Posted by: COSI | October 21, 2009

Geeks Redeemed

Cleveland Heights High

Cleveland Heighs High

This last weekend was my 40th reunion. I left Cleveland at 17 years of age and essentially didn’t look back or stay in touch with classmates (any of the 1100 in my graduating class!). I had ventured back for our 10th reunion but had a less than satisfying experience so hadn’t bothered with any others.

Something drew me to the 40th and I went, but with some trepidation. At the 10th it seemed like the old high school dynamics were still in play—the popular football players and cheerleaders clustered together, the “in group” hanging out together since among them were the class officers who had arranged the reunion, and then the rest of us in one identified subset or another.

I “floated” to some degree during high school—a successful athlete on the one hand (but face it, track and cross-country prowess don’t necessarily excite the general populace) but also a “pocket protector carrying geek”. Never fully integrating into one group and alternately feeling more comfortable as a “science geek” or an athlete.

The 40th was so different. Many of the “jocks” had grown too old, bald, and heavy to sustain their “heart throb” status. And some of the stars of the class that everyone at the 40th were referencing were the “geeks” who had gone on to start biotech companies, pioneer arterial replacement strategies, develop and move forward wind generation and solar photovoltaic approaches, and even win a MacArthur “Genuis” Fellowship award for energy conservation strategies and national standards.

Yes, the “geeks” were actually among the most noted classmates, the “cliques” had faded away, and I didn’t feel like I had to apologize for my old pocket protector anymore.

So why couldn’t we have been that way 40 years ago and more when we were in school?

How do we change that culture which still seems engrained in schools?

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