July 6, 2011

Raising Nerds

Last week, I shared some advice on how to talk to girls.  Today, we're going to focus (mostly) on the boys.  I read a great article on CNN called "Why I'm Raising My Son to be a Nerd" by columnist LZ Granderson.  In it, he starts by talking about how he (like many dads) rushed to sign up his son for soccer as soon as he learned to walk, and then cheered so loud on the sidelines that his voice turned hoarse.  And until recently, he never even thought to show that same level of enthusiasm when his son brought home an A grade.  

I agree with Granderson that we, as a society, do not put enough emphasis on education.  We spend so much time worrying about why our students are being outperformed by so many countries around the world, but the thing I see over and over again is that those other countries value education much more than we do here.  Sure, we say we value education, but do our actions (once again... I'm talking about society here, not individual families) back that up?

We live in a nation where 33 of 50 states increased the amount spent on prisons while decreasing dollars spent on K-12 and higher education.  What, exactly, are we setting ourselves up for here???

It's no surprise that when I ask my middle school students what they want to be when they grow up, a large majority of my boys want to be professional athletes.  It wouldn't bother me if I thought they all wanted to be NBA players because they loved the game as much as Michael Jordan, but the truth is, they want idolize those careers for other reasons as well.  Our kids are smart.  They know who makes the money and who gets the praise, and who wouldn't want a slice of that Heaven? 

See how many kids you know that can tell you who won the last Pulitzer or Nobel Peace Prize.  It's just not something we place enough emphasis on.

Granderson says that the change has to start with the parents.  We have to show our children that education is a top priority, and our actions better back it up.  He says he's making a conscious effort to praise his son for not only being an exceptional athlete (the only thing outsiders ever recognize) but for also maintaining a 3.86 in an international baccalaureate program, studying Chinese, attending debate camp and a desire to go to Stanford since the fifth grade.

His hope is that his son will recognize, "Jocks go on to play for your favorite team but nerds go on to own the teams for which those jocks play."


  1. I think my parents did a good job when we were younger. I also think that balance has to exist! Sometimes I felt like there was sooo much pressure though to get a good grade. They totally valued school over any sports performance myself of my sisters had!

  2. This is great info to have!!! Thanks for posting and YES I'm do Zumba each Tuesday and love it!