Nerds, High School, and Socialization

Apparently when you search “facts about nerds” on Google we come up 2nd. The first site returned is fascinating article by Paul Graham on “Why Nerds are Unpopular”. It brought up many great points that spoke to my own popularity issues in high school and also to many reasons as to why I homeschool. While I am quoting many pieces, I recommend you read the article in its entirety.

One of his great points is that nerds don’t want to be popular enough to be popular.

But in fact I didn’t, not enough. There was something else I wanted more: to be smart. Not simply to do well in school, though that counted for something, but to design beautiful rockets, or to write well, or to understand how to program computers. In general, to make great things.

At the time I never tried to separate my wants and weigh them against one another. If I had, I would have seen that being smart was more important. If someone had offered me the chance to be the most popular kid in school, but only at the price of being of average intelligence (humor me here), I wouldn’t have taken it.

The main reason nerds are unpopular is that they have other things to think about. Their attention is drawn to books or the natural world, not fashions and parties. They’re like someone trying to play soccer while balancing a glass of water on his head. Other players who can focus their whole attention on the game beat them effortlessly, and wonder why they seem so incapable.

He also speaks as to how real life compares to high school.

Why is the real world more hospitable to nerds? It might seem that the answer is simply that it’s populated by adults, who are too mature to pick on one another. But I don’t think this is true. Adults in prison certainly pick on one another. And so, apparently, do society wives; in some parts of Manhattan, life for women sounds like a continuation of high school, with all the same petty intrigues.

I think the important thing about the real world is not that it’s populated by adults, but that it’s very large, and the things you do have real effects. That’s what school, prison, and ladies-who-lunch all lack. The inhabitants of all those worlds are trapped in little bubbles where nothing they do can have more than a local effect. Naturally these societies degenerate into savagery. They have no function for their form to follow.

When the things you do have real effects, it’s no longer enough just to be pleasing. It starts to be important to get the right answers, and that’s where nerds show to advantage. Bill Gates will of course come to mind. Though notoriously lacking in social skills, he gets the right answers, at least as measured in revenue.

So once again all this just points out the obvious, if high school isn’t real life why is it so important to make your kids learn how to fit in? I feel it harms the kids more than anything, so I homeschool to combat it all and raise functioning adults.

One thought on “Nerds, High School, and Socialization”

  1. Hello fellow blogger! I’m rather new to blogs but I just wanted to say that I enjoyed your blog here about homeschool social skills; It kept me engrossed all the way to the end! Keep up the fine work… I’m always hoping to learn more about Home Schooling.

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