Paul Graham, uber-hacker and the guy whose piece on Baysean filtering for spam got people interested in building spam filtering solutions using those more effective techniques, just put out a piece on Why nerds are unpopular. It addresses a lot more than just the nerds and popularity, though. He has some ideas on why the current educational system is messed up and how it might be fixed.
One comment, though. He states: As far as I can tell, the concept of the hormone-crazed teenager is coeval with suburbia. As someone who lives in the city near a bus stop for junior high students, I’ve got to say, this is wrong. Those students are just as crazy and uncontrolled as any suburban youth.
Still, his analysis seems accurate when he looks pre-20th century and states:
Teenage kids used to have much more of a role in society. In preindustrial times, teenagers were all apprentices of one sort or another, whether in shops or on farms or even on warships. They weren’t left to create their own societies. They were junior members of adult societies.
And, later, when looking at his experience in Italy:
In Italy, family is the important thing. If school is pointless, so what? It’s only school. If the other students don’t think much of you, so what? What matters is what your family thinks of you.
Probably re-integrating adolescents into society and re-emphasising the family (while de-emphasising instututional “education”) would work to at least lessen the current problems. But, can we do that? Can we find a useful role for them beyond the fast-food shops?