Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bringing Up Geeks

There were a couple of recent threads on bringing up teens at Real Learning. Once was Favorite Books on Parenting Teens and one was Teens and Technology. One of the books recommended in the threads was Bringing Up Geeks, by Marybeth Hicks, so I requested it from the library.

So far, I like it. Books about setting limits generally tend to make me cross and resistant. But Hicks' good energy and "this is what I do" worked for me -- like listening to one of those opinionated, high-spirited moms at the football game or the homeschool meeting. She doesn't seem to come from a fearful or punitive mindset, but a practical, positive one. Her four kids go to school, so she is talking from that perspective. Some of the things she mentions have simply never come my way -- I've never had to fight battles about Bratz dolls, for instance, or debate whether my 9 year old should have a cell phone. Others were much more relevant.

The case the book makes is that (1) parents have bought into the "culture of cool" and though they're uncomfortable with the excesses of this culture, they fear handicapping their children socially and so they go along with it (2) parental standards WILL inevitably exile your kids to some extent from the Cool Culture, and therefore categorize them as "geeks" (3) that's OK because the Cool Cult is a fake construct, not the real world anyway, and not a good goal to work towards.

She redefines the word "geek" in a positive way (as the maxim goes, Be nice to geeks, you'll probably work for one someday) which is appealing to me because our family has always tended to use "geek" as a code word not for dysfunction but for quirky, INTERESTING people who have the character to swim against the tide in different ways..... we try to see the traces of "geekiness" in even the most banal "cool" person. Really, they're there if you look for them hard enough!

Basically, she sets the guideline for rebelling against the implicit expectations of the social game for young people nowadays. In some ways this book would fit alongside "Hold on to Your Kids" and "A Tribe Apart", two books about family and peer culture that I read a couple of summers ago. HOTYK is about the psychology of the peer-dependent child. A Tribe Apart is a riveting journalistic account of several "ordinary" children and their transition from pre-teen to high school senior. The "tribe" culture is a desperate one -- its undeniable radiance is a sort of radioactivity, a phosphorescence of active decomposition. Bringing Up Geeks basically makes a firm, practical stand for strong parenting which almost of necesssity means conscious detachment from the peer underworld and its devouring demands.

A related article I just came across at Christopherus: Changing Clothes

Also, I wrote in the past about "Weird homeschoolers" and enculturation.and Following the Compass.

1 comment:

Laura A said...

Our co-op discussed this book, one chapter a week, for quite a while. Eventually I got it from the library and skimmed it. Once had I read it myself, I got the same message you did from it--not going after the cool life will make your kid a "geek," but that's okay; eventually they'll find other "geeks," and they'll be happier for it. I too found the author to be positive and upbeat.

I've probably mentioned this before, but I also read Hold on to Your Kids a couple of years ago.