My eldest son attends a wonderful little school that prides itself on being nurturing and caring. It has a very strong anti-bullying policy, apparently a necessity in these times. I imagine bullying is an age old problem, it is just now though that people are really starting to pay attention and adopt more enlightened attitudes. The same way that “the quiet kid” who used to be ostracized in the back in June Cleaver’s day is now the child who early in life is diagnosed on the autism spectrum and mainstreamed, bullying used to be the kind of situation that parents advised their boys to just “man up” or “fight back” (back when only boys were overtly bullied- girls were still just being “catty”). Our same little school hosts a variety of amazing parent education events too, on topics from not over-scheduling our children to texting awareness for technologically inept parents. Which is why I was stunned by the scheduling of “Nerd Day.”
In a school where the kids are required to wear a uniform, breaks from such are much anticipated days. Last semester was Pajama Day where everyone from administrators down to pre-kindergartners showed up in a variety of sleepwear, loungewear and slippers. It was good, silly fun. I’m sure some kids somewhere got a hard time from peers, as happens every day. I understand that’s childhood. I still give my husband a hard time on a regular basis, and I’m all grown up.
I’ve never really heard the term “nerd” applied positively though. In fact, my son doesn’t even quite have a grasp on what a nerd is. How would I describe it to him? Dictionary.com defines a nerd as a “stupid, irritating, ineffectual, or unattractive person.” Is this really what I want to teach him? To negatively label others? Stereotype? Tease? Several other definitions add on to that one specifying someone who is singularly obsessed with something, like a “computer nerd.” Now I don’t know any young kids who are “singularly obsessed” with anything but still. We want to single out kids who are interested in a particular hobby?
Jacob in fact said that he did NOT want to dress like a nerd because he felt he’d look ridiculous. He said he’d just tape his glasses around the bridge and ended up skipping even that touch. Which brought up the question of why nerds are often portrayed with that particular trait. Lets examine the options, shall we? 1. Because they’re constantly getting beaten up for being smart and/or dressing differently 2. Because they’re too cheap and/or poor to get new glasses. 3. They’re too out of touch to know they look ridiculous.
I totally get that having the student body dress up in a unifying theme is good for school spirit. But what about Backwards Day? Or Inside Out Day? I understand that nerd-types are a staple of kids, teen and tween shows. I watched “Saved by the Bell” back in my day, and my boys favorite cartoon even features a proud but nerdy kinda kid. But with our heightened awareness of bullying, physical, verbal and cyber, why perpetuate it in a school setting that strives so hard to avoid such things?