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When we were in junior high school my friend Rich and I made a map of the school lunch tables according to popularity This was easy to do because kids only ate lunch with others of about the same popularity We graded them from A to E A tables were full of football players and cheerleaders and so on E tables contained the kids with mild cases of Downs Syndrome what in the language of the time we called retards We sat at a D table as low as you could get without looking physically different We were not being especially candid to grade ourselves as D It would have taken a deliberate lie to say otherwise Everyone in the school knew exactly how popular everyone else was including us My stock gradually rose during high school Puberty finally arrived I became a decent soccer player I started a scandalous underground newspaper So Ive seen a good part of the popularity landscape I know a lot of people who were nerds in school and they all tell the same story there is a strong correlation between being smart and being a nerd and an even stronger inverse correlation between being a nerd and being popular Being smart seems to make you unpopular Why To someone in school now that may seem an odd question to ask The mere fact is so overwhelming that it may seem strange to imagine that it could be any other way But it could Being smart doesnt make you an outcast in elementary school Nor does it harm you in the real world Nor as far as I can tell is the problem so bad in most other countries But in a typical American secondary school being smart is likely to make your life difficult Why The key to this mystery is to rephrase the question slightly Why dont smart kids make themselves
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