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Is it better to be a geek than a good person?

On Sunday 14 May, I read a column in El Periódico that left me feeling disconcerted. The title was: 'Is it better to be a geek than a good person?' It was based on the conclusion of a study, which suggests, "Collaboration creates mediocre, not excellent, students". From there, the author went on to explain his recent experiences in applying a more cooperative method in a school where he is Director of the Educational Project Division.

On one occasion, a 14-year-old high school student affirmed that he learned more maths working by himself. When the teacher tried to get him to think about how working in a team would enable him to learn other things, like how to cooperate, discuss things and help people, the student replied that it wasn’t necessary to learn these things at school. Using the comment of this 14-year-old student, who still has a lot of growing up to do, the writer of the column reflects on what the mission of a school should be.

I agree with the writer in his assertion that a school should aim to work on all human aspects equally. In spite of this, I would like to analyse the term "geek", which is often used to talk about students who take their work seriously and who aim to get good marks. To start, this word is used to give voice to a whole host of subliminal feelings, which I would say are resentment, envy and even personal shortcomings. I doubt whether any parent whose child studies hard labels them a "geek". So who does use this word to refer to a responsible student? 

I wonder why we feel the need to ridicule someone for wanting to do well what he or she has been assigned, in this case to study. 'Geeks' demonstrate that they are capable people, at least as far as trying is concerned. Have we gone completely mad? Why are we using pejorative terms to describe excellent students, or students who try? Conversely, we do not speak in the same way about a child who spends his time playing football because he wants to be the best. Damned popularism! How far will we go? An excellent student whom we incorrectly call a "geek" is, in fact, good at doing what is required of them by our poorly structured education system. Therefore, if students study, it isn't their fault but the fault of the system, which evaluates them by the marks they get.

Ethics and values are a different matter. A person can be an excellent student but a nasty piece of work, or a terrible student but a real gem. A person can be kind and considerate, as well as an excellent student. Or a terrible student as well as a horrible person. Why do we tend to look at the negative aspects of good things? Where is it set in stone that being responsible and intelligent is incompatible with being good? 

As parents and teachers, we have an enormous responsibility. We have to educate our children, to give them an academic education and to give them values. Let's make sure we set a good example. I cannot understand these people who use the word "mediocre" to talk about children. It is stigmatising, limiting and derogatory. In my opinion, to talk about students being mediocre is not okay. Mediocrity is ingrained in our society. Rather than talking about mediocre children, which deeply saddens me, we should be talking about mediocre adults, mediocre educational plans and mediocre systems. 

For example, the fact that an eleven-year-old girl watches Kurosawa films is not the real problem. The real problem is all the people who re-post the story to make fun of her, and the media outlets that deem newsworthy all the comments ridiculing her on social media. As a society, are we prepared to educate?

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