January 9, 2016

Geek is the New Black

Except for the fact(s?) that parents in this tech mecca of Seattle fight their way into private schools, hoping to spawn the next Steve Jobs, the average home sale goes to the highest bidder with $400K in cash, and the most stressful parking lot is the I-5 freeway, I love this town. And I get the rarified honor of teaching the digital, I mean the NEXT, generation! Digitized Giddy Geekdom is my latest term for the West Coast cities of chip and software worship.

The Emerald City is touted as child-friendly, and is infused with large city parks with newfangled play equipment. It is notably dog-friendly, with plenty of cafes and bars that allow canines into the social milieu, and doggie day cares that cost more than preschool. It attracts tourists with views of the mountains and cuisine offerings from hole-in-the-walls to menus you can’t pronounce. It also attracts Amazonitrons, or Micro-managed-softies, in droves, which drive up prices of condos to half a million for a bread box with a view of the water if you stand on tiptoe on one side of the skinny deck. Seattle is either in its glory or its downfall.

We love our bookstores, barista culture, and theater companies, and anything that tourists do not do. Case-in-point: It is hip to have a friend who LIVES on a houseboat, but not hip to to take the tour boat that drives by the rows of them. We get to feel different, on the cutting edge, maverick-y and mellow from all the negative ions, and, by-the-way, better than Portland because we have more ferries, to islands where commuters or communists or conservatives live, depending on the island and what news station you listen to for demographic reports.

It is fun to live in a city where intellectual humor reigns. We see it in A-frame signs on the sidewalk, or at the side of the espresso machine, on a chalkboard, with a daily trivia teaser. These are more than just puns – they are serious, well-thought out brain teaser humor. Giddy geekdom at its finest.

A not-so-Mensa sandwich board

 And cinematic chuckles

The kind of missive written on a makeshift chalkboard propped up at the counter where the barista shouts out your drink.

Steeped in this brainia arena, Seattle-ite adults easily find intellectual stimulus, such as lecture series or book talks – even edgy humor in the form of monologue-ish performance art.  And their kids find solace in other friends who think like them. With chess online, tournaments in backgammon, multi-player video games, and the History Channel accessible on any device, I watch my students geek-out about number statistics, winning stats of players in countries they can’t pronounce, and date facts. This is the new kool, and while not a piece of fully researched data, the trend of bullying of nerdy types is down, and the coolness of brain power is up. Soft research stat: Costume stores report increases in Nerd outfits for Halloween.

I am not allowed to use the word Asperger’s, since it has been removed from the DSM-V, but the highest per capita of spectrum-y kids (loose school psychologist slang) live in Seattle and Silicon Valley. And many are the strugglers and stragglers in writing.

One of my 5th graders  was asked to describe his ideal day at middle school, as part of an application process for a special “choice” school. (6th – 8th) and he wrote this sentence:
“I do not have enough empirical evidence to write on this.”
And proceeded to sit for the rest of the 15 minutes.

Another student of mine had an assignment to describe the character’s hidden motivations in a classic novel. He “could not find any”, in Crash, by Jerry Spinelli, which is a classic coming-of-age story and has many subplots about acceptance and taking a stand for oneself.  Writing a 2-paragraph paper took hours and hours.

If I had the key to unlocking the writer inside each of these budding geeks, who take life oh-so-literally, argue their way out of writing assignments, and make their parents bite their tongue so as not to scream, I would be a mega-millionaire.



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