"...the things that make kids bullied, ridiculed, and ostracized in high school are the same things that others will value in them after high school and will even make them valuable, productive, and simply good people."
I recently finished this amazing book. It is another in the series of geek/nerd related literature I've been digging into, like Nerds, American Nerd, & Geek Wisdom. Definitely check out my reviews for all of them too if you're interested.
This book has a unique hook that I really enjoyed. The author, Alexandra Robbins, coins the idea of "quirk theory" which defines as essentially being that the things that make kids bullied, ridiculed, and ostracized in high school are the same things that others will value in them after high school and will even make them valuable, productive, and simply good people. These would be having unique interests, being creative, and having their own beliefs that resist the influence of popular conformity. Robbins has a great quote from an article written by Walter Isaacson for Wired magazine that really sends this idea home:
'What made Einstein special was his impertinence, his nonconformity, and his distaste for dogma. Einstein's genius reminds us that society's competitive advantage comes not from teaching the multiplication or periodic tables but from nurturing rebels. Grinds have their place, but unruly geeks change the world.'
I love this sentiment. I felt the pressure to be "normal" in high school and realized that I was a nerd and that was a bad thing to the cool kids in high school. I was fine with myself before that but the cruel realities of those four years made me feel less than. Robbins goes into a lot of the reasons why high school is such a gauntlet of trials for so many students. She also tells the stories of several students from different backgrounds from all across the country over the course of a school year to showcase examples of what she is talking about throughout the book. Such topics include identity, conformity, why popular people are mean, and if being popular even makes you truly happy. The arcs that all the characters in the book go through are engaging and riveting. You go through ups and downs with all of them and their lives feel real and authentic. You get their responses to everything that happens to them and I felt compelled to keep reading to see what happened next.
Robbins goes into other surrounding topics to the subject matter of high school struggles like teachers, administrators, and parents. She gives 31 awesome actionable tips at the end for folks to takeaway, which I always appreciate. It's a light read as well, and never feels long-winded.
Much like Nerds, this book is a great overview of why anti-nerd bias exists, what perpetuates it, what it does to us, and what to do about it. I really enjoyed it, and maybe some of that comes from it resonating with me so much personally but I feel like everyone has felt a little out of place at some in their life, whether that was in high school, college, work, or even within their own family. There are valuable parcels of wisdom for any and all here.
Check out The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth, and I urge you to share it with any educators, parents, or anyone who struggled with their identity in high school. I know they'll get something from it.