Nerds Rule: Why Our Kids Need to Tinker and Play
~By Andy Goldstein, The Dadconteur
I was sitting in a meeting at work this week and, as is customary, every person in the room had a smartphone resting in front of them on the conference table. I know I’m going to sound a little like Andy Rooney here, but for a moment I sat back and tried to wrap my head around all of the extraordinary things we can accomplish from handheld devices nowadays.
During that meeting, I could have used my phone to pay the electric bill, play Scrabble with someone thousands of miles away, send a picture of my sons (which I snapped using the phone) to my entire extended family, or even completed my Christmas shopping online. And if those diversions weren’t enough, I could have streamed the first episode of MacGyver. It’s astounding how far technology has come in the last few years, isn’t it? We may not have flying cars yet, but we’re getting very close to owning cars that can drive themselves.
So who made all of these amazing advances possible? Nerds.
There has been a huge paradigm shift in the last few years. Nerds have always been, and sadly will continue to be, the ones stuffed into lockers and strung up by their underwear on flagpoles. But I feel like the gap between nerds and everyone else is starting to close. Those who can create apps, write code, and design kickass websites are now considered rock stars, because not everyone can do these things. Sure, a jock can throw a punch, but a nerd can hijack that jock’s social networks and bank accounts.
I graduated from high school in 1997, and by the time I was a senior, most of us were using graphing calculators in math and science class. I distinctly remember one classmate (we’ll call him “Sheldon”) who knew how to program on these calculators. I could barely find the + key on my TI-85, but this dude was busy creating games using skills I know he didn’t learn while in school. His intelligence was off the charts.
A lot of kids made fun of Sheldon, as he was the textbook definition of a nerd. Thinking back, I feel badly about the crap he had to endure, but I’d bet my house he is having the last laugh now, probably canoodling a Belgian supermodel on a large pile of cash somewhere on the French Riviera. Guys like Sheldon make the world go round. Without them, we’d have to go back to mailing letters, paying for goods with actual currency, and using our phones for their original purpose — talking to people. I shudder.
Parents, listen up: If your children want to fiddle with ham radios, larp in the backyard, build Frankenstein computers out of spare parts, experiment with chemistry sets, or stay up late to check out the Perseid meteor shower, let them! With the overwhelming desire our society has for the strongest, fastest, latest, and greatest, we are totally dependent on nerds. There will always be lawyers, but people who can step in and run a large particle accelerator are at a premium.
I tell myself I’ll be happy with whatever my sons choose to be, but deep down I want them to be nerds. I hope the guidance and support my wife and I provide them will fuel them to lead the next generation of nerds, who will keep our world moving forward or, at the very least, fix their mom and dad’s new iPhone 5 for free.
Andy is the mastermind behind the hilarious and insightful blog The Dadconteur.