Opinion 21: The American Paradox: Why it Does Not Matter That The Average Student is so Bad At Math

By Doron Zeilberger

Written: March 24, 1998

The French have their famous paradox: they live longer and healthier in spite of (and they claim because of), their daily glass(es) of wine. The American paradox is that American math, science, and technology is in very good health, in spite of the dismal performance of the AVERAGE student.

The resolution is obvious. America is the country of extremes. It takes only a few farmers to feed the country. But these few farmers have huge farms. By analogy, it takes only relatively few computer and math nerds to supply the technological needs of the country and the world, but these nerds have huge brains.

Of course, the mainstream popular culture of entertainment-consuming, celebrity-worshiping, mouse-clicking USERS of computers and technology takes everything for granted, and despises the subculture of computer-math-science nerds that feeds its needs. But the nerds have their own subculture, and they are extremely bright and are having much more fun than their `regular' classmates.

So Hooray for us nerds. Without us, all those others: dumb jocks, bimbos, and greedy lawyers and businessmen would be starved for their daily entertainment dose. But we have our own entertainment, doing math problems, creating software, inventing and discovering. We are all the more successful BECAUSE we are looked down and despised by the mainstream culture, just like the Jews among the gentiles. The great tragedy of the Jewish genius is that anti-Semitism is disappearing, turning that genius into a martini-sipping Wasp.

Luckily, the contempt of the average American to the computer-math-science nerd is far deeper than race-religion prejudice. Let's hope that we nerds would NEVER become COOL.

Read Dick Askey's amd Herb Wilf's interesting feedback.
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