Why is academic achievement STILL scoffed at?

(36 Posts)
LunaLoveg00d Fri 27-May-16 10:20:00

Quite cross on behalf of my son, although he doesn't care a jot. He is in first year at the local state Secondary. He has just turned 13 so is one of the oldest in his year (we're in Scotland) and the school he is at is very good - one of the top 5 or 6 in Scotland in the state sector and regularly sends pupils on to Oxbridge, medicine or law courses.

Son is very academic. He is a sponge for things like science and history, but on the flip side can't draw for toffee and is completely useless at sport. Last week he came home with a letter saying he's got some sort of award at prize giving and the ceremony is next week. He is delighted and we're very pleased for him.

The other kids in the class not so much. They are sneering about "teachers' pet" awards, calling him a nerd, geek or swot, and basically saying they wouldn't be seen dead in an awards ceremony. I am sure that if my child was being given a place on the football team or winning awards for painting or drama the reaction would be quite different.

Luckily my son has zero social skills so couldn't care less what other people are saying about him. I do think though that in a high-achieving school, where many of the parents are in professional jobs and have been through higher education, that this sort of attitude is really depressing. It's not changed in the 30 years since I was at a crap comp and being bullied for handing in homework on time.

Why is low academic achievement something so many teens seem to aspire to??

SilverDragonfly1 Fri 27-May-16 10:35:45

Because it's something anyone can manage? Not everyone can be top of the class, but everyone can be joint bottom! It's insecurity and jealousy on their part and they're not mature enough to recognise that yet.

Honestly, if he won an art or drama prize there would probably be comments about his sexuality! Again, because they are not skills you can learn without considerable natural talent. But you can do fairly well in non-professional sports just by trying hard and being generally fit- so it's more of a level playing field (sorry!) and less jealousy because other pupils feel that is something they could do if they wanted to.

tiggytape Fri 27-May-16 10:38:10

It is good that it doesn't negatively affect your son at all and that he is able to enjoy his achievements.

I suppose the answer to your question about why this attitude still exists is that some of it is just human / teen nature: jealousy (not necessarily at the award itself but at having a natural ability that comes easily) perhaps combined with a teenage desire for anonymity, wanting to fit in and not stand out. Anyone selected for the best art, best drama or best violinist award might possibly face the same taunts but do agree that sporting achievements seem to be treated differently.

There is also a wider cultural norm where being seen to be overtly ambitious or overtly successful isn't as acceptable as it is in some other cultures. It is practically a British value to be modest to a fault and shun recognition for being brilliant at something!

Eigg Fri 27-May-16 10:41:54

Luna it won't be all the kids, it will be a few loudmouths who are more than likely pretty envious.

I was a 'swot' all through high school right up until after standard grades at which point the attitude in our year changed. It was embarrassing to have done badly in your exams and myself and the other swots stepped a few rungs in the social ladder.

Facebook is a wonderful tool for seeing how all the "in crowd" kids who made your life a misery are doing now. "Revenge is living well"

LunaLoveg00d Fri 27-May-16 10:58:28

Yes, I suspect it's "all the kids" in the same way as he told me "all the kids" have an iPhone 6. So not all, just a minority.

Luckily he has teamed up with another boy who is just like him and they're best buddies. I do appreciate that he is an odd child though - when asked at 5 to draw a picture of what job they thought they'd do when they were older he drew himself curing cancer. I can see why his quirks can rub people up the wrong way and he is quite a know it all. We've given up trying to help him fit in, and just let him be himself.

teta Fri 27-May-16 12:09:58

I think he's being picked on because of his lack of social skills and being a know-all + Sorry!
You can be academically successful and still be popular.One of mine is like that ( but is also very naughty) and refuses to align himself with the 'nerds' or 'geeks' and is pretty popular .
I appreciate your son is very clever but social skills are vitally important these days.To the extent you can be brilliant but completely stymied career -wise without them ( happened to a close relative)

VulcanWoman Fri 27-May-16 12:25:15

They'll always be jealousy unfortunately.
I agree with the social skills though. My son is bright, not the brightest but I know he holds himself back sometimes from speaking up, now, I know this seems a shame, I think it's a case of trying to come to a happy medium, holding back slightly so you're not seen as a swot but still not compromising yourself too much.
I'm sure your son will have the last laugh anyway. Best wishes.

Notenoughsleepmumof3 Fri 27-May-16 12:28:49

teta...that's a bit harsh. Kids can be cruel, often because of their own insecurities and low-self esteem. The most balanced kids are the ones who can be happy for others. But, I think that some parents don't often encourage this or they don't know how. It is the bad side of competition. Cruelty from children stems from the home.

LunaLove good on your son for not giving a toss what they think about him. I'd say that is very good social skills. Water off a duck's back. He will find his own people in time and I'm sure will be very successful.

curren Fri 27-May-16 12:33:38

Dd does very well at school. Since going to secondary she has excelled in sport as well.

A few kids sneer at her when she does well at anything. Sport or more academically.

That's life. Some kids and adults sneer at people when they feel a bit jealous, or see someone doing well.

It's not just academic achievements. It happens across all things.

It's happened to me at work. I have been sneered at for getting promotions. I have even been sneered at for changing my car. It was clio, nothing flash. But some people can't deal with good things happening for other people.

She has a good group of friends and doesn't care at all what a few kids say.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

troutsprout Fri 27-May-16 13:16:36

I don't think it is always scoffed at. I think that perhaps this is just to do with the culture of the school your child is in .
It is generally not scoffed at at dd's school ( small state secondary). All achievement seems to be well responded to. But then they are very on the ball about that sort of thing.
I also hate that his lack of social skills make your boy a target at his school. Also not ok. The school should be tackling this also.
Well done your son. Sounds like a great lad smile

LunaLoveg00d Fri 27-May-16 13:30:22

How does everyone know he's getting the award

Because in registration the teacher told him and another child that they were to go to the hall at a certain time to hear about the prize giving. Plus his lack of social skills means he wouldn't think twice about telling people.

We are working on the social skills - have been for years. He now knows it's not really acceptable to get a book out of your bag and read it when the teacher is boring you, or to throw strops in group work when the others won't do as you want. They have a very good lunchtime group run by the learning support team for the quirky kids to go and be with other similarly quirky people, and he loves it. He does have friends and is happy, but just doesn't pick up on the social cues. So he could be droning on for hours about Minecraft or some science topic, but doesn't notice the rolling eyes, yawns and people walking way. He does manage team things like Scouts pretty well, as long as he gets down time and space away from other people too.

He's definitely going to end up working in a lab somewhere. Hubby somewhat unkindly often refers to him as a Sheldon. (As in the big bang theory character).

RaeSkywalker Fri 27-May-16 13:34:17

I think it's mostly people feeling threatened. I went to a very 'high achieving' school and did well academically. The school encouraged us to be academically ambitious with various prizes etc, and this created a really competitive environment.

I did well and was bullied mercilessly by other 'high achievers', to the point where I started deliberately doing badly on tests so that they would leave me alone. I ended up moving schools.

I'm glad that your son isn't too badly affected.

teta what a horrible sweeping comment! At no point has the OP said that her son is a "know-all". I'm glad that your DC is popular and successful.

LunaLoveg00d Fri 27-May-16 13:49:57

He can be a wee bit of a know-it-all to be fair. He does know a lot about a lot of different things and isn't shy about sharing his knowledge. This is something we are also working on - that not everyone wants to hear what he has to say. He does have some very good friends though who know what he's like and tell him to stop talking - and he gets the message he's gone too far.

teta Fri 27-May-16 13:53:10

Gosh,i'm really not trying to be horrible.I have several kids and have posted on MN about many issues I've had over the years with said kids.
I've posted from the point of view of Ds2 who although bright wants nothing to do with 'nerds' in his class.He says they don't talk or communicate and he doesn't understand them,and they are different.I think he finds them threatening and he says they are only friends with other nerds.
I'm not being mean and I'm glad to hear that the op's son is happy and has friends in his school.The school sound unusually brilliant on his Pastoral care .As he grows up his social skills will definitely improve and he will learn how to behave.

Casbotsproudmum Fri 27-May-16 13:54:42

I agree with Troutsprout: it depends on the school. my DD she's top set in all subjects and best in her year at almost all sports related things. I was worried she would be teased when started Secondary but she just seems to be a popular kid among them with more admiration than jealousy or nastiness. She's in a girl school in London.

BeautyQueenFromMars Fri 27-May-16 13:57:48

I think your son sounds lovely, Luna. Bloody well done to him for getting an award!

I agree with others, it's jealousy, pure and simple. Unfortunately us humans have a tendency to dislike it when others do better than us (a sweeping generalisation, I know there are many who don't feel this way!), and often that comes out in attitude towards the person doing well.

You're right though, it does seem that those who are good at sports are valued more than those who are good at intellectual things.

Chewbecca Fri 27-May-16 14:47:19

DS is at a grammar school and the boys are very competitive to be top of the class so I haven't seen this attitude. Long may it continue because it certainly motivates DS.

TheFairyCaravan Fri 27-May-16 14:57:56

My children were very academic, and in all the sports teams. Neither of them were picked on for it. They did tend to hang round with very similar children.

They were at what MN calls a 'leafy comp'.

Badbadbunny Fri 27-May-16 15:41:15

DS is at a grammar school and the boys are very competitive to be top of the class so I haven't seen this attitude. Long may it continue because it certainly motivates DS.

Likewise with my son. He loves being in a competitive environment and hadn't ever complained about being called a swot or getting any kind of abuse from other kids for being towards the top of his class.

That's one of the reasons we encouraged him to aim for the grammar. I started off being swotty at my crap comp 40 years ago - usually top of the classes in the first year, but the bullying, name calling etc really got to me and I drifted downwards through the years until I ended up failing all but one of my O levels. No way was I going to let me son suffer like I did!

prettybird Fri 27-May-16 16:11:58

Sometimes it's also down to the ethos that the headteacher creates/encourages at the school.

Ds' school (in Glasgow) has a wide mix of kids but what I like about it is that it seems to encourage achievement in many different spheres, not just academic.

It also regularly has kids going on to Oxbridge/Medicine/Law/Vet School.

Ds is in the top set for both Maths and English but there doesn't seem to be any nastiness towards those that are "geeky" or nerdy.

Sports and artistic achievements are also celebrated - as well as things like public speaking and volunteering.

kitkat1968 Fri 27-May-16 16:53:34

DS is at a grammar school and the boys are very competitive to be top of the class so I haven't seen this attitude. Long may it continue because it certainly motivates DS.

My kids too.GSs need to be rolled out!

prettybird Fri 27-May-16 16:58:27

No Grammar Schools at all in Scotland. Schools (and kids) can still be competitive.

Ds (15) is desperate to have done well enough in his National 5 Maths exam to stay in the top set as it's reducing in size to 20. I don't actually expect there to be a probl

prettybird Fri 27-May-16 17:01:34

(Posted by accident blush).... expect there to be a problem as he was 2nd in the year in the main Prelim (excluding the one boy who say his Nat 5 last year and was doing Higher Maths this year). Didn't do so well in the extra prelims they did just before the exams - but that was good as it stopped any complacency.

Notenoughsleepmumof3 Fri 27-May-16 17:50:26

teta...I'm not being mean

Uhmm, Actually you are. It's like when people say 'No disrespect' and then say something insulting.

All people are different. All people have something to offer and are good at something. It takes tolerance and kindness to make those discoveries. Cutting people out just because they seem different than you only puts you further in a box and limits your expectations and aspirations. Applies to adults and children.

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