05 July, 2005


As a lifelong nerd, geek, dork, and dweeb, I have to express my confusion. Why are nerds so reviled? Is it because people don't like to feel stupid? Well, people probably don't like to feel weak and enervate either, but that hasn't resulted in an anti-jock backlash, as far as I can tell. Is it because academic performance is metered and physical prowess is not? If we got rid of grades, would nerds become popular chick-magnets loved for their wit and conversational breadth? Tell me, I must know!


people don't like to feel stupid  Bingo. Envy. In kindergarten, or thereabouts, teachers are sort of equally affectionate to all, and no one behaves too badly. (generalizing broadly) Most people usually have warm fuzzy feelings about their first-grade teacher. School is not really about being an intellectual, and like strands of DNA in the early stages of an electrophoresis gel, we mostly clump together. It's a fun, warm, nurturing place where we soak up what we're supposed to learn without having to display our own prowess too much. So then when things start getting tough. . .math quizzes and boring reading assignments and stars for poster projects. . the kids who do well are easily seen as the teacher's pets who suddenly hog that wellspring of affection and praise. This separation process happens a little sooner in life and is a bigger part of the school-day than the resolving of athletic ability in an hour or two of PE. So it creates more resentment, and deeper resentment.

Also, children learn from adults. It is, among mature people, much less acceptable to get angry at someone for being physically inept or weak than it is for being stupid. How often might you hear an adult call another one, affectionately, "whimp!" vs. "idiot!"? So they know it's bad to be stupid, and they resent anyone who makes them feel that way. Hence the subversive, immature, underlying culture of making fun of smart people.

I don't think the metering matters, because by the time grades are serious the effect is quite prevalent.

would nerds become popular chick-magnets We seem to be assuming all nerds are straight guys. :-) 

Posted by Saheli

Err... you're right. Can I weasel out by suggesting that not all chicks need be female? 

Posted by saurabh

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