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ERIC Number: EJ898080
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 59
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-1096-2719
Nerds and Freaks: A Theory of Student Culture and Norms
Bishop, John H.; Bishop, Matthew; Gelbwasser, Lara; Green, Shanna; Zuckerman, Andrew
Brookings Papers on Education Policy, p141-199 2003
This paper looks at the relationship between the study behavior and academic engagement of individual students, the norms and attitudes of close friends, and the peer culture of school. The authors are particularly interested in how the academic orientation of a student and his or her close friends invites or protects him or her from harassment by peers. They address two of secondary education's most serious problems--(1) peer abuse of weaker socially unskilled students; and (2) a peer culture that in most schools discourages many students from trying to be all that they can be academically. They document the two problems by reviewing ethnographies of secondary schools, by interviewing students in eight New York State suburban high schools, and by analyzing data from questionnaires completed by thirty-five thousand students in 134 schools. Grounded in these observations, the authors develop a simple mathematical model of peer harassment and popularity and of the pressures for conformity that are created by the struggle for popularity. The theory and their data analysis suggest that while the two problems are related, solving one will not necessarily solve the other. Nerds or Geeks are just one of the many groups of outcasts in most secondary schools. The authors present some policy ideas which are considered as a sample of the initiatives educators describe when asked about their successful efforts to promote a prolearning environment. Comments by Amy Ellen Schwartz and David F. Labaree are presented. (Contains 6 figures, 4 tables and 73 notes.)
Brookings Institution Press. 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 202-536-3600; Fax: 202-536-3623; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: High Schools; Junior High Schools; Middle Schools; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A