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Is School Uncool?

By bmetzler in News
Tue Feb 15, 2000 at 04:47:20 PM EST
Tags: You Know... (all tags)
You Know...

This article suggests that TV programs are portraying a desire to learn as uncool. Is it true? Are TV programs playing a part in inhibiting geeks from being a part of society?

Well, media plays a big part of defining what is accepted culturally. Although this article doesn't get in depth, it does bring up some good points. Is the common view that geeks are portrayed as uncool? Is this getting common?

Are schools themselves "promoting" the idea that being smart is a disadvantage? Does this have something to do with the low grades in schools? Maybe low grades aren't just students failing, maybe they think that they're cool that they get low grades. Is there an envy of those who are smart?

Maybe those who are smart are alienating those who have abilities that aren't intellectual. Is that a problem? Sort of looking down on those who can't explain E=mc2, like the star basketball players look down on those who can't slam dunk? Of course, jocks always seem popular. Why are jocks admired but not geeks? Are geeks just anti-social?

Anyways, what part does media play in causing geeks to seem uncool?


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Is School Uncool? | 6 comments (6 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Cause/ Symptoms (none / 0) (#1)
by Strange Charmed One on Tue Feb 15, 2000 at 06:52:46 PM EST

I'm a brit, and would say that the indications I have of "American Culture" would tend to indicate that learning is portrayed both there and here as uncool- but question if it is the TV causing this or the TV is simply reflecting the situation.

My theory is that it is a matter of TV portraying learning as uncool because it is seen as uncool- and it being seen as uncool because the TV is portraying it as uncool. How do we break the vicious circle?
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American stereotypes.. (none / 0) (#2)
by Inoshiro on Tue Feb 15, 2000 at 07:23:00 PM EST

In the 1940s and 1950s, people liked intelligence. "Rocket Scientists" were trumped up as a part of the early US vs Russian space race things..

Then in the 1960s, once people had become disillusioned with the Vietnam and the "to the moon, and stop" NASA stuff. People began to see the scientists as bad, and being responsible for unleashing the responsibility of nuclear weapons.

This continued into the 1970s and 1980s. Many ways of mocking inteligence became vogue. "Teacher's Pet" applied to anyone who handed things in on time. Calling people "Brains" -- something which focuses purely on their thinking organ's capabilties, and ignorning their mind (ie: their personality).

Once you get past grade 10, this finally starts to lessen as the only people who support this concept tend to fail out and spend their time filling in what the British call the Working Class.

So really, the problem tends to be self-cancelling.

As for jocks being considered more and such. That's just an illusion. If you treat them as equals, they'll treat you as equals. If you allow them to mock you, they'll mock you. It's all a matter of attitude. I find any kind of person can really be friendly and open if you display the right kind of attitude. Don't try to rub in your intelligence, and try to help them with their problems. They'll appreciate it, and might even learn things. I certainly enjoyed my high school years, and did hobknob with the "jocks," among others. I also hung out with advanced program people, french immersion, etc. Everyone likes a person with a good attitude :-)

[ イノシロ ]
Re: American stereotypes.. (none / 0) (#4)
by ramses0 on Tue Feb 15, 2000 at 10:34:12 PM EST

I agree with your analysis of the situation (from a US perspective). Growing up in the same school district for ~12 years, there were times when it waxed and waned.

A lot of school sucked, but I can remember several occasions where "former assholes" saw the light, realized the error of their ways, realized that my continued breathing of air actually was worthwhile.

Last I heard, those people who were assholes were working at car washes, while I'm gonna be graduating with a phat CS degree in the end.

"Patience is bitter, but it's fruit is sweet."

I can't think of a way to -help- the situation for people like who I used to be. I'm reminded of an anti-drug advertisement that said "you survived drugs, but that's no guarantee that your children will" ... I turned out (arguably) OK, but what about all the growing geeks?

The only thing I can think of is a good support network, especially for "geek clubs" like computer clubs or audio/visual clubs... whatever.

If you've got a nice-paying job and some free time, head on out to a local high-school and offer to do some kind of technical presentation. Or donate your old computer equipment to a computer club. Show up, give the kids some respect, tell 'em about the equipment you're donating, set up a linux web-server... whatever. Keeping growing minds occupied is IMHO the best course of action.

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[ Parent ]
Re: Is School Uncool? (none / 0) (#3)
by dblslash on Tue Feb 15, 2000 at 08:40:45 PM EST

egads, but I'm a sheltered soul.

Every once in awhile, I realise how completely cut off from the world around me I am. Occaisionaly, I'll have strange run-ins, or brushes with the so-called "normal" people, and be reminded of it. Working as a sysadmin at a small startup with a work week of 60+ hours entirely too common, I'm pretty sheltered. Add in the fact that I don't own a TV, and the majority of my friends are geek Computer Science majors still in college, and I really don't see that much of day-to-day society. Among the people I associate with, learning is damn cool. Dammit, it's fun to stay up until 6am coding, discussing the tenets of our latest crazed political theory, or what-have-you.

I dunno. A part of me says, "If people don't want to learn, then that's their problem", but at the same time I think, what a horrible existence to lead! Can't you think back to the first time when you suddenly grokked some tricky concept? Lately (yet another example of how geeky my friends are), we've been teaching a friend's girlfriend how to code in C. We were sitting around during one of our lessons and it degenerated into a BS session as it always does. We were debating over the best order in which to introduce concepts, and we all had a wonderful flashback to that quintessential coding project that clinched the concept of pointers for us. It was different for all of us, but we all had that defining program. That glaring moment of clarity when we had grasped a difficult idea and made it our own was such a memorable experience. Every one of us could describe the project in detail, and it was all with fondness. How could someone not want that feeling?

*sigh* people are strange...

Re: Is School Uncool? (none / 0) (#5)
by rusty on Wed Feb 16, 2000 at 12:14:06 AM EST

Ok, I have so many problems with this article, I don't even know where to begin. So instead of subjecting you all to an infinitely long series of my twisty sentences, I'm just going to take on the one thing it does that I hate perhaps most of anything in the world. That is, the habit of "media types" (you know who you are) to take *everything* pop culture gives them totally at face value. That is, the "turn on TV, turn off brain" attitude.

Holston, in this article, mentions the relatively new show "Malcolm in the Middle" as another example of the glorification of stupidity in American culture, aimed at the Impressionable Youth. However, this anlysis is based totally on the surface appearance of the show, to the point where I don't even get how you could come up with this idea, unless all you'd ever watched were the promo spots (that air endlessly on FOX).

Consider the supposedly "freakiest" character on the show. Malcolm's friend (who's name I unfortunately can't recall). He is the *ultimate* downtrodden loser, by all appearances. Let's check them off, shall we? He's:

  • Black
  • Crippled (wheelchair-bound)
  • So asthmatic he can't say four words in a row
  • A total braniac dexter
So there you have it, right? Recipe for dorkdom. But surprise! Watch the show, and pay attention (even minimal, glancing attention will do), and two shows out of three, this kids the hero. He's way smarter and more observant than Malcolm, he understands what's going on, and he knows exactly how to come out on top of a situation. He is, and the show makes this obvious, what we should want to be.

Basically, the show's about how bass-ackward America is in it's perceived values. I.e., it's point is basically that the way Noel Holston sees us is how people keep telling us we think we are, but that we're not like that at all. How can we be so backward if virtually every freaking show is about how backward we think we are? Look at the Simpsons. A goofy cartoon about this loser family right? You have to have three years of film school (or equivalent childhood pop-culture immersion) to even get that show. And this is what we watch as standard tv-dinner fare.

I for one don't think there is a problem with our values, any more than there's ever been. I think the problem is with what we think and claim "our" values are. Whenever anybody talks about "American values" that I hear, they always seem to be talking about other people's American values.

Well, for Noel Holston, and all the other writers out there who are guilty of the same cheap cop-out, I have a suggestion. Stop talking about "our" (other people's) values, and start talking about your own. If enough people say what their values are, personally, maybe then we can start to evaluate what they might all add up to.

Not the real rusty

Re: Is School Uncool? (none / 0) (#6)
by rusty on Wed Feb 16, 2000 at 12:14:56 AM EST

And there I went and subjected you all to an infinitely long series of my twisty sentences. Damn.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Is School Uncool? | 6 comments (6 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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