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Nerds: Who They Are and Why We Need More of Them Hardcover – December 27, 2007

3.8 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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." Beginning with a "Field Guide to Nerds" ("or Why Nerds are So Gay"), Anderegg considers typical nerd traits (and includes a "Nerd Test" copied from "Deluxe NERD Glasses" package copy), parses out the subtle but important differences between "nerd" (emphasizing appearance) and "geek" (emphasizing intelligence), looks at the cultural history and rising profile of American anti-intellectualism, from Ichabod Crane and Ralph Waldo Emerson to Seinfeld and Beauty and the Geek, as well as more recent developments in nerd-related medical diagnoses like autism and Asperger's. 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 (contemplating, say, the Freudian implications of his subject). For educators, therapists and others interested in child psychology, this makes an insightful, if perhaps overstuffed, resource.
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Review

"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." Beginning with a "Field Guide to Nerds" ("or Why Nerds are So Gay"), Anderegg considers typical nerd traits (and includes a "Nerd Test" copied from "Deluxe NERD Glasses" package copy), parses out the subtle but important differences between "nerd" (emphasizing appearance) and "geek" (emphasizing intelligence), looks at the cultural history and rising profile of American anti-intellectualism, from Ichabod Crane and Ralph Waldo Emerson to Seinfeld and Beauty and the Geek, as well as more recent developments in nerd-related medical diagnoses like autism and Asperger's. 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 (contemplating, say, the Freudian implications of his subject). For educators, therapists and others interested in child psychology, this makes an insightful, if perhaps overstuffed, resource." -- Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Tarcher; 1 edition (December 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585425907
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585425907
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,875,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Prejudice is a nasty word - no educated person would tolerate bias based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or dozens of other individual differentiations. It's still OK to make fun of nerds, though. (Q: Do you know how to tell when a nerd likes you? A: He looks at your feet when he talks to you.) Anderegg digs into that prejudice with this book. He finds that its roots run surprisingly deep in American culture, and that its branches and leaves cast real shadows on America's future.

Remember Ichabod Crane and the legend of Sleepy Hollow? Ichabod, the town schoolmaster, dresses badly and looks funny. Brom, his nemesis, is popular, handsome, strong, and uneducated. In the end, Ichabod loses the girl, Brom gets her, Brom runs Ichabod out of town, and at least some of the townsfolk decide as a result that book learning would only harm their children. Fast forward almost two hundred years to the "Math is Hard" Barbie doll, stopping at presidential elections with educated losers, from Andrew Jackson to Al Gore. In most other popular cultures, the smart guy is also the athletic, happy, romantic, handsome, and well-liked one. In the US, the intellectual guy in the typical movie is none of those - and "transcends" his role only if he abandons it.

As a clinical child pyschologist, Anderegg explores some of the reasons why children might pick on those who do well academically. Whatever the reasons, children in grade school use "nerd" as an epithet that has real power to hurt, whether any one calling or called that has a strong idea of what it means. By seventh grade or so, the kids' herding instinct is also a hurting instinct.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Nerds is a thoughtful and insightful look into the reasons for an accepted discrimination present in American society. It approaches its topic with humor and an expert's eye.

Any parent or teacher (I have taught sophomores for 14 years now) should definitely read this book. I found it enlightening and revealing.

You will never look at Ichabod Crane the same again...

Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
The book offers a thorough look at a curiously ignored problem: why the nerd stereotype persists, and the damage it is causing. The author does a good job exploring such topics as what defines a nerd (though his parsing of differences between nerd and geek is a bit tedious and superfluous), how this label originated, how it impacts us as a society, and what to do about it.

He does try to utilize what little research evidence is out there on the subject, but the book is admittedly full of a lot of personal opinion and conjecture. But given the sparse and maddingly vague nature of the scientific data concerning this issue, one can't fault him too much, and he does repeatedly try to present all sides and remind readers of the dangers of coming to dogmatic conclusions about sociological and pschological phenomenon (though he rightly argues that the official diagnostic criteria of the Mental Health profession ought to considered the authority when addressing what some consider the 'abnormalcy' of nerds).

It is a good book about a real problem. There is so much that is good and beneficial in the life of the mind and the experiences offered to kids who are allowed to explore their interests without being poked fun at for it. His comments on Scouting and how the idea that it's a nerdy thing deserve a big hooray, to give an example.

A great read for parents and teachers alike, especially those trying to understand why their normally bright student is suddenly doing worse academically. It could very well be his/her fear of being labelled a nerd, according to the author.
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Format: Kindle Edition
You will notice upon looking at the title of this book that the author seems to suggest in the very naming of his work some strategy for how intellectualism may be beneficial to America. Instead, he spends the entire 250+ book discussing various origins of and social factors in the construction of the idea of "nerd" in society. I picked this book out from the sociology section of my local book store, so I would have hoped that this discussion would have been inspired more by actual social phenomenon and less by the pseudo-psychological. There is no doubt after reading NERDS that the author is a very intelligent man, and he certainly did his research. It just seemed to me like he should have focused more on the title of the book instead of the introduction to the premise.

Overall, NERDS is a very interesting read. But if you're a sociology student or are interested in the author's ideas for how to fix the US anti-intellectual problem, you'll be frustrated for the majority of the book.
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Format: Kindle Edition
For starters, I suggest ignoring the title. This book has nothing to do with "how nerds can save America, and why they might be our last hope." Rather, it's more of an argument (or rant) against anti-intellectualism in the US. Psychologist David Anderegg explores the origins and perpetuation of the (almost exclusively American) "nerd" stereotype, while making a compelling argument that this characterization began as far back as the early 1800's, stemming from a false dichotomy of "Man of Action" vs "Man of Introspection." You can be a bookish dweeb or a courageous, attractive, and admirable stud. But you can't be both, or even some reasonable compromise between the two. Or so this lazy, bifurcated way of thinking goes.

Dr. Anderegg points out that this way of thinking (or not thinking, really) is the cause of anti-intellectualism having deep roots in American society. He also argues that while our adults are laughing off--even ironically enjoying--nerdiness, the social stigma is still very real for young people. And for the "tween" generation, with its preoccupation with being older, younger and younger children are worried about being stuck with the label. For previous generations, at least kids could still be kids, but now things like crystal radios, coin collecting, and scouting are socially unsafe even for elementary school-age children. This does not bode well for our country's future, argues Anderegg. If math, science, and even learning in general are eschewed for fear of being unhip, where will we get tomorrow's scientists, engineers, doctors, and teachers?

Anderegg questions why working on a car's engine is considered manly and cool, but tinkering with a computer is nerdy. This is a glaring inconsistency in the anti-intellectual social stigma.
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