I once thought of a Nerd, as someone who was smarter than everyone around them and equally socially inept. I believe this misguided perception originated from the disconnect many in my community had about intelligence and learning. Today, I won’t even waste your time explaining why you should raise a Nerd. I’m just going to detail how you can raise a Nerd.
“Ay!” The Fonz
When I was in school, long long ago, I mistakenly thought it was not cool to be smart. It goes without saying that I wanted what every red-blooded American male wanted at that time – to be cool.
Television characters like the Fonz were cool and admired. The Fonz wasn’t even in school. The Fonz was a dropout. He rode motorcycles. The ladies loved him. What else possibly mattered? What was the point of being smart?
Thanks to characters like the Fonz, I thought intellect was unrewarded and unadmired. Intelligence was uncool. Back then if you were intelligent you couldn’t be tough but more importantly you wouldn’t get any love from the girls. So much for reading, writing, and arithmetic. I was only interested in the Happy Days.
“Did I do that?” Steve Urkel
In the late eighties and early nineties, having earned a few degrees I thought a little bit differently about education. Plus, considering the likelihood that one day I would be a parent, I realized that I wanted my child to be smart but I didn’t want them to be like the Nerd of the day – Steve Urkel.
Steve Urkel was certainly smarter than everyone but he was proportionately a social misfit. From his high water pants right down to his high nasal voice, Steve Urkel was the kind of kid who would have been bullied every day in my old neighborhood.
Family Matters tried to make the life of a Nerd seem palatable but I knew better. I couldn’t let my child suffer that unthinkable fate.
“Pomp and Circumstance” Othello
A short time after I learned that I was to be a father, the query about how to raise a child who could be a Nerd yet socially acceptable became real. I didn’t need my child to be as cool as the Fonz nor did I want him to be as geeky as Steve Urkel.
I wouldn’t be raising my child in my old neighborhood. He wouldn’t be exposed to the harsh realities of my youth. He would be raised among the more privileged in a middle class suburban neighborhood. A neighborhood that I despised as a child. A neighborhood I thought was soft and full of Steve Urkels.
That’s when I was reintroduced to Paul Robeson aka Othello. Paul Robeson was a Nerd. Paul Robeson was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He was class valedictorian at Rutgers University. He graduated from Columbia Law School. He earned 15 letters in four varsity sports and was twice named to the All-American Football Team.
He was multilingual – speaking 15 languages. He was a world-renowned singer and actor. He was an activist for social justice. Paul Robeson was the kind of Nerd any father would be proud to call his son. Paul Robeson was the outline I would use to raise my Nerd.
1. Language – Never ever communicate to your child using baby talk. Gaga goo goo is not a real language so you never need to use it. If you want your child to be able to communicate proficiently and effectively, you should communicate with them competently and logically.Your children are mini versions of you. If you speak to them in some inarticulate language, you should not be surprised when they communicate with you the very same way.
Yo wassup! You know what I’m sayin’?
2. Vocabulary – Your child’s vocabulary especially in their formative years is inextricably connected with your vocabulary. If you learn to use “big words”, they too will learn the “big words”. Challenging yourself to increase your vocabulary will have immense value for your child especially once they begin taking standardized tests. Improving your vocabulary may not make you an etymologist but it should help you win a few more games of Words With Friends.
You might as well increase your vocabulary for all the time you spend online.
3. Polyglot – The world we live in today is global. Unfortunately, the gravity of this reality is lost on many Americans. Americans continue to exist as if English is the only language that matters. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but much of the world speaks languages other than English. Today’s job opportunities are often found in Emerging Markets, places where English is not the official language.
Give your child a chance to be competitive and an opportunity to enjoy the world. Make sure your child becomes multilingual. FYI: Bilingual doesn’t include Ebonics. Ya feel me!
4. S.T.E.M. – I’m probably going to say this until I’m blue in the face (or more accurately purple) but give your child a chance at having a life equal to or better than yours. Please, make sure that your child is in a STEM focused learning environment from day one. Proficiency in science, technology, engineering and math are the world’s great equalizers.
If your child is good in science, technology, engineering and/or math they will have a chance to still enjoy the vision which makes this country special for so many – the American Dream. Without being proficient in these areas you are setting your child up for what many deem a nightmare.
These are just a few of the things required to raise a Nerd. The great thing is that unlike athletics all parents have the opportunity to raise a Nerd. Nerds don’t require some exceptional physical genetic pattern. Nerds don’t have to be over 6 feet tall or 200 pounds.
Raising Nerds first requires parents who understand that Nerds have always ruled the world. Nerds change the world and set the course of history now more than ever. Nearly everything we use was created or enhanced by a Nerd. Nearly everyone we look to for political or social leadership is a Nerd.
It’s so exciting to be a parent today. You can raise a child who changes the world or you can raise one who is only capable of following the rules an ideas of others. The choice is yours. To Nerd or not to Nerd that is the question.
Is your child receiving a STEM focused education? Will your child be able to communicate with anyone outside of America?