Raising geeks

Back in the stone ages (okay, the 1980s) when I was a kid, “geek” was a pretty harsh name to call someone—maybe not as soul-crushing as “nerd,” but certainly up there with “dweeb” or “spaz.” But thanks to Bill Gates and other titans of the information age, the geek stigma has been turned on its head—today we’re proud to call ourselves computer geeks, book geeks, music geeks, etc.

And now that the geeks (I would include myself, but really, I was always more of a nerd) are of parenting age, they’re raising a new generation of geeks, no doubt with the belief that their spawn will rule the world in 20 years. Hence, we have blogs like Wired’s GeekDad, which posted a list of 67 Books Every Geek Should Read to Their Kids Before Age 10 in an attempt to identify “what books are essential to the Geek experience.”

It’s a great list of books, and certainly just about every title is essential—but essential for geekiness? True, there might be a few more fantasy and sci-fi titles than you might see on a regular “best books for kids” list, and the lack of any sports titles does seem to favor geekdom. But Curious George? Frog and Toad? Charlotte’s Web? In the Night Kitchen?

I have to say, I’m a little hard pressed to see how these classics would help geek parents create a specifically geeky kid–as opposed to a generally intelligent well-rounded member of society. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive here (admittedly, a geeky move on my part), but it does bother me when the great books for kids are used to promote an outside agenda—would these parents approve if their kids asked for Matt Christopher’s or Dan Gutman’s classic sports stories?

Far be it for me to defend the jocks, but maybe a better title for the list would be “67 Books Every PARENT Should Read to Their Kids Before Age 10”, and let the kids figure out on their own whether The Lord of the Rings leads down the road to geekdom or not. After all, isn’t self-discovery the point of reading in the first place?

4 Responses to Raising geeks

  1. I have to know, are you referencing the 90s SNL sketch “Geek Dweeb or Spazz?” a gameshow in which a popular jock – Emilio Estevez – has to guess the category of various dorks. David Spade was the spazz. Anyway, I still laugh about it.

    These days. the line between jocks and geeks is pretty blurred. Jocks playing fantasy football are a geek class of their own as they submerge themselves in stats and lineups. Comic book movies are some of the highest grossing films of the year – the Avengers is geek gold and it’s aiming for the top spot (unless it can’t outrun Hunger Games, which I’d argue is a great blend of geek and jock – all worlds meet!)

  2. I had to watch Geek Dweeb or Spaz and it’s not Emilio Estevez guessing, he’s a former geek turned tough guy in the geek lineup. link here. OK, I’m done now.

  3. Kiana says:

    I can’t imagine reading Tolkien to a child under the age of ten unless my goal was to put them to sleep…

  4. As a fellow 80s-born geek/nerd/what-have-you myself, I object to these lists more for the fact that they try to classify too much what makes you a geek or nerd, creating an insider vs. outsider mentality. Considering most of us were mocked for belonging to such a group growing up, this seems counter-productive to me. I agree with your suggestion for the renaming–we should use either that or “67 books to make your kid awesome”–and think parents should support and accept their kids whether they want to be science fiction nerds or classic football jocks or both or neither.

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