Beware: Your Child May Be Headed for Nerdville

Beware: Your Child May Be Headed for Nerdville


Guidelines to ensuring your son or daughter doesn’t succeed as an adult

Part 2 of 2
Last week I wrote of the dangers of your innocent children entering a world where only nerds and geeks dare to tread. What, for example, would you think if your kid won a bidding war; running up real estate prices or rents in Redwood City or Atherton or worse: Alameda? Suppose you get evicted and later find out that your own Little Roscoe is the techie now occupying your old apartment?

So how do you assure that your child will never run the world as a geek or nerd? It’s easy. Start by making fun of mathematics and that silly, stupid math teacher. As a math teacher with 22 years of experience, I have witnessed multiple strategies to deep-six math education; they are essentially fail safe. First, schedule a conference with your child’s math teacher; when you are sure your child is between text messages and listening to your rant, announce that you “always hated math” or you “cheated your way to a ‘D’ in Algebra-I.”

Hearing this, your children will inwardly celebrate the end of their math education. Citing a family tradition of “hating math” is one of the most effective ways of signaling abysmal expectations and assuring “Junior” that you are psychologically braced for his stagnation in the same math class for five years of high school.

If you’re not opposed to sounding a little clinical, announce that the results of “23 and me” DNA testing prove there has been no math gene in the family tree since the retreat of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet. Once a student hears “no math gene,” he or she can sprint to the text book depository and unload that pesky math book, possibly as early as October or November.

Although teachers load students’ grades into School Loop, there exists no AUSD requirement that you, the parent, monitor those grades, why spoil the end-of-year surprise? Many parents are shocked to learn the last week of school that Junior had been carrying a rock-solid 30 percent average all semester.

Ignoring School Loop allows for what Iran-Contra conspirators called “reasonable deniability.” “If only I’d known Junior was in a nose dive, I could have done something.” Implicit to this expression of astonishment is the dodge of the Teflon parent; it puts the blame squarely on that weasel of a teacher. It’s called, “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”

When Junior hears you yelling at the teacher over the phone, he enjoys restored self-esteem buttressed by guilt-free underachievement. Perhaps your son or daughter was not nimble enough to intercept those dire, Casandran progress reports that the school district kept lobbing into your home.

Risking a paper cut, you may have opened an envelope and read that Junior hasn’t turned in one assignment since Labor Day Weekend and now it’s Memorial Day. There is no reason to admit that Junior is slacking — you may yet have an out.

If homework consists of worksheets, closely examine the font and titles. Perhaps the print too exotic? Does it look like the drink menu at the Tiki lounge? Some parents don’t like the titles on my worksheets: too Delphic they allege. In a politically correct world, any trace of ambiguity is treated with gravitas; it qualifies as a micro-aggression. 

Remember: nothing that gets your progeny, your DNA, off the hook is too petty or too trifling. An enabling parent need only establish the most tenuous causal-nexus to conclude that the homework was impossible for anyone except Stephen Hawking, Alan Turing or Mister Spock. Like nuclear warfare or a domestic disturbance launching the first salvo is essential for winning the blame game.

Play your trump cards; don’t keep them up your sleeve while Junior is staggering under a sense of personal responsibility. If you spout the invective, “You didn’t teach my kid nothing,” before the teacher gets out, “Apparently your child learned nothing all year,” and then you have won the blame game.

Don’t be out-maneuvered by sound reasoning or out-foxed by Aristotelian logic; always remember: volume speaks louder than words. Remember too: administration serves at the pleasure of the community; like “ghostbusters,” they are ready to believe you.

As Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas once said about math: “That’s what I look for in hiring my clerks — the cream of the crop. I look for the maths and the sciences, real classes …"

And, as I often remind my students, “You can ride the Google Bus, or you can picket the Google Bus.” One option involves work, the choice should be obvious.



Jeff Smith teaches math at Encinal High School, where he encourages the young to aim for the Google bus.