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Book Review: The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth

Taking a look at a book that celebrates students who resist the herd mentality.
BY Uttara Choudhury |   18-11-2013
The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory, And why Outsiders thrive after High School. By Alexandra Robbins.

If you are not part of the popular crowd in school, fear not. In her book, ‘The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth’ journalist and New York Times bestselling author Alexandra Robbins argues that the geeks of today are the adult success stories of tomorrow.

The ‘Quirk’ Theory

Children can be heart-crushingly cruel and school more rigid and conformist than the military – especially when it comes to students who are a little different. These are the kids who are often shunned or bullied. Robbins, however, argues that the things that set geeks apart in school are the things that help them stand out later in life. She presents "the quirk theory," in which she hypothesizes that the interests and idiosyncrasies which see kids being teased in school are the very quirks that turn them into cool, interesting, fun and successful adults.

"Many of the differences that cause a student to be excluded in school are the identical traits or real-world skills that others will value, love, respect, or find compelling about that person in adulthood and outside of the school setting," Robbins writes.

“Quirky kids don’t waste time or energy on image control, like popular students do. After graduation, the quirky kids therefore have a much better sense of their identity,” Robbins writes in the book.

The author tackles psychological data, pop culture trends and her narrative follows seven individuals in different schools who exemplify the “cafeteria fringe.” She describes them as “the new girl, the loner, the gamer, the nerd, the weird girl, and the band geek.” The seventh individual is a cheerleader who is in the popular crowd, but struggles with the way her clique demands things of its members.

Cool Kids Club

In ‘The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth,’Robbins argues for resistance against the herd mentality. She indicates the eternal adolescent struggle between individuality and inclusion, and how it nudges many students into a mindless "groupthink" about what is cool.

Robbins shows how the qualities that set Danielle (the loner), Eli (the nerd) and Regan (the weird girl) apart from their classmates are the same qualities that make them stand out in positive ways. They think independently and since they have suffered rejection, they don’t hanker after other people’s approval all the time. It makes them self-sufficient, independent thinkers. They also show strength in embracing their “quirks” in a rigid environment where students are shunned for the slightest deviation from the norm set by popular kids.

The author ends with a list of tips for parents, teachers, students, and schools on how to support and encourage students who value "original thought and expression." She says schools should celebrate student scientists and mathematicians the same way they celebrate student athletes - then more students would be excited about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics or the STEM fields. This has worked in a U.S. school where a robotics club called “The Nerd Herd” transformed the way students feel about robotics — and nerds!

Much like Apple’s iconic 1997 “Think Different” ad campaign which lauded “rebels” and “the crazy ones” as the source of great ideas and innovation, this book celebrates the geeks who don’t chase popularity in school.

The book has a simple message: Forget the herd! If you have ever felt left out, laughed at or targeted in school, this book is a reassuring read. If you need further reassurance there are the always the successful geeks all grown up: Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy, and Microsoft's Bill Gates.


Uttara Choudhury is Editor, North America for TV 18’s Firstpost news site. In 1997, she went on the British Chevening Scholarship to study Journalism in the University of Westminster, in London.



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