When it comes right down to it, words are just words.
They can hurt but sometimes they do not have to.
One word that bugs me is nerd as an insult.
Just saying that I was writing an editorial about being a proud nerd, I was told that I should be ashamed.
Well, I am not.
Hanging out at the Horizon Student Day on May 3 (Humboldt Journal, May 11, front page), Remington Rohel reassured the students that the SHAD program that he went to in St. John’s, NL was not a ‘nerd camp.’
Rohel does not see the word as an insult but he does see the negative connotation the word has.
“There is a lot of stigma in that that means there is a lot of extra reading and cramming but I see it more as just as someone trying to learn and that’s not a bad thing at all.”
Hannah Moellenbeck presented with fellow students, Bing Bing Zhang and Khrystyna Ostrovsky, about going to Ottawa on the Youth Forum program.
Just listening to them in the presentation, anyone could hear what passion this developed for politics.
To her, nerd just means someone who is more academic or introverted but the term itself is used as a derogatory way of describing a person.
“It’s just another way people are picking out each others differences, which is not necessary.”
To Moellenbeck, fear of perception is a big reason nerd is used so negatively.
People who are more focused on their schooling than other things feel this is out of the norm and that there is somehow something wrong with them, says Moellenbeck.
And it is no wonder.
You see that in pop culture as well where smart characters are always the less desirable and lonely outcasts.
In Simpsons, even the bullies are more desirable to be around than the smart characters, which is also wrong on many levels, ie. Professor Frink, Martin Prince, even Lisa most episodes.
Even Homer is deemed the hero of most of the episodes, as well as other cartoon hotshots, like Peter Griffin and Stan from American Dad, all of which come from shows that are popular with teens.
If these are not celebrations of dumb characters, I do not know what is.
In popular culture, there is always that stereotypical smart character/socially awkward/weird interests characters.
Name me a single character whose dominate character trait is smart/nerdy where they are also socially interesting and a strong character.
Nerds are not someone you want to be friends with in the pop culture realm.
So of course you are going to have kids not wanting to be associated with nerds in reality because they are given a distinct vision of who a nerd should be.
Seeing this positive light shone on academic leadership and seeing the presentations done by students was a good experience in a school division that puts a lot of emphasis on sports, says Rohel.
“It’s good to bring in some other things too for students who may not be interested in (sports).”
Celebrating those successes is a big part of losing that nerd stigma.
I asked Horizon School Division Director, Kevin Garinger, his thoughts on nerd as well.
He also sees the negative way it is used but embracing intelligence is something we have to learn.
“Bill Gates would call himself a nerd and at the same time he’s trying to make it clear that it’s a word that should not be associated in a way that is demeaning to someone.”
We need to recognize everyone’s gifts, says Garinger, whether it is gifts of intelligence or other things and nerd does not work to do that.
Let us celebrate the fact that being smart does not automatically make you socially awkward.
Let us celebrate the smart people and help kids be more comfortable being nerds.
Seeing smart adults may help so I’m going to come right out and say it myself.
I am a nerd. I am married to a nerd.
I am proud to be a nerd. Do not be ashamed to be nerds.