Amy's Reviews > The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins
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Jan 04, 12

Read from December 23 to 28, 2011

I have enough to say about this book that I could write a good ol' fashioned book report on it, but I will try to keep my words to a minimum since I lack eloquence.

This is an interesting book, albeit with an idea that isn't revolutionary. Geeks rule the world? Shocker. In an age where technology is king, it only makes sense that the skinny, albino computer nerd will one day become the next Silicon Valley employee and the popular jock will be seriously disappointed when he can't go pro. And although I see and somewhat agree with this idea, I also find it to be a flaw: generalizations and stereotypes ruled this book. Every single outcast was brilliant and amazing and destined for greatness (if only he could find a way to pass those classes, overcome his fear of talking, etc.) Guess what? Not all nerds are smart! I have taught this type and made the assumption that if he's a nerd, he must at least be smart. And of course everyone has their own skills and talents, but sometimes the nerds aren't school smart, or inherently good at math. And plenty of popular people ARE smart and have the qualities necessary to succeed in life beyond the confines of high school.
I appreciated that she wrote about teachers but she made us sound like we all behave as bad as high schoolers with cliques and gossip and backstabbing. I experienced more of this working at Wells Fargo for a couple of summers than I did at all the schools I volunteered, student taught and taught in. Yes, teachers do have the potential to do this, but anything I saw was extremely mild and the "worst" of it was at a new high school with an unusually young staff.

Robbins also portrayed schools as institutions that promote being cool and athletic, without giving merit to students who are involved in "educational" activities (math clubs, etc.) I am not so naive as to think these schools exist, but once again, I have taught across the country and this has never been my experience. During my junior year, being on the chess team became quite popular. In my calc 2 class, we made shirts (a tradition they did every year) and we wore them with pride on every test day. (And there were plenty of "popular" kids in this math class.) I have taught at schools where Debate Team, Mock Trial and the Robotics Club were big deals that were recognized in morning announcements. And I have NEVER been at or worked at a school where being smart was labeled as uncool.

I found one of her examples especially ironic: at a school where a teacher tried to start a GSA club, the school wouldn't let her but they had a bulletin board displaying crosses and promoting a Christian Fellowship. I worked at a school with a thriving GSA club, but when some of my students approached the administration about starting a Christian Club, they said we couldn't even take it to the school board because it would be denied. Fortunately, I had a good rapport with the administrators and they allowed us to meet as an unofficial club.

She also made some comments that surprised me regarding behaviors that students were getting in trouble for that she didn't agree with, including cross dressing and opposing authority. I really don't think cross dressing is okay and of course students should get in trouble for opposing authority! Why should we teach teens that it's okay to disobey teachers and administration?

All this being said (and I do have more to say, but I will spare you), I did agree with her ideas that education should change. Having more creative, less standardized-test-oriented curricula would be a huge advantage for our students and our progress as a country. I am a fairly traditional teacher, but I would have loved more room in my units for exploration and imagination. There's so much pressure to get through 'x' amount of material that it leaves very little room for valuable outside projects and application. I also agree that high school is hard and teachers and parents need to be part of the solution, not the problem. Moms: it is not your job to be the "cool mom" and serve any Hump-day treats. And any teacher who witnesses any sort of bullying should have a zero tolerance policy. My students knew that you don't speak bad about anyone in my class (whether that person be in the room or not, be a student or a teacher, be an enemy or a friend.)

I find it terribly difficult to rate this book: I disagreed with her, agreed with her, found the "characters" intriguing and appreciated her challenges to them, found her quick to generalize and stereotype and slow to appreciate that there is always another example to counter the ones she gave. Despite all of this, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it, especially to teachers and all who work with teens. In fact, I would even recommend it to teens. It sheds some light on those tricky adolescent years and reminds all of us to be just a little more sympathetic.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Alison As a high school teacher, I agree with everything you said here!


message 2: by Holly (new)

Holly i don't see a problem with cross dressing. people did that at my HS, but we had a intensive arts program.


message 3: by Tria (new) - added it

Tria You "don't think cross-dressing is okay"? Really? How often do YOU wear trousers? It's a double standard, and a highly unfair one, that boys wearing skirts are regarded as cross-dressers when very few people would so much as blink an eye at girls wearing trousers.


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