May 13, 2011

The challenges and rewards of being an outsider

By Alexandra Robbins
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The high school lunch bell has just sounded; where are you going to sit? Do you have a spot reserved at the popular table? Or are you a band geek, trying to find your friends and avoid being tripped by the preps? Maybe you’re a floater, able to mingle with the different cliques and groups. Forget that pop quiz in biology; lunch hour is often the most stressful period in the school day, pointing out as it does the layers of division among school kids.

Into this world comes author Alexandra Robbins (Pledged, The Overachievers). The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth wears its bias right in the title. While observing seven distinct types at different schools across the U.S., Robbins repeatedly unearths evidence of the value brought to the setting by so-called “nerds,” “geeks,” “emos” and others often singled out for exclusion or abuse. Her “quirk theory” posits that the very qualities that make these kids outsiders in school are the ones that will have positive real-world applications later. But for those talents to be realized they must be nurtured, not squelched. This book takes an interesting approach to righting that wrong.

Where in the past Robbins merely reported on what she saw, now she gets into the trenches, creating challenges designed to expand the social circles and safe points of contact for the people she profiles. It’s a relief to see band geek Noah come out of his shell and develop new leadership skills, and “popular bitch” Whitney thrives when she’s allowed to ditch her high-maintenance power clique and talk to whomever she likes.

The revenge of the nerds prophesied here should please anyone who was ever left out of a group for being too much themselves. Students, parents and teachers working to facilitate more social cross-pollination will appreciate the tips on how to create a safe space for creativity to thrive. Robbins makes the case that it’s necessary work, because the harshest consequence of enforced conformity “is that so many . . . students . . . think that they have done or felt something wrong.” The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth is fascinating; here’s hoping it finds a place in the curriculum for teachers and students alike.

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The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth

By Alexandra Robbins
ISBN 9781401302023

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