Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Pg. 99: David Anderegg's "Nerds"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: David Anderegg's Nerds: Who They Are and Why We Need More of Them.

About the book, from the publisher:
A lively, thought-provoking book that zeros in on the timely issue of how anti-intellectualism is bad for our children and even worse for America.

Why are our children so terrified to be called "nerds"? And what is the cost of this rising tide of anti-intellectualism to both our children and our nation? In Nerds, family psychotherapist and psychology professor David Anderegg examines why science and engineering have become socially poisonous disciplines, why adults wink at the derision of "nerdy" kids, and what we can do to prepare our children to succeed in an increasingly high-tech world.

Nerds takes a measured look at how we think about and why we should rethink "nerds," examining such topics as: - our anxiety about intense interest in things mechanical or technological;
- the pathologizing of "nerdy" behavior with diagnoses such as Asperger syndrome;
- the cycle of anti-nerd prejudice that took place after the Columbine incident;
- why nerds are almost exclusively an American phenomenon;
- the archetypal struggles of nerds and jocks in American popular culture and history;
- the conformity of adolescents and why adolescent stereotypes linger into adulthood long after we should know better; and nerd cultural markers, particularly science fiction.

Using education research, psychological theory, and interviews with nerdy and non-nerdy kids alike, Anderegg argues that we stand in dire need of turning around the big dumb ship of American society to prepare rising generations to compete in the global marketplace.
Among the praise for Nerds:
"In this intriguing treatise, child therapist and psychology professor Anderegg takes a wry and well-rounded look at the legacy of everyone’s (least) favorite schoolyard epithet, getting deep into the history of an idea as well as the nuts and bolts of childhood 'stereotype acquisition.'... Knowledgeable, charming and self-deprecating throughout, Anderegg is at his best when discussing the specific cases of children he’s worked with, but readers should be happy to tag along as he occasionally wanders off point."
--Publishers Weekly

"[T]he stereotype of the nerd persists -- dangerously so, argues David Anderegg in "Nerds." Indeed, nerds are just about the last group of people it's safe to mock in polite company, which infuriates Anderegg, a professor of psychology at Bennington College in Vermont and a practicing psychotherapist: "We act like it's all in good fun to communicate to our kids that people who are smart and do well in school and like science fiction and computers are also people who smell bad and look ugly and are so repulsive that they are not allowed to have girlfriends. And then we wonder why it's so hard to motivate kids to do well in school." In his breezy book, Anderegg deconstructs the stereotype, traces its history and makes the case that it undermines individual kids and the country as whole…."
--Rachel Hartigan Shea, Washington Post

"[A] thoughtful and warmly sympathetic book."
--The Economist

"Once in a blue moon a book comes along that makes us want to shout from the housetops, 'You’ve got to read this book!'... The book is 'Nerds: Who They Are and Why We Need More of Them,' by David Anderegg, a Lenox psychotherapist who teaches psychology at Bennington College in Vermont. A more moving defense of “nerds” (and “geeks”) would be hard to find."
--Boston Herald
Read an excerpt and watch a QuickTime trailer for Nerds.

Take "The Last Nerd Self-Test You’ll Ever Need!" and learn more about Nerds and its author at David Anderegg's website.

Anderegg is a professor of psychology at Bennington College in Vermont, and has worked extensively with children and teens while practicing as a psychotherapist. He is also the author of Worried All the Time: Rediscovering the Joy of Parenthood in an Age of Anxiety.

The Page 99 Test: Nerds.

--Marshal Zeringue