I bought a lamp at this thrift store in Durham. Because of its lack of luster, I took to it a bottle of Windex and some napkins I stole from The Loop. BAM! Genie time! I’m not kidding. Robin Williams circa 1992 animated film about sultans in Arabia just spilled into my Craven Quad dormitory. At first I thought the blue guy was just another Cameron Crazy off to root for Dockery when I realized the next basketball game wasn’t until a week from now and no one paints himself for a football game. Anyway, it wasn’t a Crazy, but rather a bluish genie with a devilish grin and three wishes to grant. Go me.
So I sat down, twisted open a beer and drank it underage in my dorm room with the door closed so that no law applied to me and asked myself: “As a Duke undergraduate, what is it that I wish for the most?”
Free Mitsubishi Eclipses for incoming freshmen? A new Bryan Center where I can get a sandwich without walking up and down seven flights of stairs like a crazy life-sized chutes and ladders game? How about a social scene? Nah, I’m just not thinking personal enough!
What is it that a Duke undergrad deep down truly wants? And then it hit me. I wish to be smarter than everyone else in private, but be exactly like everyone else in public.
Don’t you think it just isn’t cool to be smart? I think that regardless of where you come from, private or public, urban or suburban, there existed a negative stigma when it came to intelligence. Who in high school wanted to be a geek/nerd/dork/brainiac? Only a few of us wanted to be the “smart kid.” Sure, deep down we know that success is dependent on a combination of work ethic and talent or smarts, but for some reason on the surface, it just wasn’t cool to be a nerd. Hence, Steve Erkle, Screech Powers, the blonde kid with glasses on Boy Meets World. We grow up in a Nickelodeon world that suggests that a) if you wear glasses, you’re smart and b) if you’re smart, you’re not that cool. Why do you think contact lenses have become so popular?
I think this modern media characterization of intelligence seeped into our lives in high school. Fitting in was more important than standing out. Where you sat at lunch determined the social hierarchy of the school. And once again, glasses still sucked.
But coming to Duke, I thought things would be just a little different. I was wrong.
All over campus, I hear the words of: “Man, I’m going to do so badly on this final” and “I didn’t even study.” What about “I hate this class.” Or “I did all right on this test, not the best” or “I don’t really care that much about grades.” All statements: False.
The point? Own up to your actions and abilities. We’re no longer in high school. You are now surrounded by thousands of young adults that stand out in so many extraordinary ways. You came to college to gain knowledge. We no longer have to submit to the idea that learning and intellect is just not “cool.”
When you study hard for a test, don’t lie about it because you don’t want people to think you work too hard. We all work hard, nothing wrong with that.
When you do well on a test or paper, don’t tell people you did “okay.” If someone asks, tell them the truth. There isn’t anything wrong with doing well. People will applaud you, not resent you.
You’re allowed to like classes and learning. Not everyone will like economics, Spanish, calculus, chemistry, etc., but if you do, you should be proud of the fact that something stimulated you intellectually. Some people are still searching for their favorite topics.
Stop trying to academically fit in with the average American. We are not average anymore. We are intellectuals. We are smarter than the average bear. Don’t hide from that, be proud of it. We need to remove this roadblock in our psyche that tells us we can’t be smart and cool at the same time, and only then will we be ready to be the leaders and professionals and intellectuals that one day we will all be.
Yoni Riemer is a Trinity sophomore.
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