The Necessary Nerd
Way back in 1974, when I wasn’t all that far removed from high school (class of ’70), I picked up a copy of the brilliant publication “National Lampoon 1964 High School Yearbook Parody”, by P. J. O’Rourke, Doug Kenney, and David Kaestle. This hilarious spoof inspired the movie “National Lampoon’s Animal House” and serves as a tongue-in-cheek time capsule for baby boomers, filled with cultural references and satire that still bring back memories, cringe-worthy and otherwise.
The parody, in typical 1960s’ yearbook format, begins with photographs of actors representing stereotypical teachers and students. The familiar teenage icons are all there – the nerd, the quarterback, the cheerleader, the dreamy artist, the bully, the criminal, and so on. I laughed at the exaggerated biographical details and portrait poses, but what struck me most indelibly was that I knew these people! I recognized personality types that were very familiar from my own high school experiences
During the past forty years, I have witnessed a succession of younger generations come along. Though each has its distinctive style and forms of expression, I see the same general types that I knew in my youth. Indeed, most of the stereotypes in the National Lampoon yearbook are still instantly recognizable, demonstrating their continuing relevance. It occurred to me that, transcending cultural change, there are basic human stereotypes that exist in every human society – and which must have adaptive value for the species or they would not be so persistent and widespread.
This realization inspired me to consider what the basic human stereotypes and their adaptive value might be to the basic human group, which is postulated to consist of approximately 150 individuals. My musings have now been published in the form of a book, entitled “The Necessary Nerd: Essential Stereotypes in the Basic Human Group”.
The Necessary Nerd is not a scientific treatise. Rather, it is essay by an amateur who argues for a greater acceptance and understanding of personality diversity as an adaptive feature of the human species.