Robbins follows seven real people grappling with the uncertainties of high school social life, including:
- The Loner, who has withdrawn from classmates since they persuaded her to unwittingly join her own hate club
- The Popular Bitch, a cheerleading captain both seduced by and trapped within her clique's perceived prestige
- The Nerd, whose differences cause students to laugh at him and his mother to needle him for not being "normal"
- The New Girl, determined to stay positive as classmates harass her for her mannerisms and target her because of her race
- The Gamer, an underachiever in danger of not graduating, despite his intellect and his yearning to connect with other students
- The Weird Girl, who battles discrimination and gossipy politics in school but leads a joyous life outside of it
- The Band Geek, who is alternately branded too serious and too emo, yet annually runs for class president
Robbins intertwines these narratives--often triumphant, occasionally heartbreaking, and always captivating--with essays exploring subjects like the secrets of popularity, being excluded doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you, why outsiders succeed, how schools make the social scene worse--and how to fix it.
The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth is not just essential reading for students, teachers, parents, and anyone who deals with teenagers, but for all of us, because at some point in our lives we've all been on the outside looking in.
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The Geeks Shall Inherit the EarthPOPULARITY, QUIRK THEORY, AND WHY OUTSIDERS THRIVE AFTER HIGH SCHOOL
By Alexandra Robbins
HyperionCopyright © 2011 Alexandra Robbins
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMEET THE CAFETERIA FRINGE
Danielle, Illinois | The Loner
When the bell rang, Danielle slowly gathered her books as the rest of her class scrambled out of the room. She reluctantly made her way into the hall, slinging her green messenger bag—backpacks were too commonplace—over her shoulder.
The hallway was already beginning to empty as people disappeared into classrooms. Students didn't acknowledge Danielle and she didn't acknowledge them. She walked with her head down, slouching her five foot ten frame, her dark, shoulder-length hair shielding her face.
Stone Mill High, a large public school in a middle-class, racially diverse Chicago suburb, had a small cafeteria, which was why its two thousand—plus students were divided into four lunch periods. Usually juniors were allowed to leave the building during lunch, but not on the first day of school. Tomorrow, and probably during the rest of the year, Danielle would avoid the cafeteria altogether.
Danielle wandered the halls for as long as she could, stopping to take a long drink from the water fountain and to pick up a form in the main office. Then she tried to walk nonchalantly past the cafeteria's floor-to-ceiling glass wall, as if she just happened to be passing by. She could see students arranged predictably throughout the room. In front of the window sat the lucky students who had sprinted to the cafeteria to grab the small tables so they wouldn't have to sit at larger ones with students outside of their social circles. Behind them, underclassmen sat in rows of long tables. Goths, emos, and scene kids flanked the left side of the room, closest to the lunch detention area. Preppy popular students claimed the far corner of the cafeteria.
She scanned the room, searching ideally for any acquaintance at the end of a row whom she could join without intruding in the middle of a group. She couldn't find a single person she liked. On the bright side, she also didn't see Tabitha, the person she liked least at school, who would have been sitting among the preps.
The cafeteria had not been kind to Danielle in the past. She didn't think much anymore about the flick flick of projectile Skittles that a handful of "friends" pelted at her after they ousted her from their lunch table in sixth grade. She was still haunted by seventh grade, however. Until that year, Danielle had dressed like the tomboy she was. In seventh grade, she decided to start shopping at the stores other girls chattered about—Hollister, American Eagle—in order to fit in.
Her strategy didn't work. Classmates grew even more hostile toward her. Former friends started a note fight. One girl wrote a message so painful that when Danielle's mother came home from work that day, Danielle was uncharacteristically curled up in a fetal position on her bed. The school summoned the girls' mothers to meetings, and when administrators saw the notes that Danielle had written in retaliation, they penalized both girls by barring them from the middle school honor society.
Meanwhile, half of Danielle's class had joined the "I Hate Dominoes Club," which people discussed in front of her. In a last-ditch effort to conform to the crowd, Danielle let students in her gym class persuade her to join the club too. Only a few moments later, she discovered that "Dominoes" was a pseudonym (she never found out why). The club's real name was the "I Hate Danielle Club." Danielle had joined her own hate club. Her classmates thought this was hilarious. When Danielle underwent dermatological surgery later that semester, the club leader said she hoped Danielle would die from the anesthesia.
On the last day of school, Tabitha, Danielle's supposedly closest friend, passed her a note that said she didn't want to be friends anymore. Danielle told Tabitha it was dumb to end their friendship just because rejecting Danielle was the cool thing to do. That weekend, a group of girls called her from a party to which she hadn't been invited. They crowded around the speakerphone, telling her to stop "threatening" Tabitha. Danielle never forgave her.
Danielle hated reflecting on that year, but not because of the cruelty. She was most chagrined now because she had "joined the group, unaware that it was my own hate club, because I thought that since everyone else was joining, I should too. I wish I hadn't been so stupid in thinking that I needed other people's approval, even when I didn't even like most of them."
Because of that incident, Danielle withdrew, unwilling to trust anyone at school. She stopped talking to most people her age. Outside of school, for the next few years, she hung out only with four other girls: Mona, Paige, Camille, and Nikki, none of whom had many friends besides each other. Danielle liked these girls about 50 percent of the time; they could be funny and they usually got along. But they tended to neglect her such that Danielle often felt like an outcast even within her own tiny group. She stuck with them because they had been friends since kindergarten, even if the only thing they had in common was their past.
Danielle had other acquaintances, but they were "just school friends," because "I don't know how to ask them to hang out, and I suck at doing one-on-one things with people I've never hung out with before," she said.
Danielle turned away from the cafeteria window and meandered down another hallway, attempting to quash her anxiety. If I don't find someone I know, I'm going to end up standing alone at the front of the cafeteria. She hid in the bathroom for a few minutes, washing her hands to kill time, then waited by the sink until she decided to go to the library. On the way, Danielle bumped into Paige's freshman sister and followed her back to the lunchroom. They sat at the last of the underclassman tables at the far right side of the room.
That was how Danielle found herself spending the first lunch period of her junior year sitting silently among a bunch of freshmen she didn't know and, with the exception of her friend's sister, didn't especially like. She left early to spend the rest of the forty-minute lunch in the snaking line of people waiting to see the guidance counselors to change their schedules. It was going to be another long year.
* * *
CAFETERIA FRINGE: People who are not part of or who are excluded from a school's or society's in crowd.
What could motivate kids to be so heart-crushingly cruel that they convince a girl to join her own hate club? In the decade I've spent examining various microcosms of life in U.S. schools—from the multitude of students pressured to succeed in school and sports to the twentysomething products of this educational Rube Goldberg machine—a disturbing pattern has emerged. Young people are trying frantically to force themselves into an unbending mold of expectations, convinced that they live in a two-tiered system in which they are either a resounding success or they have already failed. And the more they try to squeeze themselves into that shrinking, allegedly normative space, the faster the walls close in.
The students outside these walls are the kids who typically are not considered part of the in crowd, the ones who are excluded, blatantly or subtly, from the premier table in the lunchroom. I refer to them as "cafeteria fringe." Whether alone or in groups, these geeks, loners, punks, floaters, nerds, freaks, dorks, gamers, bandies, art kids, theater geeks, choir kids, Goths, weirdos, indies, scenes, emos, skaters, and various types of racial and other minorities are often relegated to subordinate social status simply because they are, or seem to be, even the slightest bit different.
Students alone did not create these boundaries. The No Child Left Behind law, a disproportionate emphasis on SATs, APs, and other standardized tests, and a suffocating homogenization of the U.S. education system have all contributed to a rabidly conformist atmosphere that stifles unique people, ideas, and expression. The methods that schools and government officials claimed would improve America's "progress" are the same methods that hold back the students who are most likely to further that progress.
In precisely the years that we should be embracing differences among students, urging them to pursue their divergent interests at full throttle, we're instead forcing them into a skyline of sameness, muffling their voices, grounding their dreams. The result? As a Midwestern senior told me for my book The Overachievers, high schoolers view life as "a conveyor belt," making monotonous scheduled stops at high school, college, graduate school, and a series of jobs until death. Middle schools in North America have been called "the Bermuda triangle of education." Only 22 percent of U.S. youth socialize with people of another race. U.S. students have some of the highest rates of emotional problems and the most negative views of peer culture among countries surveyed by the World Health Organization.
Too many students are losing hope because of exclusion or bullying that they believe they're doomed to experience for the rest of their lives. It is unacceptable that the system we rely on to develop children into well-adjusted, learned, cultured adults allows drones to dominate and increasingly devalues freethinkers. In 1957, theologian Paul Tillich told a graduating university class, "We hope for nonconformists among you, for your sake, for the sake of the nation, for the sake of humanity." More than half a century later, schools, students, and sometimes parents treat these nonconformists like second-class citizens, squelching that hope. There is too much pressure on children to conform to a narrowing in-crowd image, when we should be nurturing the outsiders who reject that image. In large part, those are the individuals who will turn out to be the kinds of interesting, admired, and inspiring adults who earn respect and attention for their impact on their community or the world.
Or even the celebrisphere. Author J. K. Rowling, who has described herself as "a squat, bespectacled child who lived mostly in books and daydreams," was bullied in school because she was different. Her heroic wizards and witches, who have entranced millions of readers worldwide, "are plainly outcasts and comfortable with being so," she has said. "Nothing is more unnerving to the truly conventional than the unashamed misfit!"
Musician Bruce Springsteen was so unpopular in high school that, "other people didn't even know I was there," he has said. He started a band because "I was on the outside looking in."
Television host Tim Gunn, who identified himself as "a classic nerd" in school, was "crazy about making things: I was addicted to my Lincoln Logs, Erector Set, and especially my Legos," he has said. "Between my stutter and my fetishizing of Lego textures, I was taunted and teased." Now Gunn is a fashion world icon precisely because of his eye toward "making things"—and his catchphrase, "Make it work," has become famous.
All of these people exemplify what I call quirk theory.
QUIRK THEORY: Many of the differences that cause a student to be excluded in school are the same 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.
Quirk theory suggests that popularity in school is not a key to success and satisfaction in adulthood. Conventional notions of popularity are wrong. What if popularity is not the same thing as social success? What if students who are considered outsiders aren't really socially inadequate at all? Being an outsider doesn't necessarily indicate any sort of social failing. We do not view a tuba player as musically challenged if he cannot play the violin. He's just a different kind of musician. A sprinter is still considered an athlete even if she can't play basketball. She's a different kind of athlete. Rather than view the cafeteria fringe as less socially successful than the popular crowd, we could simply accept that they are a different kind of social.
To investigate the cause and consequence of the gut-wrenching social landscape that characterizes too many schools, I followed seven "main characters"—real people—for a year and interviewed hundreds of other students, teachers, and counselors individually and in groups. I talked with students from public schools, private schools, technical schools, schools for the arts, boarding schools, college prep academies, inner city schools, small rural schools, and suburban schools. They have more in common than they know.
While for previous books, I acted merely as an observer, narrating stories as they happened, with this book I crossed a line. In the middle of the school year, I surprised my main characters by issuing them a challenge that dared them to step outside of their comfort zone. If successful, I hoped these experiments could bring them closer to the school experience they genuinely wanted.
To understand why the cafeteria fringe will be much better off after leaving the school setting, it helps to know how they become outcasts in the first place. Throughout the following chapters, I explain in what I hope is entertaining prose the psychology and science behind questions such as: "Why are popular people mean?", "Why is seventh grade the worst?", "Why are outsiders better off after school?", "Why do social labels stick?", "Why can't groups get along?", "Is popularity worth it?", and "How can we improve the school experience?" To explain these student group dynamics, I spoke to experts and reviewed hundreds of articles and books on psychology, sociology, anthropology, and other sciences. Much of what I learned was unexpected.
Slip with me a few tiers down below the in crowd—below the cliques that include people who say, as one popular girl told me, "I'm not friends with losers"—into a world of students who are overlooked, disparaged, or completely dismissed. Descend to the plane where beneath the gridded, rigid hallways of robotic social hierarchy runs a parallel labyrinth humming with a current of new ideas, alternative philosophies, and refreshing points of view. Here is where you'll find the people who are brave enough to be true to themselves, where you'll encounter the interesting and innovative minds that eventually will drive the engines of creativity and progress. Peer behind their labels. Immerse yourself in these forgotten corridors to meet the denizens known as the cafeteria fringe.
Mark Laurent (Blue), Hawaii | The Gamer
Mark, better known among students as Blue, was hanging out with his usual friends at the arcade, their typical after-school activity. Well, "hanging out with" wasn't exactly accurate. While the rest of the guys huddled around Street Fighter, Tekken, and Battle Gear (for which Blue held the machine record), Blue was absorbed in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom. The others made fun of Blue for playing Tatsunoko, calling it a "button masher" because it involved only four buttons and a joystick. Blue was one of the few people he knew who could "see the beauty in the game." The skill in Tatsunoko was to know when, where, and how to attack your opponent. Choosing combo breaks took precision, rhythm, and imagination. Gaming was an art, really; at least some games were. It just didn't look that way from the outside.
That was one of the reasons why last year, as a junior, Blue founded Arwing, Kaloke High School's first gaming club. He wanted to change people's minds about gaming—and gamers. He wanted to demonstrate that gaming had integrity and valor, that it could be elegant. He had no idea that the results would be disastrous.
At first, Arwing thrived. One hundred seventy people signed up within weeks. Blue, as president, assigned his friends to the remaining officer slots and cajoled them to accompany him to a local senior citizens' home to play Wii Sports with the residents. Blue made posters to advertise the club. One read, GAMING IS MAINSTREAM, GAMERS ARE MAINSTREAM, IT'S THE PEOPLE WHO ARE SURPRISED BY THIS THAT HAVE SUSPECT SOCIAL LIVES.
Quickly Blue's friends grew apathetic toward the club, as they were toward most things. They said they would build the Web site and then didn't. They ruined an event because they didn't hand out the promotional fliers for fear of looking "stupid." One day at the mall, Blue was sitting with his friends when he put his head down on the table and fell asleep. When he woke up ten minutes later, they were gone. Thereafter, Blue's friends started ditching him for fun—at the mall, at school. From their posts on Facebook and Twitter, Blue could see when they went out together, intentionally excluding him. He was closest with Jackson, who attended a neighboring school, but even Jackson was less likely to socialize with Blue unless Ty and Stewart were there, if not Herman and his two followers.
Blue tried not to let this treatment faze him. He had become accustomed to social setbacks in middle school after his closest friend, who had nicknamed him Blue after a Pokémon trainer, moved away. Uninterested in the superficial chatter that dominated classmates' typical middle school conversations, Blue turned to technology and other solitary pursuits. He discovered outlets such as speedrunning video games: beating a game as quickly as possible, from beginning to end. (He could beat Portal, a game that took decent players at least two hours to win, in twenty minutes.)
Excerpted from The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins Copyright © 2011 by Alexandra Robbins. Excerpted by permission of Hyperion. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Meet the Cafeteria Fringe....................3
Chapter 2 Quirk Theory and the Secret of Popularity....................45
Chapter 3 Why Are Popular People Mean?....................75
Chapter 4 In the Shadow of the Freak Tree....................105
Chapter 5 It's Good to Be the Cafeteria Fringe....................138
Chapter 6 Challenges....................179
Chapter 7 Misperceptions....................208
Chapter 8 A Brief Introduction to Group Psychology....................229
Chapter 9 Why Labels Stick: The Motivations of the Normal Police....................249
Chapter 10 Changing Perceptions....................279
Chapter 11 Two Steps Forward, One Step Back....................307
Chapter 12 Popularity Doesn't Lead to Happiness....................343
Chapter 13 The Rise of the Cafeteria Fringe....................360
Chapter 14 Cafeteria Fringe: Lucky and Free....................394
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth is a compelling and well written novel that details the lives of different stereotypical teenagers through highschool. Labeled outsiders, losers, or geeks, these kids are greatly misunderstood and under appreciated. Alexandra Robbins focuses on seven different people in her novel; a loner, a new girl, a band geek, a gamer, a nerd, a popular girl, and a teacher. The first five characters bring to life the real challenges teenagers like them face in High School, and how far they may go to either become popular or remove themselves from the situation - recent events detail just such a thing. As a real highschool student, I believe Robbins successfully touches the lives of these teens, illustrating their endeavours to survive school. However, the inclusion of a popular girl and teacher are somewhat far from the main plotline and do not clearly fit into this novel, seeming to me like just a way to take up space. They add very little to the overall novel and distract the reader from the main theme. Robbins intended to clarify that both the popular kids face troubles, and so do teachers, but this novel does not call for such a thing. The five 'geeks' alone are very inspiring, Robbins clarifying for the need for individualism and freethinkers, much of what these teenagers are, and to encourage them to stay the way they are and to ensure them that their flaws today will be the desired characteristics of adult life. This novel criticizes the idea of conformity and 'fitting in' many high school students feel, ideas that can only hinder the progression of society and stop great people from appearing. As the title implies, the outcasts of High School may become the leaders of adulthood. Outside of this book, there are many movies and novels that express this same idea of individualism and creativity. I believe Robbins successfully brings this out to the reader, insuring any 'geeks' that it gets better, that High School is only four years of your life. I greatly recommend this book to others, especially those who may feel the same pressures as Robbins shows.
I highly recommend this book! It gives you a look inside high schools of today and what problems kids are still going through. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this book. Let your geek flag fly!
I enjoyed this book, though I couldn't relate to "Blue" and Reagan. I think being gay is a different issue than geeks and nerds being outcast. I was glad Whitney was included in the book. Blue and Reagan should have been replaced with more of your typical geeks who are shunned, like Eli. The book gives hope to those who aren't smooth enough to get into the popular crowd. I finally gave up fitting in during my senior year of high school. I should have done it sooner. It makes you wonder how a small minority of the best looking students manage to take over the entire school and how are they considered popular when everyone else seems to be disgusted with them? This book should be required reading for middle school students.
I'm reading this and then the Steve Jobs book (for book club), pretty appropriate! :) I enjoyed the parts where the author was talking about the specific kids she followed, but didn't care for her commentary. I know that added to it and explained further what was going on with the kids, but got boring to me.
“The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive after High School” by Alexandra Robbins is a fantastic read. Robbins fully grasps the concept of cafeteria fringe in the life of six students and a teacher. With a full analysis on each theory, Robbins describes with the utmost detail in explaining the presence of the quirk theory in high school. The novel flows smoothly as if reading a fiction book, as each of the people become characters in which the reader could connect to on a personal level. However, the only minor fault at hand might be within the analysis. Towards the end, Robbins does become slightly repetitive with the explanation, which might lead to the book becoming a slight drag in certain parts. Yet, the fully developed perspective of the people into their lives and the changes they undergo as assigned by the author definitely makes this book worthwhile! Another great view of this book is of the parents of these teenagers and how they affect much of the child’s behavior. This book also brings a slight attention to them at various points at what they are doing wrong and what they could improve on, making it a great read for parents too! Overall, “The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth, the Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School” is a must read for teenagers and parents with teenagers. It is easy to follow, easy to understand, and an enjoyable book to read! I highly recommend it to anyone who is part of the cafeteria fringe, struggles to fit in, or pushes aside others. This book has become one of my favorites!
The story, The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth, by Alexandra Robbins, was a great read, content wise, but as an actual high school student, some parts greatly confused me. Some of the stereotypes used by Ms. Robbins I have never even heard of and I have no clue who would be considered the queen bee at my high school. In fact, I consider myself lucky that there is no group at my high school that stands out as more popular than another, and that my school is mostly made of artistically or intellectually inclined students. However, it is quite possible that I am just completely oblivious to these stereotypes as I prefer reading and studying to socializing. Some of the content of the novel clarified a lot for me. It answered the question of why I care so much about other people’s opinions. The segment about drug use among high school students really amazed me. The only real problem I had with the novel is how it is organized. The book is based upon a study using five students, but halfway through the book, we learn that there are really only four students and the fifth individual is a teacher. The author was trying to show how some adults could act like teenagers, which she did quite nicely, but I then had to question if some of the other test subjects were teachers as well. I became so confused and started to question whether Danielle, one of the test subjects, was also a teacher because she started working with special education students. In addition, the book is based off a sort of time line with interjections of information, which makes the book interesting, but it becomes hard to retain the information. Not to mention, the author tends to repeat herself when she cannot render new information. I liked the book and I recommend it, especially if you go to high school or have a high school aged child, but be aware, there are flaws.
When I first read this book, I was expecting it to only have high school students relate to her argument. Instead she immerses the reader in the lives and issues that teachers, parents and students deal with in the high school environment. She follows seven different individuals in one year of high school. She tries to appeal to every type of student in the high school community. She interviewed populars, loners, nerds, and even a discriminated teacher as they face the cruelty high schools can dish out at the individual. Alexandra Robbins uses psychological studies and experiences from students around the country to show that being unpopular in high is not the end of the world. She even gives examples of famous celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Steve Jobs who were treated badly in high school but ended up having great success in doing what they love. This novel boosted my self-esteem and definitely will for other students having social trouble in high school. She proves that the high school environment tries to make everyone conform to some set norm, and can even look down on students who try to show their individuality. But she does not stop there. She criticizes staff and administrators for being a part of the problem as well. Staff members create their own cliques at times and may even give benefits to athletics and popular cliques while taking away from sciences and arts and unpopular kids. She also advises parents on trying to make their own kids “normal” and smash their child’s self confidence in the process. I would recommend this novel to anyone who is a part of a high school community, as in the students, staff, and parents.
Let's just say... I'm ten-year-old cafeteria fringe. Current label-nerd, may be freak in near future. That said, best book EVER and will provide sustenance to that amazing,awesome,nonconformist,freethinking,creative astonishingness known as THE CAFETERIA FRINGE! P.S. I am extremely mad at the Library Journal for saying, "Out of the cafeteria fringe, and on to meaningful experiences." Excuse me?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! This implies that they a)left the CF and b)could only have those meaningful experiences after "moving on" from being CF. They remained themselves. They remained CF. They remained all those wondrous qualities described above. They just left their comfort zones and extended beyond their labels. Hear that? It's the sound of labels being ripped off. They left comfort zones to have those meaningful experiences,not CFhood. Sorry about that. Rant over.
I dug the students Robbins followed. I wanted to give them hugs and tell them they were cool.
I could not put this book down! I loved all the characters, especially Danielle and Mark, and thought the essays about popularity especially were just so interesting.
The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins is an enjoyable read. This book follows the lives of several "cafeteria fringe" students and one popular, providing insight to their lives. It discusses today's bullying, how facebook and social networks play a role in their lives, and helpful information for worries of today's youth. With a middle school aged child of my own, I found this book not only interesting to read but informative and helpful. It is definitely worth the read, a worthy addition to any library.
This book is like a reality show about high school. It follows real high school students who are in various social groups - a loner, a popular bitch, a nerd, a new girl, a gamer, a wierd girl and a band geek - all from different schools and cities - through a school year and looks at their social interactions and those of the other groups in their schools. I am a teacher and a mother and I have seen much of the social activity that the author discusses and I think this book does a great job of showing and addressing the issues.I found it fascinating and I think it should be required reading for all educators. Her research about social groups and how our brains are wired for conformity is fascinating and her challenges to the students and one teacher who are the characters that she followed in this book helped them to change their social statuses and their outlooks on life and relationships. I highly recommend this book and I enjoyed it very much.
I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was written in a way that made me really care about the students and the outcomes of their lives. That is actually one of my critics; I really wish there was an update about each student post-high school at the end of the book. Also, while thoroughly engrossed in the different stories of the students, I found the "academic" parts between sections to come off a little textbooky. Towards the end I found myself skimming these sections in order to find out what was going to happen next to the kids. It takes a very well written book to make you care about the subjects that much. Overall, definitely a worthwhile read!
"The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth" is an interesting take on an inside-the-school journalistic account of the social encounters that take place in high schools. This type of journalism, where the writer is half storyteller, half cultural anthropologist, has been done by others for various purposes, even by Ms. Robbins herself in her book "Overachievers", and is usually informative and eye opening, at least for those of us who haven't had to struggle to open a locker in a while ;) This approach was novel, however, as Ms. Robbins told the story from the perspective of a number of young people in various states. In contrst from just telling their story, however, she offered each of them an individualized challenge about halfway through the book to alter their behavior and see if it changed the way others saw them and interacted with them. So the journalistic storytelling transformed to part science experiment halfway through the book, which gave the story a jolt of energy, which sustained the book the rest of the way through it's 448 pages. Unlike other accounts which have been written similarly, this one picked kids who were dissimilar enough that you didn't lose track of who was who. She even "labeled" them with terms such as "the loser" or the "popular bitch", which helped to trigger the reader's memory when switching accounts. This was very helpful as it is common for writers to switch too quickly or select characters who are too similar, making it challenging for the reader to keep them all straight. Each youth's story was well told and I found myself liking all of the kids and their stories and hoping that each one would become socially accepted by their peers. This book attempted to conceptualize modern social experiences in high schools and derive an explanation about why some kids are popular and others are negatively labeled and rejected. Ms. Robbins went a step further to develop her own hypothesis from this, which she calls "Quirk Theory", which basically suggests that the characteristics that make one an outsider (or "cafeteria fringe" as she terms it) in high school, are the same traits that lead one to be successful as an adult (creative, non-conformist, self-confident, etc.). She shares in the end how teachers, parents and students can help to make schools more accepting of kids of all types and impede negative social interactions in schools, as she believes teachers and parents are as much to blame for these painful encounters as the kids themselves. I enjoyed this book and it was much better than I expected it would be. My only concerns stemmed from the fact that this would not on any level be considered sound science, though it was portrayed to be with the introduction of "Quirk Theory" and the review of some famous psychological studies described throughout the book. This is pop culture journalism which makes some interesting observations but is not on the level of the double blind, random assignment, peer reviewed type of research you equate with the conformity studies and other social experiments referenced throughout the book. Despite this, it made for interesting reading! I now have some different thoughts about my adolescents and their search for social acceptance and identity in high school. And opening up our conceptualizations and collective dialogue about these concerns is always a good thing.
Robbins interviews and gets to know several real young people who are struggling with being on the outside of various more popular cliques in high school. Her writing flows well, and seems almost like fiction as she introduces us to her subjects. These narratives are interspersed with essays on the philosophy of the "outsider", and how the most difficult times often result in these students gaining the resilience and independent thinking they need to become successful adults.It's very well written and accessible. The reader gets caught up in the lives of the teens profiled, and can see, even if they can't, how their special skills will serve them well as they get out in the world."Geeks" would be an affirming, reassuring, and potentially life changing book for the adolescent "geek" (outsider) who reads it, and could help them to feel more optimistic about their futures.
The title and descriptions made this book sound so interesting, but even though I have a degree in social psychology, I stil couldn't find anything worth while in this book. Very disappointing.
I enjoyed this book and would agree that the author paints a compelling picture of the "cafeteria fringe". The main characters were very relatable and fleshed out so you come to be invested in their lives. Parents and educators can appreciate the resources included in the book as well as a look into what school is really like for kids currently. That said, I do feel like it's a little "preaching to choir". I feel like many of the people who are going to pick this book up and find the premise interesting are those that are, or were, cafeteria fringe themselves.
The book begins by introducing the reader to Danielle, a shy junior who feels uncomfortable during lunch. She has nobody to sit with. There is also a history of bullying in Danielle's past. The author then introduces the reader to a total of 7 "cafeteria fringe" and follow them throughout the year. These are the quirky people who are artistic, emotional, gay, shy, or geeky. Gathering data from sociological studies, the author ascertains that the skills used for popularity in high school are not the skills used in work and life. The quirky are the Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, Adam Sandler, etc.The most intriguing cafeteria fringe was Regan. I did not expect the surprise factor there yet when it was revealed and then discussed at greater length, I found myself definitely relating. (view spoiler)[Regan turns out to be a young educator teaching in a public school. The bullying and gossip is even more juvenile than some of the other stories but much more caustic. As a veteran educator, I couldn't agree more. There are cliques and unprofessional behavior. Bullying and the "in" crowd is much more difficult to address because there is no oversight. This behavior is not limited to educators but can be globalized to any office situation. (hide spoiler)]The crux of the book is the Quirk Theory. Behaviors that are aggressive and dominating in high school will often net a more popular person. This is not to be confused with "liked." However, the same skill set is not useful outside of the high school setting. Conformity and sheep like behavior is uniquely acceptable in a factory model school. Creativity, new ideas and approaches to problems will be rewarded in a workplace setting. Those who skirt the cafeteria very well may have the advantage after high school.The author provided anecdotal stories about the 7 individuals throughout the year and surrounded them with research by social psychologists from years past then offered interpretations to frame her thesis. She also suggested a different challenge for each of the 7 individuals that supported their individuality and strengths but also connected them with others with similarities. Six out of seven found moderate success. The exception was Regan. The cliques were too strong and the social group too small.Very enjoyable read for anybody interested in high school social dynamics or anybody scarred by their past high school social dynamics. Also would be an excellent resource for any public educator. I would go so far as to suggest that this book would be excellent reading material for professional development - especially if material is read by all faculty members and discussed throughout the school year.
With the painstaking attention to detail and narrative developed through embedding herself within interesting populations readers have come to expect from her, Alexandra Robbins has delivered another worthwhile read. This time around she explores the experiences of unpopular kids at many high schools across the country, picks apart how and why they have been classified by their peers and/or themselves as outcasts, and strongly supports the notion that skills learned as a social outcast in high school are those that directly correlate to success in adult life. For those not familiar with high school subcultures, Robbins clearly outlines the current array of social cliques as reported by thousands of teenage survey respondents. She addresses the urgency of young people to label themselves and others, and points out generational differences that readers may struggle with. For example, whereas in past decades labels were assigned based on what kids HAD or DID, now they go so far as to reflect what and how students THINK and FEEL. It all makes for a labyrinthine tangle of groups and subgroups, some of which are barely distinguishable from each other by the outside observer. These explanations are affirming for those who are in or have recently been through the label-conscious world of American high school, and informative for those older people who are more far removed from it. Some highlights: 1.)The words associated with and used by groups are clearly defined. This lexical examination of social subgroups is extremely helpful and illuminating. 2.)Both average everyday kids and famous people (i.e. Lady Gaga) are examined.3.)Robbins acknowledges the often overlooked fact that some kids are FORCED to the outs of social acceptance, while others place themselves there purposely and revel in it. 4.)There is a GREAT list of tips and resources for parents, teachers, and schools. As a social outcast during my own teenage years in the 1990s, I can vouch for the accuracy of the world she describes. As a high school English teacher for the past eight years, I appreciate the updated research and wealth of resources in the endnotes. This book is a valuable read for anyone who lives or works with adolescents or, for that matter, is or has ever been an adolescent. (review written 10 April 2011)
I've read one of Ms. Robbins' books, Overachievers and I enjoyed it. When I had the opportunity to read her latest tome, The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth, I took it. Just like Overachievers, Ms. Robbins follows several "outsiders" through high school, intermixing their stories with her commentary and other background information.In this tome, Ms. Robbins explores why "outsiders" are bullied in high school, but thrive in the real world. As she explains, most of our world (i.e. technology) was developed by an outsider (i.e. geek). As we continue to grow technologically, geeks will play a more crucial role than jocks and popular kids.Alexandra Robbins writes with thorough detail, both during her shadowing of students and with her commentary and background information.
I literally must have squealed in delight when I opened my mailbox and found this book. The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth is SO up my alley. It manages to combine both my interest as an educator and as a therapist. Needless to say, I hopped, skipped, and jumped my way back home, curled up on the couch and dove right in.And here¿s the thing. I dig me some nonfiction, but I generally have to be in the mood, ya know. Like, it RARELY happens when I see NF and immediately go for it. I baby step up to it. Not here and man it DID NOT disappoint. I loved Robbins format. By combining both the case studies as well as the data I felt I had real life applications to theories that might have seemed unimportant. In this sense, I¿m looking right at all of the readers out there who may not be in the educational or psychological field. If you have an inkling of an interest in high school roles or sociological curiosities, this book is for you. It will not make you feel dumb while reading it NOR does it dumb itself down. There were a couple of individuals that I bonded with more than others. And interestingly, they¿d probably be on the opposite spectrum had they been in the same high school together. Whitney is the ¿Popular Bitch¿ and she exposes how tough it is to be a mean girl and insecurities that go along with it. There were moments actually when Whitney reminded me of Veronica from the movie Heathers. Sure Whitney is popular but she feels conflicted about her popularity, oftentimes implying that she is compromising her own authenticity. The other girl that I really grew attached to was Regan, the Weird Girl. Regan toes that line of punker/thespian/literary nerd. Ummm, LOVE HER. I marked up this book like there was no tomorrow. It¿s flagged and highlighted and notes are written in the margins. Oh, and also, I read it in two days. Which is obscene for me and non fiction. This is an important book for parents, teachers, and hell, even students to read. Robbins exposes secrets of school hierarchies that exist but are normally not TALKED about. She points out why middle school years, especially 7th grade, is the most difficult. (Um, holla! I¿m with them more than their parents. These kids don¿t know if they¿re coming and going). And then, sheesh, we consider the technology that is second nature in their lives and it makes the whole experience scarier. Consider, if a rumor starts in 1st period, it¿s already facebooked, tweeted, and texted by 3rd. Pictures? Oh yeah, that¿s proof that you really DID wear that outfit, got THAT tanked, kissed WHO and went to WHICH party! There¿s no running away from your mistakes or choices in middle/high school.*sigh*I could continue on and on about this book. But I won¿t. Because there¿s so much about it that¿s a process and I want each and EVERY one of you to process it yourself. Hell, I think that you might even be able to find out aspects about yourself that you overlooked. Have your own aha moments.Bottom line is I wish I could make all of my colleagues read this book. I wish that professors would make it required reading in secondary education courses AS WELL AS group theory, psychology, AND sociology classes.
I am a self-defined geek, today. In high school, I was a floater, who identified most with the super-nerds and the partiers/goths/emos (the preps might have had their own parties, but I didn't know about them). I am also a mother, of two very different children. I see a loner artist in my oldest. At six, he chooses the books on drawing and various volumes of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I see a prep in my youngest. At three, he is gregarious, cheerful, loves music and people adore his energy. Given that I have no idea what these two types will go through in school, I was intrigued to get an inside glimpse, at least, through Robbins exploration of the cafeteria fringe. Given that I want them to experience more joy in their youth than I did, I was excited to have further evidence that as long as they can accept themselves, regardless of their clique, they have a chance.Given that the world is changing at an ever-increasing pace, with new technologies both offering new horizons and further specializations (thereby limiting potential interactions with people interested in other specialties), I want to make sure I know what I can give my kids every opportunity to define themselves, and to be okay with what definition they decide to embrace.Robbins is able of offer a wide range of geeks. She is able to explore the background of each (at least in some minor way, by describing recent histories and goals). She describes what choices students have in their control, both by charging each study with a challenge to move beyond their known capacity and by offering suggestions on how to find more peace with the place that high school society offers them. She describes what parents can do in order to bring more peace to their children in a difficult and tumultuous time of adolescence. She describes some best practices of schools and administrators to make sure that the cafeteria fringe are given some sense of security and so that others cliques can learn to appreciate what other cliques can offer to them and the school.The shortfalls of the book are but twofold. One, I would have appreciated seeing into the life of a student who can already float between groups before Robbins offers a mid-year challenge, but still feels alone. Two, I would have liked to get a snapshot of where each of her study subjects are "now" (at the time of publication). Knowing that Blue is getting through his first year of community college, with high hopes of getting into a University, knowing that Regan has found success in grad school and her other endeavors, knowing that Whitney has success in continuing to develop friendships without focusing on the perception created by these friendships - this would have been a more true "success" story than knowing that Taylor Swift was an outsider in high school. (While it is important to know that many of the people whom we admire for their successes went through these tough times, it is also important to know that the subjects we have come to love are going to be okay, too.)
Free LibraryThing Early Reviewer book. Though I enjoyed the book, the title is a bit misleading¿very little is about following people after high school, though it does argue that the things that make people ¿unpopular¿ in high school can make them successful, respected and happy afterwards. Mostly Robbins follows a number of people through a year of high school, scattered across the country and across various demographics (there¿s a reveal I wasn¿t expecting that¿s pretty cute). There are outcasts with various labels and one ¿popular bitch,¿ though Robbins sets each one a challenge to defy expectations. Reading about how Whitney (the popular bitch) spent two hours getting ready for school¿not doing homework, but picking an outfit and doing hair and makeup¿was depressing, as were other accounts of what teens do to each other with the tacit and often explicit approval of the adults around. But I was very interested in the overall story Robbins tells, which includes the fact that we have separated popularity from likeability¿turns out the ¿popular¿ kids are often not the ones people like and vice versa; we¿ve encouraged the development of a toxic form of adolescent popularity that relies on putting other people down. I like to think we could do it differently, and Robbins¿ success stories are ultimately hopeful, but she shouldn¿t be the only adult in the picture celebrating things other than status competition.
This book was like the flip perspective on Rosalind Wiseman's Queen Bee Moms and Kingpin Dads. It made many things about high school culture suddenly comprehensible. After reading the book I just mentioned, I suppose I've been kind of stymied by the thought that kids, or perhaps just other girls and women had some kind of secret agenda, making all social interactions some kind of minefield that either raise or lower your social capital - whereas previously, I'd tended, throughout even the teenage portion of my life - to take most conversations and social interaction at face value. What this book made me realize was that Wiseman was only describing a subset of people - those interested mainly in what Robbins terms "perceived popularity", popularity as power as opposed to popularity as a function of how many people like you. This is a good affirming book, in terms of reminding students and perhaps parents that people are made up of more than the total of their perceived popularity, and that being nice and getting to know your fellow man will usually benefit you most, eventually if not right away. The stories of the students (well, one is actually an interesting exception - but I don't want to spoil the surprise) are compelling, and at the end I was dying to know what happened to them in the rest of their lives - presumably what is actually happening to them right now, particularly in the case of Blue, who seems destined for an interesting life. A great read.
In a society that seems to condemn anyone being 'unique' or 'different', anyone that strays from what their peers deem as 'normal' more often than not the 'outsider' is ignored and people have absolutely no idea what they're really like- or what life feels like for them. The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth is a good insight into the lives of children who were considered to be 'unpopular' by their peers. It shows you how life is for them, how the rest of the school would react to them. But the best part is to show that they're more than their labels, that there is more inside of them, that simply because they're not popular that it doesn¿t diminish them as a person. people are so much more than how they get labeled by their peers and in a world where people are so, so diverse we should embrace what makes us all so different and unique. Geeks shows us all different types of kids and how high school feels for them and in all honesty I do believe that teenagers would benefit in reading this books and learning just a bit about people outside of their 'social groups'. Perhaps then people would understand each other a little bit better.