The book title and the cute little boy playing chess on the cover are what drew me to Nerds: Who Are They and Why We Need More of Them (Tarcher/Penguin, 253 pages, $24.95) by David Anderegg.
In his attempt to change our thinking about long-standing stereotypes that start affecting our children and younger and younger ages, Anderegg, a psychology professor and child psychologist, dissects the terms "nerd" and "geek" — a uniquely American stereotype, by the way — in a way that is engaging and understandable. Just check out some of the chapter titles...
* The Nerd Dilemma: Or Why Ashton Kutcher is Your Kid's Worst Nightmare
* Math Scores and Economic Ills: Or Why You Need to Go to India to Find an Engineer.
* The Seinfeld Axiom: Or Why Nerds K now Advanced Calculus But Can't Get to First Base.
* They're Not Ugly, They Just Need a Makeover: Or Why They Think No One Can See the Tape on Their Glasses
* Welcome to My Persecution: Or Why the George Bush-Al Gore Contest Was a Jungian's Dream
The author focuses on children but applies it to the bigger picture, asserting that there's an ever-increasing anti-intellectualism in our country that will keep us from competing in a global economy, especially in this fast-growing, high-tech age.
There's a statistic toward the end of the book that startled me: In 2004, U.S. colleges graduated more sports exercise majors than electrical engineers. I believe it. When kids see how sports is revered over science — in money and public accolades — what profession do you think they'd rather chase?
Anderegg does have suggestions on how America might go about reversing the stereotypes, such as some kind of campaign like the anti-smoking messages that seem to have worked with children. Also, how about big-money scholarships for brainiacs on par with those given to star athletes?
I'd say those are a couple of good places to start.