Letter written in response to reading:
Anderegg, D. (2007). NERDS: Who They Are and Why we Need More of Them. New York. Penguin Group (USA).
I was excited by the prospect of reading NERDS as part of my EDTC5320 class at Texas State University. I married a ‘geek’ – at least that’s what he told me he was. He was very clear that he was NOT a ‘nerd’ and I was intrigued by the distinction he made between the two. I don’t know that I ever really understood it, but you know what we do with those newly acquired spouses? You got it! We smile, we nod, we make all the right noises and I *think* he thought I understood. I was so hopeful that this book might help me ‘get it’ but, sadly, it fell short of the mark – in my humble opinion, of course.
You see, I grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland. And while American popular culture was concerning itself with such things as nerds and geeks we were much more interested in a basic human need: that of safety. I don’t know what you know about Belfast in the 70s and 80s but, I can tell you, it wasn’t a fun place to be. Certainly, not a vacation destination! So, while concerning ourselves with safety I don’t know that we cared too much about anything else. At least I don’t remember that we did. Perhaps I could be totally wrong. Perhaps such distinctions did exist and I was not privy to them. I was, after all, in an education system where you were ‘streamed’ at 11 after taking what we called the 11+. Those who got an A in this exam were guaranteed a place in Grammar School and those who got a D were not. It was as simple as that. I got an A so I went to Grammar School – a place where we were prepped for university. A place were academics were more important than sport and a place were pretty much everyone else that went there had also got an A in their 11+. So, we were all ‘smart’. We were all there because we passed an exam and we weren’t scared to show our intelligence. We all knew we were at an elite school and we all, at least for the most part, wanted to demonstrate our greatness; our ability to stand out amongst the crowd. Academic success was not optional. I remember being called a SWOT by local children from the comprehensive school down the road but I never remember being bothered by it. Indeed, I was somewhat snobby about it; perhaps I even had the ‘I’m better than you’ attitude. Now, believe me, I am not terribly proud of what I am writing here. But it is the truth – the truth of how I grew up.
American popular culture to me, therefore was somewhat of a mystery. I had hoped this book would enlighten me but the only points I took away from it where ones I kind of already knew. I know that there is anti-intellectual sentiment in this country (a fact that quite frankly shocked me when I first moved here 4 years ago); I know that the uptake of AP Math and Science classes are low; I know that childhood is sexualized; I know that some children are bullied for being different; and I know that we, as educators need to not only be aware of it, but we need to act on it – NOW!
I am not saying that I thought you would offer me solutions but I guess I feel a little let down. Let down by the fact that I will move on from reading this book with no better idea as to the why, the how and the what, than I did before reading it. While I am not sorry I read it, I truly believe it had the potential of being more ‘enlightened’ than I currently feel.
P.S. I would also urge you to seek some therapy as I think this book is much more of a personal narrative/rant that perhaps you intended it to be!