Getting Past High School
Studying and analyzing the social psychology within the high school microcosm, author Alexandra Robbins discovers a hierarchy of "cliques" and stereotypes; these divisions form social circles rather than webs, keeping groups apart and excluding many others.
The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth takes a deeper look at "the cafeteria fringe," the outsiders and non-conformists that have been left out, those who are deemed "different" and often ostracized by their peers. The book revolves around Robbins' quirk theory, the theory that the very traits that set the "cafeteria fringe" apart and cause them to become social pariahs are the traits that will bring them success and respect in their adult lives beyond high school.
Traits such as creativity, innovative thinking, artistic vision, and intelligence make the "cafeteria fringe" unique. However, such characteristics get many students labeled as "loners, emos, geeks, etc." and cause others to discourage them from being themselves.
Robbins' follows the lives of seven real individuals for a year, watching as they refuse to conform for the sake of popularity and struggle in a standardized education system that has left them suffocated and discouraged. Throughout their one year journeys, they struggle to remain unique yet still maintain social lives as students, teachers, and a strict administration pressure them to conform and stop being so "different."
The book is divided into four sections, one for each season as the stories of the seven different, yet similar, people are told. Between excerpts of their experiences, Robbins' contributes her own commentary and analysis on the high school system, explaining the shocking behaviors of students and faculty alike. To explain high school behavior and support her quirk theory, Robbins employs the science of psychology. For example, she presents various social and psychological experiments and explains how brain development along with different levels of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, can affect a person's behavior.
The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth was an intriguing read--as well as a surprising one. Being a bit of a loner myself, I could relate to some of the characters.
However, after hearing their stories I've come to realize my own public high school may be incredibly different from many public schools in the US.I suppose my high school is sort of a sheltered place, compared to what this book describes, but sometimes it seems that Robbins has focused a little to much on the extremes and worst cases while neglecting to focus on the bright side. Nevertheless, it was a bit of a wake-up call on the state of the US school system. Another thing that bothered me was how the author consistently referred to people as "emos, jocks, preps, nerds, geeks, freaks, indies, skaters, punks, scenes, etc." rather than simply calling them students.
Overall, however, the book was intriguing, refreshing, and a bit inspiring. Anyone struggling with being in the "cafeteria fringe" should definitely consider giving this book a read. It's also a pretty good book for caring or concerned parents as well.
Anna Kong is a volunteer for San Mateo County Library.