A few weeks ago my daughter’s middle school had a “Dress Like a Nerd” day as one of their spirit days. When she first told me about the theme, I just brushed it off as a silly theme idea. Then as time went on, I began thinking differently about the whole situation. I started to think that what seemed like harmless fun could actually be sending the wrong message to these tweens and teens during a crucial time in their emotional development.
I understand that theme days are designed to unite the students and add a bit of fun to their days. I also understand that when deciding upon spirit day themes that a school staff is not looking to support anything that would cause harm to students. Unfortunately, a day like “Dress Like a Nerd” at the very least can embarrass students that see themselves as nerds and at the worst be school sanctioned bullying.
Nerds are typically individuals that find the pursuit of knowledge important and academics is a focus in their lives. By creating a day that essentially mocks them, in a way sends the message that knowledge seekers and those that value academics are absurd and ridiculous. I’m positive that this was not the intent of this day, but in a time when anti-bullying and acceptance of others are such huge focuses in schools, a day such as this is not sending the right message.
I know sometimes the negative or downside of an idea isn’t always obvious. Also, how something will affect others often can’t be predicted. For these reasons, I’m not upset with my daughter’s school, but the topic of stereotyping smart people and making them a punchline does beg for a discussion to be started. Why is it that being seen as smart still as such a stigma attached to it? Why does a lack of personal hygiene and ill-fitting clothes still represent someone who is an academic? Why is it funny to mimic socially awkward individuals?
We encourage our daughter to embrace her geek side and her love of academics; so when her passions are made to look like something she shouldn’t be proud of, we look to find a way to change the narrative back to positive. “Dress Like a Nerd” day may seem like just a silly, harmless thing, but I think it is the tip of the iceberg of a much larger issue. Hopefully, some day nerds will no longer be the butt of others jokes and will instead be seen for what they offer the world.