Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School
By Alexandra Robbins
Published by Hyperion Books

I recently asked some folks on facebook to recommend a few good books and I have been enjoying their recommendations. The person who recommended this book said that it was excellent but very scary. I now know what he is talking about.

Robbins followed/interviewed seven young people in high schools across the country. She presents their stories in a meaningful way. You feel like you are reading fiction at times but these are real people. The seven are: the Loner, the Popular Bitch, the Nerd, the New Girl, the Gamer, the Weird Girl, and the Band Geek. All of them but the popular girl are considered cafeteria fringe. Even the popular girl is not where she wants to be. In between these stories, Robbins explains her concept of quirk theory: the very traits that make kids unpopular now are the things that will help them succeed in real life. She also looks at the real secrets of popularity (not what you might think) and why schools and teachers tend to reinforce the school hierarchy (it isn't just the students who are to blame).

You will come away from this book with an eye opening understanding of what really goes on in our middle and high schools and why there is so much bullying, substance abuse and suicide among our young people today. You will also feel a wonderful hopefulness for those kids who are on the fringe; many of them possess the self-realization and survival skills to do well after high school. At the end of the book I found myself wanting to know how all seven are doing in their lives right now.  I also am going to make sure my own son's school administrators and teachers know about this book. And I think when my son goes to high school, this will be required reading for him!

I do have to warn potential readers (I hope there will be many) that there are lots of stories of what you might consider unchristian behavior or morals. Sex is discussed and it isn't the after marriage kind. Bad words are spoken. Parental abuse is described in detail.  Two of the people Robbins follows are homosexual. The lives of these people are pretty raw. Yet, they all seem to thrive and they all have a variety of interests and talents. I hope that this will be a way to understand what they have to deal with on a day to day basis. Please see them as people and simply follow their stories without judgment.

What does this book have to do with my faith? This book hit me pretty personally. Although I was fortunate to have a good group of friends, I was definitely on the cafeteria fringe. The only "popular" place for me was in the Honors Chorus in my private Catholic High School. It was actually a good place for me because I learned to like and be liked by people who weren't geeks like me. This taught me how to be a floater: someone who drifts from group to group. I was a floater for most of my college career and even in seminary. The skill of being able to float from group to group without being completely labeled is a great skill to have as a pastor. And if there is someplace that is often like high school it is in our churches. I think I would have to call some folks the Covered Dish Supper Fringe!

The real difference between the church is that God makes us all equal. When we come forward to receive communion, when a church member is in pain and the congregation gathers around them to lay hands on them and pray for them, when a prayer request is sent out, when someone loses a loved one, those social stigmas and barriers come down. Not that we don't have a long way to go - sometimes those barriers are partial or temporary. But God in Jesus Christ is a great equalizer.

I highly recommend this book for you, your local schools and teachers and any high schooler that you know.

Happy Reading!


Copyright 2011 Amelia G. Sims

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