Brains Over Brawn? Not in the United States! | Teen Ink

Brains Over Brawn? Not in the United States!

April 15, 2019
By abbyhigbee01 SILVER, Highland, Utah
abbyhigbee01 SILVER, Highland, Utah
5 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Leonard Fridman believes that the seemingly tiny, but mighty issue of prioritizing athleticism over intellectualism is a part of a much bigger problem: one that will lead to the fall of the United States as an international superpower. In his essay, “America Needs Its Nerds”, he utilizes powerful strategies to enforce this point.

While Leonard Fridman uses many strategies to get his ideas across, the first and most prominent in the essay is shock value. He employs wild examples that leave the audience asking more questions. In just the second paragraph, he compares the modern connotation of “geek” with a historical definition being “a street performer who shocks the public by biting off heads of live chickens.” This example is meant to excite and intrigue and is a powerful opening to Fridman’s essay because it is unclear how it will connect to the main point of the essay. He then goes on to say that it is absurd that the modern pursuit of knowledge is compared to the historic act of an aberration biting the head off a live chicken.

Another strategy is the employment of vocabulary and certain verbs, which makes the piece really engaging to read. Fridman repeatedly uses words like “ostracized” to describe intellects and intellectualism and words like “idolized” to describe athleticism. The repetition of these words helps to get the major points across, that athleticism and popularity are majorly prioritized over any type of scholarship. He doesn’t only utilize the loaded words to describe how society feels about nerds, he uses them to describe how they feel about themselves: “ashamed.” Nerds feel ashamed because there are possible societal repercussions that may alienate them. These feelings also occur for parents of nerds who are worried that their children are missing out on social situations by choosing to focus on intellectualism instead of other activities like dancing or playing sports.

Fridman then goes on in paragraphs three and four to employ heavy pathos to make the story more relatable. By using stories that may be shared by readers, he can influence the thoughts of his audience more easily. He tells stories of “bright kids with thick glasses” who are haunted by bullies “to the grave”. Many kids across the United States have been bullied because of their focus on “nerdy” or “geeky” things that may seem strange to those who have other priorities. This experience can be alienating for kids who are trying to pursue a career in math or science. If the kid decides to prioritize intellectualism, they are excluded socially; if the kid decides to prioritize social life, they miss out on experiences and opportunities that come by following an intellectual path. While it is possible to do both, it can be extremely difficult, especially for busy kids and teenagers. He uses logos in the same paragraphs, making him more credible to the audience because of the data used. He acknowledges situations where many college students at Harvard, one of the best intellectual universities in the world, are still highly pressured to prioritize other things over their grades.

These techniques all lead to Fridman opening the audience to a bigger picture: that the United States cannot globally compete with other countries when it comes to technological and cultural advances if it continues to ignore and shun its intellectuals. By comparing U.S. systems with foreign systems that have been successful in their praise of intelligence, such as Japan, a solution is introduced. He says “in East Asia, a kid who studies hard is lauded and held up as an example to other students.” This idea is introduced as a solution to our problem, that if we follow suit and praise our intellectuals, they will work hard for the United States and help it stay a global superpower. While this solution is still quite vague, it is a starting point on a journey toward improvement.

At the end of his piece, Fridman summarizes his main idea brilliantly with a question. “How long can America remain a world-class power if we constantly emphasize social skills and physical prowess over academic achievement and intellectual ability?” While these are all possible feelings and concerns regarding the issue, this essay was written in 1990, and I’ve personally seen a change in society. Thirty years later, it is possible to be both “nerdy” and popular, especially in our part of the world. We are very lucky to have the opportunity to pursue multiple paths. But, the main issue still stands that the United States will eventually fall as a world power if so much time, money, and effort is placed on things other than technology, political, and cultural advancement. America does, indeed, need its nerds!

The author's comments:

This essay is a rhetorical analysis of Leonard Fridman's "America Needs It's Nerds". 

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.