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The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School
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December 2018: Geek Reads > The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins - 4 stars

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Joy D | 4184 comments The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School by Alexandra Robbins - 4 stars

Non-fiction recounting the author’s analysis of a plethora of reference materials, along with results of interviews of both students and experts, showing the long-term value of non-conformity. The author has coined the term “quirk theory” to describe the results of her analysis. In the author’s words: “Quirk Theory: Many of the differences that cause a student to be excluded in school are the same traits or real-world skills that others will value, love, respect, or find compelling about that person in adulthood and outside of the school setting...Quirk theory is intended to validate students’ inability or refusal to follow the crowd. It serves as a way to explain that, once they leave the school setting, their lives can improve.”

Robbins explains the science behind meanness, exclusion, social labeling, and group dynamics. She observes that high school groups tend to value popularity and conformity, while ignoring, excluding, or even bullying those viewed as “different.” She offers hope to the non-popular individuals that their lives will improve once they move on to college or work environments. She focuses on seven individuals who identify as nerd, band geek, new girl, gamer, weird girl, loner, and popular. She documents the pressures to conform and the inner struggles of those viewed as “inferior.” The author issues a challenge to the seven individuals and discusses their progress with them many times over the course of a school year.

The book reads like a series of anecdotes (from the seven individuals) interspersed with a summary of research. I think has merit in helping understand the issues related to group intolerance. It could give hope to those feeling marginalized. Robbins offers suggestions on how to overcome (or at least better ignore) the ostracism they are currently experiencing. She also offers ideas for how parents and schools can help nurture the self-esteem of students with atypical interests, unique style, or extraordinary skills. The same individuals who are tormented in high school can become some of our most prominent thinkers, artists, entrepreneurs, and innovators. It encourages acceptance of others, which I think is an admirable goal. I found it informative and thought-provoking .

Recommended to those interested in the psychology of groups, students feeling like they don’t quite “fit in,” and the educators and parents of such students. Contains profanity, homophobia, and references to underage drinking, sex, and drug usage.

Link to my GR review:

message 2: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (joabroda1) | 8091 comments Wish I had this book available when my daughter was in school-Teachers would tell me, she will do well in the world..but try getting that through to a 15 year old who fits in only with drama club, and then not really! But the teachers were right-

Very nice review.

Joy D | 4184 comments Thanks, Joanne! I wish it had been available when I was in high school. Not my fondest memories.

message 4: by Jgrace (new)

Jgrace | 3018 comments Another one for the list. My oldest child, who had a very successful, active high school career, has in the last 15 years talked a great deal about how toxic she thinks high school culture is.

message 5: by Dan (new)

Dan I was lucky enough to teach at a high school embedded in a junior college. The school did not offer a single athletic event. The students who chose to go there were unlike any other high school group I've ever experienced. Imagine a high school without a jock culture, without a high school band culture, etc--the only culture were those ready for college-level work. Students who would have been isolated on the fringe of the typical high school campus were leading the charge in acceptance and eccentricity. It was amazing. Unlike me, these students didn't have to wait until after high school to find "their people."

message 6: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (joabroda1) | 8091 comments Dan wrote: "I was lucky enough to teach at a high school embedded in a junior college. The school did not offer a single athletic event. The students who chose to go there were unlike any other high school gro..."

Oh Dan how marvelous for the kids who can go there!

Joy D | 4184 comments Dan, I would have loved that type environment. Those are some of the very ideas the author suggests in this book to help avoid a culture that stifles so many students. Another idea is to celebrate academic feats in the same manner as sports accomplishments.

message 8: by AsimovsZeroth (last edited Dec 11, 2018 01:51PM) (new) - added it

AsimovsZeroth (asimovszerothlaw) | 436 comments I was lucky enough to escape that kind of environment, because I was too ill to regularly go to school, so I only dealt with the high school environment as a visitor. I took elective courses there that my homeschooling program didn't offer and participated in the leadership clubs. I honestly think this might be the best of both worlds. I still had plenty of socialization, but I also had plenty of time to explore myself and become comfortable with it, without the relentless social pressure. It's a lot easier not to give in and conform, when you don't have to be subjected to that every single day, just for a few hours a week. I soon realized that my oddities actually attracted people from different groups, and those friendships were more sustainable anyway.

I'm really interested in the type of school Dan mentioned though. That also sounds like a good way to lessen the tribalism. Although I do hope they had SOME social groups at least, because leadership/hobby groups do expose kids to new responsibilities and perspectives they may have been unaware of.

Edit - Oh and thanks for the detailed review, Joy! You've convinced me that I need to add this to the list. :)

Joy D | 4184 comments Thanks, LiteraryMania! Hope you enjoy it. Glad you didn't have to deal with the typical high school environment.

message 10: by Booknblues (new)

Booknblues | 6497 comments Great review, Joy . This sounds really good.

Joy D | 4184 comments Thanks, Booknblues!

message 12: by NancyJ (last edited Dec 11, 2018 11:55PM) (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 5778 comments Nice review! "Geeks rule" is a very hopeful message for kids who don't feel like they fit in (which was probably most of us at some time or other). All geeks are not alike though. Not all geeks are going to have marketable skills, and even when they do, they'll still need to find ways to work with or influence other people in some way.

I don't think I've ever met anyone who said they were happy (or fit in) in high school. Even jocks have described ways that they were bullied (or hazed or assaulted) in school. It really helps if you can find a career where your particular geeky skills are needed, and to find friends/coworkers who can appreciate or at least tolerate your kind of personal geekiness. If you can't change what makes you different, it might be easier to find a place where you aren't so different. Theater geeks aren't different in the theater. Math geeks are just like everyone else at MIT.

It doesn't sound like the author's research methods were very rigorous, but I like the approach she took to help coach the kids to develop an important skill they needed. As parents, teachers, bosses or mentors, maybe that's the most important thing we can do. Telling kids "it gets better" only goes so far. They need tools to gain perspective or make things better for themselves.

Focusing on adults, you might also like the books Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, and Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by the same author. One key point is that it's not enough to have a great idea if you can't get anyone to help fund it, support it, or implement it. He helps people develop those skills.

Joy D | 4184 comments NancyJ, thanks! The author does not claim to be doing her own scientific research. She offers anecdotes from the seven individuals she followed and interviewed throughout the school year in support of the research done by others (there's a full bibliography in the back). As you say, coaching and the ability to enact ideas are important. I will check out the books you have referenced. I've always been a non-conformist so these type books appeal to me. My son calls me weird but I just tell him I'm unique. :-)

message 14: by NancyJ (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 5778 comments Joy D wrote: "NancyJ, thanks! The author does not claim to be doing her own scientific research. She offers anecdotes from the seven individuals she followed and interviewed throughout the school year in support..."

Unique is good! You might really like Originals. Give and Take is probably the best book on networking because he takes away some of the old negative connotations, and focuses on sharing information and building relationships.

Joy D | 4184 comments Sounds really interesting. I have added both to my TBR lists

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