Nerds: Who They Are and Why We Need More of Them, by David Anderegg.
in this book, the author — an experienced child psychiatrist, and a decent writer — explores the history, cultural adoption, and cultural impact of the “nerd/geek” archetype. he makes a fairly strong case for notion that nerds/geeks are despised uniquely in american culture, and traces this back to the long-standing caricatures tied to “men of thought” vs “men of action.” he sees this as an america-only dichotomy as early as ichabod crane and the legend of sleepy hollow, and traces it all the way up to the election of george bush the lesser. fascinating stuff, really.
but the history part isn’t what makes the book really worthwhile. in fact, the history part left me a bit overwhelmed, as in, “this stereotype is so pervasive — more-so than i had realized — that there’s just no way of changing it.”
actually, that feeling didn’t really go away. in fact, one of the two weaknesses of the book is that it is very light on solutions — one little chapter at the end (the other weakness is that the author might overstate his point at times, but certainly uses sarcasm and humor as a weapon, which is never a good way to make a point).
much of the book covers the impact of this stereotype in our (american) culture — from education to the sciences, from government to popular media. really, it was a bit overwhelming. there were multiple times when i considered putting the book down, thinking, “ok, i get the point.” but, maybe because my son is a smart kid and doesn’t fit the “man of action” stereotype, i read on.
i do think youth workers and parents would benefit from reading this book. and i think — while i might not be able to change culture on this one — that, as a youth worker, i have a very important responsibility in how i joke about the stuff that passes the vilification of nerds on to the next generation.