Friday, September 10, 2004

Paul Graham, Why Nerds Are Unpopular

Alright, this goes back a bit, to February of last year. I doubt I blogged this, and if I did, it deserves mention again.

I recently mentioned Paul Graham as an author I really enjoy reading, who gets me thinking about things differently, (which is a good thing). This particular essay, though, kicked me off thinking not only about my own school experience, but also about the kind of experience that my kids are having and will have throughout their youth.

Yes, I was a nerd. By Graham's scale, somewhere between a C table and D table nerd. My friends were certainly split between the two. A table types, while they might have been in class with me, certainly never would have associated with me. (Although, as an aside, more than one of them invented some kind of friendship connection with me once we both reached late- or post-college life. More than a little bit wierd.)

So what about school? Was my school experience a good one? Eh, it was tolerable at times; (don't worry, I won't give a blow-by-blow). Could it have been improved upon? Well, I can certainly envision a better way to have lived, certainly. Could it, short of scrapping the whole thing? Possible, but doubtful.

Where am I headed with this? Well, Son just entered 2nd grade, and Daughter just entered MDO as a 3-yr-old, meaning that she's probably got another 2 years before kindergarten. These are the safe years. No condom distribution, no forced multi-culturalism, none of the other evils that I've been warned about. So now's the time to decide what, if anything, I'm going to do to make sure that they don't have to endure the experience that I did.

On one hand, I'm already doing this. In part, I can better prepare them for the crap they'll have to endure in school than I was. In part, I can help them avoid some of the traps that I fell into, both at the simple level (no, kids, you won't have to ride the bus) and higher (things based on shaky self-esteem). In part, I can pay closer attention to what they're going through, and take a more active part in helping them sort it all out. My mom may not have gone to grad school for psychology for nothing, (I typed most of her papers, you see...)

On the other hand, I'm starting to read more and more about education issues. Graham's essay got me started, got me feeling uneasy about what I endured because I felt I had to. I've started in on a series of articles published by an online magazine that writes from the perspective of my church. And a recent Slashdot article pointed to a book by John Taylor Gatto on the state of the education system in America. (Seems from searching Amazon that Gatto's a fave of the home school crowd.)

Do I know where this is going? No. Per Graham's recent essay on essays, I'm essai-ing on this one. Trying it out. Seeing where it'll lead me. On the home school issue, I've been remarkably impressed with the youth I've known that've been home schooled. Per the Nerds essay, it would make sense that to take the youth out of a Lord of the Flies environment would improve their outlook and well-being. But what are our other options?

I am energized about this in an unusual way. This and issues revolving around creativity are really hitting home with me, and I'm wanting to at least see this education issue properly resovled, before it does to my kids what it did to me.

More to follow.

No comments: