Margot's Reviews > Nerds: Who They Are and Why We Need More of Them

Nerds by David Anderegg
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's review
Jun 17, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction

Anderegg aims to show the harmful effects of the nerd stereotype not only on the kids who are targeted, but also to American society as a whole. When we vilify the smart kids, who would want to be good at school, or pursue math and science, if it means they would never get laid? And then we lament the fact that our engineering jobs are being outsourced to India; in 1994, 42% of science and engineering Ph.D.s awarded in the U.S. went to foreign citizens.

Anderegg explores the historical, cultural and psychological background of the nerd/geek stereotype, and examines how it has been equated with mental illness in the form of Asberger's Syndrome. According to Anderegg, this stereotype is the only one that is still socially acceptable, unlike racism or sexism. He concludes with an analysis of the 2000 presidential election, which he posits was covered in the media as a classic "nerd v. jock" struggle. His arguments culminate in a call for broad cultural change, in the form of national competitive spirit, such as the race for space. To Anderegg, the results of nerd-bashing in the form of an uneducated and anti-intellectual populace is a major looming catastrophe for the United States. Most of the time he's convincing, except when he seems to get a bit whiny and pleading.

Here's my favorite quote from the book, which is a quote from Mirka Prazak, an anthropology professor:
"The nerd/geek stereotype is a luxury. Some cultures have their versions; others do not. But it seems to me that the likelihood of having such a stereotype is inversely related to how long a culture has been literate. In places where many adults are still struggling to become literate or when near-universal literacy has been achieved within living memory, 'wise ones' are always venerated, not punished. It's only in cultures where everyone can read and go to school that such stereotypes can even begin to take root. Otherwise, the costs are too high."
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