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What's Smart and What's Dorky?

  1. Sep 24, 2012 #1
    :P So, I'm a Sophomore in High School and I take a chemistry class every Thursday night. I really enjoy the class, and I'm performing very well. I've been answering questions, contributing with even more concepts like quantum mechanics (exaggeration, slightly), and asking my teacher fairly complicated questions after class. In other words, I'm the classroom nerd.
    Recently, I contributed to the conversation by adding that "precision was basically a form of inductive reasoning" because I'm also taking geometry which uses a lot of logic. My best friend laughed out loud (LOL!) and everyone snickered or gave me a look. Oh, and the emo kid just kept on hating earth (don't really care about his opinion). My "crush" apparently didn't notice (she's probably one of the smartest in the class). I was kind of like "Who wouldn't want to know that"?

    Well, I'm by no means ashamed of science or ashamed that I know my photons from my electrons but I was wondering: what's the fine line between being a dork and being "smart". For all you fellow nerds out there, do you know the awkward moment when you look dumb for acting smart?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 24, 2012 #2
    Being smart is knowing that you don't know half as much as you think you do. Being a dork is getting axcited about that.
  4. Sep 24, 2012 #3

    Ah, so a "smart" person is an individual who can retain social graces (and don't involuntarily belittle anyone else's intelligence) while a dork is a person who lacks any social skills and remains intelligent but "intelligent-in-ignorance".

    Hmm, what I've seen, being "smart" is often scorned on just like "dorkiness". -_-
  5. Sep 24, 2012 #4


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    Just wait until your out of high school. It's way better.
  6. Sep 24, 2012 #5
    Honestly, I have no ill feelings towards people who innocently speak out or try to assert their knowledge for the rest of the audience (who did not ask or expect to hear from them), but I always do feel a bit embarrassed for them. Its often one of those eye roll moments where the person comes off as "look at me, look at how smart I am!" at the cost of distracting away from the lesson, diverting the train of thought of the entire classroom, and annoying the teacher. The worst is when its something obvious or nit picky that no one else cared enough to mention, and the person bringing it up thinks that they have earned some kind of "smarty" points.

    Even so, there are times that you may know something that no one else knows and it would be interesting and useful for the teacher and classmates to learn about it. In that case, the tactful approach is to bring it up when appropriate. Preferably, this would be to speak to your teacher 1 on 1 before or after class and have a discussion. If the teacher finds it appropriate, they may talk about it or ask you to talk about it a bit. Also, if the teacher says something wrong or writes something wrong on the board, try not to embarrass them or put them on the spot. It doesn't work for you or the teacher to take that approach, but it is important to make sure the teacher is giving the correct information.

    Just remember, not everything in class is a competition to look the smartest (you should still put in maximum effort to learn and know the most to your ability; let your work and accomplishments speak for themselves). People generally don't like show offs unless they are entertaining or can benefit from it. The other students didn't come to the class to learn from you. Many others are smart too but keep it to themselves. It is generally the "dorks" who are naive to these social facts and appear to act out in front of the rest.

    Like Drakkith said though, university departments and interest groups/clubs raise the intellectual bar and you can discuss and share a lot more information around others who share your enthusiasm without fear of scorn from the others around you. A lot of dorkiness is just about the inability to maintain common ground with everyone else in the room. Think of Feynman, of whom many would say was not a dork, but a scientific genius nonetheless. He did not get his fame by shoving his knowledge down others throats, but rather by relating what he knew to others. Ultimately, you should do what works best for you. If you enjoy bringing up "extra credit" information, and you receive any kind of fulfilling feedback, then you should keep it up. Dorks are still valuable people and should be treated with the respect that they give to others. Even if your classmates or teacher don't understand you or have the same level of interest, you should not let that stop you from pursuing those interests as far as you can.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2012
  7. Sep 24, 2012 #6

    Thank you very much for your advice. I probably need to slightly draw back on my "geocentric" view of everything (that I'm the center of the universe). I enjoy discussing topics with my teacher, it's fun and pretty intellectually rewarding. The problem, I guess, is that, like you said, I may very well be shoving information down their throats. On the first day of class, I was in a state of awkwardness and jitters, and while my teacher was talking about how atoms affect all physical properties I began to say something to the effect of "Oh, I see. Do these networks of electrons and protons have a geometrical impact on our visual perception of reality?". I think it was after the class when I really thought about how stupid and redundant a question it really was; I felt pretty humiliated for that display of pure, unadulterated "dorkiness'. So, ever since then, I've become more at ease in the class and I'm willing to contribute to conversation; maybe occasionally throwing in a humorous meme or neglecting to use words that may or may not be within someone's vocabulary in order to let them know that I'm an awkward, fallible teen. The difficulty I have is trying to be myself while not coming across as a Vulcan-like machine or a "dork". But, thank you for your advice. I will try to keep the excessively wordy or complex questions in my teacher's inbox and try to be a good classmate and friend to my fellow students. Thanks!
  8. Sep 24, 2012 #7
    Its ok. You will probably not even still know most of the people in your class in 5 years, so don't feel too bad about it. That's really cool that your teacher has discussions with you; you should keep that up and see if there's other people like him in interest groups/clubs. Also, don't be afraid to use big words. Just don't say them with a smug/condescending tone and without a good reason to use them. A lot of us have had to learn how to overcome being socially awkard, and there isn't anything wrong with being that way, even if some perceive it as weird or strange.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2012
  9. Sep 24, 2012 #8

    Science classes and awkwardness are never that great a mix. It's kind of like having an epileptic seizure while juggling water bottles; you just wind up keeling over and taking the bottles down with you. xD

    And being in front of your crush, best friend, and a lot of other students doesn't help either. o_O Oh, well.
  10. Sep 24, 2012 #9
    To me dorks are just annoying, not necessarily smart.

    I know many very intelligent people who are not dorks, geeks, nerds or whatever pejorative you like. I consider myself intelligent, but you'd never guess from talking to me that I'm a physics student.

    Honestly it just comes down to personality. A lot of "nerdy" kids are insecure and they hide those insecurities by adopting the "nerd" persona. A confident person can be curious and fascinated with the world and still construct his own identity.
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