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March 16th, 2009:

Nerds And Middle/High School

A friend of mine from back during my own years of torment recently sent an essay on why nerds (almost almost everyone else) are miserable in middle and high school.

I really recommend it to anyone who remembers there own unpleasant experiences from back then, or who remembers having to deal with their own offspring wasting their precious non-school hours explained repeatedly, and at long length just how terrible the whole process was.

And that, I think, is the root of the problem. Nerds serve two masters. They want to be popular, certainly, but they want even more to be smart. And popularity is not something you can do in your spare time, not in the fiercely competitive environment of an American secondary school.

Adults can’t avoid seeing that teenage kids are tormented. So why don’t they do something about it? Because they blame it on puberty. … There’s nothing wrong with the system; it’s just inevitable that kids will be miserable at that age.

I’m suspicious of this theory that thirteen-year-old kids are intrinsically messed up. If it’s physiological, it should be universal. Are Mongol nomads all nihilists at thirteen? I’ve read a lot of history, and I have not seen a single reference to this supposedly universal fact before the twentieth century.