it.  A lovely irony, that I ended up hanging out with the same people anyway, because they were the sort of people it was interesting to be around.

But as it turned out, they weren't the social outcasts.  There certainly _were_ some social outcasts at my college, but they were the kind who read too many fantasy and scifi books, played Risk or D&D on Friday nights, and didn't bathe regularly.  There were plenty of smart people there who didn't remotely resemble the real outcasts.

Kyralessa
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

That was an interesting read, and here are the 2 statements which I agree the most:

--
So there are more people who want to pick on nerds than there are nerds.
--

--
We were a bit like an adult would be if he were thrust back into middle school. He wouldn't know the right clothes to wear, the right music to like, the right slang to use. He'd seem to the kids a complete alien. The thing is, he'd know enough not to care what they thought. We had no such confidence.
--

I think that's the key. I used to think that the bullies that were making fun of nerds had a puerile attitude, but they were still “frightening” me and would try to behave so they don’t call me names anymore. And we were quite outnumbered. We were 7 nerds for 60 students. Should I return now, I’d have the guts to ignore them and throw some sarcastic remarks to the most perseverant bullies. I sure don’t have any problems now!

I don’t agree with everything, though. While I’d like to elaborate, there’s a limited time I can charge at my job for “administrative duties”. And I feel retarded when I write in the English language… I’d stick to say that Dennis Forbes’ text has pretty much hit it on the nail and add a little bit of what I think.

Where I went to high school, there were a lot of smart people in the A-B-C-D camps. And not all residents of the D camp were very smart. In the A camp, one is the top student in cardiology in the whole fricking province. An insecure guy who was good in sports, but average at school, needed to make fun of me to accept that I was smarter than him. He’s now a successful marketing guy/salesman earning a LOT of money. Some “nerds” in the D camp weren’t that brilliant. They were in the dreaded camp because they were shy and had their social interactions with Celes in Final Fantasy III, instead of their classmates. These examples are not exceptions, as much as some would like to believe that the muscled guy who used to make fun of the nerds is now unemployed and alcoholic.

The point is that the classification is not based on being smart, but how the people interacts/are confident. Physical appearance wasn’t an important factor such as the author seems to stress to. Sure, Claudia Schiffer wasn’t probably a D in high school. But you could have ugly people in A and beautiful people in D. Well, the D ones would have been even more beautiful if they smiled once in a while and had more confidence.

When the author says “Why is the real world more hospitable to nerds?”, I think he commits a big mistake. The real world is not more hospitable to nerds. I don’t know this guy at all, so I guess that either:

1) He earned more confidence in himself, finally understood that “Mente sana in corpo sano” is not crap, takes a little time to be presentable, and being smart/literate means you can talk nice to the ladies. So he’s not a nerd anymore, at least not in the sense that smart == nerd.

2) He works in a tight-wrapped computer lab where all is coworkers are LISP freaks. In their coffee breaks, they talk about the emergence of weak dynamic typing or how to solve the impedance mismatch. Other interactions with people such as neighbours, are limited to weather conversation ( Dramatization! ) Sure, nobody makes fun of him and he can live his happy life in this bubble. Should he try to enter a jet-set nightclub with his Velcro running shoes, his beard and glasses, bouncers/customers would make fun of him.

Anonymouche
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

You forgot that in the real world, nerds generally have a higher income than the average population, and income makes a difference.
In school your own intellect doesn't affect cash assets at all - you're beholden to what your parents let you spend.

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

I think much of what he says is more common in the States than elsewhere. The 'hearties' v 'intellectual' antithesis is less common in Spain or Saudi or even in the UK.

Also, most studies have shown a strong positive correlation between ability at sports and intellectual ability. The fact that you must specialize later in life tends to blur that fact, but when I taught High Schol in England we had to be very careful to avoid clashes between chess and cricket fixtures because there were a fair number of people on both teams.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

"Kids are sent off to spend six years memorizing meaningless facts in a world ruled by a caste of giants who run after an oblong brown ball, as if this were the most natural thing in the world."

Now, that just isn't fair.  Some of the rulers chase after round brown balls, or little round white balls, or just jump or throw things or various shapes or run around a circle.

Jim Rankin
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

My high school was just too small to have cliques.  I was the only real nerd, I think.  No one else really shared my geeky comic book, sci fi, etc. interests.

This was probably good for me.  The school was also small enough that the (American) football team was pretty much equivalent to the male high school population.  So I played sports, too, even though I didn't necessarily display any exceptional aptitude.

I still didn't fit into the social scene, though, which consisted mostly of underage drinking in the woods or in a field somewhere (yes, this is a very rural school).  I never quite got the appeal of that.

Jim Rankin
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

This American obsession with nerds. I think it’s a form of self-pity for not being popular.

I was told once that nerd was actually a physiological disorder and has nothing to do with being smart.

Actually most serial killers can be considered nerds.  I think most nerds are some kind of social failures and compensate for that with an obsession for technology, to make up for their lack of social skills. Most successful people were/are not what you would call nerds. To be really successful you must know to network. Off course there are exceptions.

I think for the people in this group geeks would be a better name.

blaZ
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Dennis,

I'd generalize your hypothesis to "any sport". I was absolutely hopeless in high school until I took up the geekiest sport available at my school --long distance running. But that raised my stock with the popular kids enough that they didn't mind being seen around me.

I'm not sure that adults are much nicer than kids though. On occasion, I like to go to the market in the next town so I can have my groceries bagged by a guy who was a popular uber-jock in my high school class. He won't even make eye contact.

name withheld
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

"...groceries bagged by a guy who was a popular uber-jock..."

Wow...that might be the best revenge EVER.

anon
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Interesting name withheld. . . I too rand cross country and distance track seasons.  My geekiness in this sport was displayed by the fact that I was the only one to run all possible 12 seasons.  I sucked, but I did it to be social, and it worked.

Elephant
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

"Actually most serial killers can be considered nerds"

No, those were either the burnouts, the maxi-zoom dweebs or the Marine wannabes (I worked for a guy who wrote a thesis on why most serial snipers were ex-Marines)

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Several comments,

I agree with Anonymouche that the D table wasn't always filled with brilliant people, and the A table wasn't just filled with mental slouches.  Some of the smartest kids in my school sat at the A table - but they were well rounded. 

And, although Claudia Shiffer may have been a dim bulb, Cindy Crawford was her high school valedictorian (back in the days when schools had only one valedictorian).  A friend of mine was in her graduating class - she really was smart.

Graham makes no distinction between left-brain nerds and right-brain nerds.  I think he's talking primarily about left-brain nerds.  I think the world accepts right-brain nerds better.

High school is only 4 years of your life (3 in some school districts).  It's sad that some people let it get to them so much.  Personally, I've moved on and rarely ever think about it.

yet another anon
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

What a whine-fest this thread is. You all need to get in touch with your inner-child & give him a big bear-hug.

Iron John
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

"High school is only 4 years of your life (3 in some school districts).  It's sad that some people let it get to them so much.  Personally, I've moved on and rarely ever think about it."

Granted, but abuse is abuse, and nobody should ever have to go through what many "nerds" go through.  If Paul Graham's premise is correct, we should be able to fix the system somehow.  It's worth a try.

ken
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

"I think much of what he says is more common in the States than elsewhere."

The reasons may be different, but I know bullying is a severe problem in Japan, as well.  Suicides are not unheard of.

And according to this, it's not rare in Britain, either:

"Almost 8 out of every 10 children in the United Kingdom are victims of bullying. In 1999, an anti-bullying policy was implemented schools across Britain. Bullying however, still continues to be a major problem."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/parents/article_primary_05032002.shtml

Jim Rankin
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

--
You forgot that in the real world, nerds generally have a higher income than the average population, and income makes a difference.

In school your own intellect doesn't affect cash assets at all - you're beholden to what your parents let you spend.
--

I agree that nerds have a higher income than the average, but they're not the richest. They lack ambition, don't have the emotional strength, aren't good salesman, etc. I'm a fully assumed nerd, and people around me have better salaries working as firemen, building houses, having a store, etc. I'm sure there's a lot of successful and undertaking people on these forums, but I guess that most of us are doomed to brag all day long on JOS on how life is a bitch at our workplace, and won't take any action against it.

--
Graham makes no distinction between left-brain nerds and right-brain nerds.  I think he's talking primarily about left-brain nerds.  I think the world accepts right-brain nerds better.
--

Excellent point. Smart people in music/art/acting/writing/etc were often in the higher group of the hierarchy.

Anonymouche
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

It's worth reading Camille Paglia on high schools today. This is one of many of her diatribes on the subject:

"It's an unnatural construct, and it's a relatively recent development in the history of the world. It's a cage for all kinds of natural hormonal energies that cannot get expressed, ..."

http://articles.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1285/is_7_29/ai_55084046

tk
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

>I agree that nerds have a higher income than the average, but they're not the richest.

Not many people richer than Bill.

Milton
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

High school may only be four years, but at the time it's almost 1/3 of your memory.

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

It's natural for people to hang out with people they identify with (see themselves in).  We all like people like ourselves.  This is true whether we're 14 or 34 or 64.

I think two factors contribute a lot to making school difficult for everyone: age, and environment.

Young people are brutal and vicious about how they cut people down.  Most of us, as we get a little older, are able to recognize that "different from me" doesn't mean "what a loser".  Although even there, it's easy (as a geek) to stereotype marketing types -- and they stereotype us just as much.  And when we are young, we're more sensitive to the bullying and not able to deal with it as well.

The second difference is environment.  Part of it is that everyone knows school is not "real life", whereas work is.  So people at work tend to be more focused on getting the job done... something about a paycheck and career being involved (read: paying the bills and keeping up with the Joneses :).  Part of it is that in school you are put into forced proximity with those "different" people on a daily basis.  Even as a 30-something adult, I would have some frustration if I had to work with marketing people every day. 

So, put young people, who are intolerant and pretty brutal and pretty sensitive, in an environment where they are forced to interact with (or just be in physical proximity with) the targets of their dislike, resentment and intolerance.  Tempers flare, coping skills are weak, what do you expect will happen?

If school was about schooling and education, instead of babysitting and crowd control and sports, there'd be less incentive to spend time on being popular and less time and energy available for ridiculing and otherwise dumping on other kids.  Plus there would be more recognition that everyone's in the same boat -- more of a sense of commonality, and everyone would be able to relate more with each other.

I agree with a lot of what Paul says, and I think he has good insights.  I don't think he has a handle on the whole situation, and I sure don't pretend to.  So my statements are just addressing part of the situation that IMO he doesn't cover.  I'm not contradicting or arguing his points, just adding my own perspective to the mix.

My 2c to add to the fray. 

Should be working
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Dahlmer was a nerd.  Somewhere on the net is a comic strip depiction of his childhood.  The cartoonist knew him growing up.  He was a nerd, and then started killing animals.

In highschool near DC, in a suburb with quite a mix of incomes, I spent my lunches hopping between semi popular kids and some cliques of social outcasts.  Though I haven't kept in touch that well, the least succesful group were the headbanger types.  They seem to have all been kicked out of the military for drug possession, and such.  Remembering them from HS, it was as if that was their plan all along:  They weren't dumb at all, but they were more interested in drinking in the woods than any sort of success at anything. (The popular kids drank at parties, it isn't purely the act of drinking that was the problem here)

I think the popular kids largely went to college and got some sort of career, not necessarily glamerous.  Probably because their parents were richer on average.

Of the non-headbangers rejects, they seem to have had a disproportionate amount of non drug related minor legal trouble.  They just seem to lash out and get themselves into trouble.  Only one of them has a computer job, something non-glamerous by programmer standards at a military contractor.

Bullies weren't all that popular, and they generally weren't any sort of all-star in sports.  I think they have to push rejects down to keep themselves up, rather than most popular kids who are up because of their own social abilities.  Popular kids just avoid rejects.

In truth, popularity was kind of a myth.  While there was some sort of social hierarchy, it was really just a bunch of cliques of more or less the same size, and the graph of who looked down on whom would be quite complex.  There were the beautiful people, there were those who were driven to success and club presidencies, there were teams, band geeks, drama girls, the auto shop crew.  The alpha male of the headbangers was massively popular in raw numbers compared to just some random guy on the football team (and we did well in football.)

My overall observations are that socialization problems are bad for you if you don't grow out of them, people with the drive for success often tend be at least somewhat popular.  Popular people on average are more successful than unpopular people, and outcasts aren't much smarter on average and usually have much less drive for success.

Keith Wright
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

"""You forgot that in the real world, nerds generally have a higher income than the average population"""

I'll bet their incomes are higher than the average, but I'd also bet that they're way below the popular kids incomes.

School is really a microcosm of the real world. Popularity still counts. I'll bet the kids that were popular in school are still popular to this day - they learned that skill. The more popular you are, the better raises, the better promotions, etc...


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The problem with generalisations is that they're always wrong...

Jack of all
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

This is an interesting topic.  I try to compare Graham's writing to my own experience.  Sometimes it matches, sometimes not.  Graham seems to have been more popular than I was.  Being shy, having really bad acne, and no athletic skills at all is a bad combination.

OTOH, in high school there was a group of intelligent students who got high grades, took advanced classes and were quite popular.  It might be a perspective thing.  Compared to me they were wildly popular, but in the overall scheme of things maybe they weren't.  I haven't kept track of what happened to them over the years, but noticed that one has about a dozen entries in the Amazon book listings.

Whatever the comparison between Graham's experience and mine, I think that high school, and junior high/middle school, too, are bad institutions and should be done away with.  It may take a while to find good alternatives.  Home schooling offers an alternative for some, but it is unlikely that many families will be able to do it. 

mackinac
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Philo

"Having a life vest doesn't mean the sea doesn't kill those who don't"

OK, from now on, this is how you look in my mind
http://www.thesimpsonsquotes.com/images/captain_mad.gif

:)

Damian
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Most social outcasts aren't very smart at all.

Jonas B.
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Just a suggestion - if anyone is really interested in this stuff, it's covered in a lot of sociology books. Graham's thoughts are sort of like an accountant's explanation of programming.


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Nerds are unpopular because they are preoccupied with stuff that is of little interest to others. No interest -> no attention -> no popularity.

Nerds are not necessarily smart but almost inevitably boring. They have a very limited number of interests, which makes them boring for everyone who is not interested in the same stuff.

Davidson
Thursday, May 27, 2004

Maybe the essay should be retitled "Why Unpopular Nerds are Unpopular".

Of course, it could then be condensed considerably...

Michael Eisenberg
Thursday, May 27, 2004

(Am I being tongue-in-cheek?  I still don't know...)

I'm now wondering if the American public school system isn't the best education system ever conceived.  It's absolutely ruthless.  It throws "useless" facts at you, to see if you can teach yourself to learn.  It sifts people to find those who won't buy into the system, and believe so strongly that it's wrong that they'll try to change it, or escape, or die trying.  It teaches by example which battles are not worth fighting.  It teaches you patience, on the scale of years -- you know you'll be top dog as soon as you get out and are judged by your competence.

It's insane, but it might also be brilliant.

B.G.
Thursday, May 27, 2004

On a related tack, the Catalan writer Josep Plà, in "Madrid Gerona", claimed that the only educationally useful activity at his high school was cheating for exams, since getting a whole semester's facts into a crib sheet that fitted in the palm of your hand forced you to learn to summarize.

Stephen Jones
Friday, May 28, 2004

You really need to read Gatto's book at http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/index.htm to get an idea what school is really about (and it's not about the pursuit of knowledge).

Basically, the same dynamics that make prisons such nasty places are the same ones behind making schools such nasty places as well. Except that it's worse - there's no solitary in school.

I remember my time spent in school as nasty and vicious. And I found the coursework easy. I almost dropped out of school, and probably would've, if left to my own decisions and devices. Gone from there to community college to university.

I remember feeling such a relief in my first calculus class in college, when people started leaving the class because they didn't have to be there. Such a relief to finally be treated like an adult. I've never looked back.

If you want your kid to get a good education, the last place to put him or her is in school. Home school, GED, whatever, just skip school for your kid's sake.

school hater
Friday, May 28, 2004

Insightful. Amazing.

Mr. Analogy
Friday, May 28, 2004

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