Nerds: Who They Are and Why We Need More of Them. By David Anderegg, Ph.D. Tarcher/Penguin. $24.95.
By the time the movie Revenge of the Nerds came along in, fittingly, 1984, nerds were more than 160 years overdue for some sort of vengeance. Psychology professor and private psychotherapist David Anderegg shows how Washington Irving’s 1820 tale, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” first created for Americans the notion of a bookish, intelligent but socially inept character who is frightened out of his wits and overcome by a decidedly thick bully. Indeed, 35 years before Revenge of the Nerds, Ichabod Crane was terrified and chased out of town by Brom Bones very effectively in a Disney animated feature called The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, which undoubtedly seemed harmless to adults in 1949 but which surely had a chilling effect on budding young booklovers.
This sort of thing helps explain why Anderegg suggests, quite seriously, that
This is an arguable point –
This prejudice – and it is most decidedly a prejudice – persists today, and causes severe emotional trouble for some young people, including the ones Anderegg has seen in his private practice in
What can be done? It’s not enough to delay teaching “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” In fact, dislike of nerds now seems to be only part of the deep anti-intellectual strain in the