In school and in life, there are cliques. Groups of people. People with similar interests and hobbies. Especially in our teenage years and early adulthood, we categorize people almost immediately by what they wear, what they do, and how they act. Then, we assign them a title.
Jocks, hipsters, cheerleaders, skaters, teacher’s pets, theater kids, hippies … the list goes on and on. All of these titles are stereotypical but there is one title in particular that I would like to defend, and that would be the “nerds.”
According to urbandictionary.com, (the unofficial dictionary of everything slang and pop culture,) a “nerd” is defined as “One whose IQ exceeds his weight” and “a person who does not conform to society’s beliefs that all people should follow trends and do what their peers do. Often highly intelligent but socially rejected because of their obsession with a given subject, usually computers.”
The stereotypical nerd “look” is almost always the same. A quiet, scrawny kid with glasses, sometimes braces, awkward mannerisms, no social skills, shy and unattractive, the outcast who is usually spending the majority of their time alone or with other nerds in science club or robotics instead of hanging out at football games or dances.
Not only is the “nerd” physically and socially incompetent but also is also likely to be portrayed as immature, with “childish” or “lame” hobbies and interests such as trading cards, computer games, chess, and roleplaying.
When in our history did we come to look down upon people who are intelligent? This stereotype discourages young people at a very early age from wanting to be a part of the typical “nerd” activities such as engineering, science, math, technology and my favorite, band.
Band is not “cool” and never will be “cool.” I suppose its all a matter of personal opinion but I’m sure there could be just as many “band geeks” as popular jocks but there’s not, because everyone quits band as soon as they figure out that music won’t fly with the in-crowd. The same goes for science and math. If you were good at science and math in high school you were labeled, “the smart kid.”
You’d think smart would be a positive connotation but for some reason the words “smart” and “loser” went hand in hand. And maybe this labeling was out of jealousy for that person, but man, did we have it backwards.
Even now, there are people I see in college who seem to think being a slacker and just getting by is the “cool” thing to do. Studying for a test or putting in effort for a project is seen as overachieving. While putting in the bare minimum may seem cool now, it sure won’t get you very far when push comes to shove and we all start to realize that we actually need to do some work to make it in this life.
I have the utmost respect for intelligence and education. The people in history books may not have been the most popular but they changed the world.
Look at Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. You think they were concerned with popularity? They spent all their time working in garages, tinkering with electronics, inventing arguably the most significant piece of technology ever created. Something tells me they did not get all the ladies. But I’m sure the quarterback of the football team did.
Next time we encounter someone who fits this stereotype, I hope our first thought isn’t to belittle their mannerisms or tell them they’re trying too hard. I hope we recognize their talents and become inspired by their passion.
You never know, that quiet kid in the back of the class may someday find the cure for cancer if you give him the chance to.