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TALK ABOUT DISADVANTAGED! PITY THE MISFIT NERD

In his column on Sept. 13, George Will bemoaned the attempt to establish Asian-Americans as a disadvantaged minority group because as a class they took too many honors courses in school and learned too few social skills.

Mr. Will obviously thought that this was an unprecedented stretch of the term "disadvantaged," but of course, it is not.

Americans have long had a term for white students who took too many honors courses, had few social skills and were never seen in home economics or shop classes. I know because I was one of them -- a nerd.

The handicaps nerds labor under are legendary. We never learn to dance because no one will dance with us. We will not even dance with each other. Our fashion sense is -- well, have you seen Dilbert?

Nerds are completely incapable of carrying on conversations with other human beings, including with each other. We do have a great sense of humor, but no one is ever sure what the punch lines of our jokes are. Fortunately, since the personal computer revolution, many of us no longer have to talk to anyone.

Normal human beings manage to leave most of what they learn at school or work. If they eat a pizza that is still too hot, they merely swear. A nerd, on the other hand, begins speculating about the specific heat of the cheese that allows it to stay hot so long.

If it becomes vitally necessary for a nerd to make a good social impression, in a job interview or sales presentation, the nerd will invariably look like an idiot. A truly motivated nerd will prepare by buying a book (or computer program) that lists "ice-breaking" jokes or suggests a series of appropriate questions.

Most tragically, nerd-dom is frequently hereditary. Children grow up in homes listening to the bizarre jokes and arcane facts spewed out by their parents and never come to appreciate how socially twisted their environment is.

When their parents take them aside and teach them unit analysis instead of taking them to a ball game, the children grow up believing that it is more important to set up equations than to memorize sports statistics. They grow up wishing to take honors courses, program computers and go to graduate school. By the time they come to the attention of school counselors, it is too late.

I do believe I understand Mr. Will's blind spot on the subject of nerds. Not only do I occasionally read his column, but my husband and I frequently watch his "talking head" show on Sunday morning.

This is a man who always uses long words, complex sentences and wears a bow tie. I understand that he does like a sport (baseball), but instead of expressing his enthusiasm like a normal person ("How 'bout them Orioles?"), he writes long books and articles on the present politics of the sport.

In other words, he is a nerd. His luck in finding employment in one of the few fields accepting of nerds has blinded him to the needs of others.

I can only hope that the Clinton administration will persevere in its ground-breaking efforts to bring equal rights to yet another deserving minority group.

MARY G. DEPNER, M.D. Wellsville

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