"Stupid Nerds" and School Shootings:

Forensic psychologist and blogger Helen Smith comments on my post on the travails of "stupid nerds," and suggests that stupid nerds oppressed by the high school social hierarchy might be responsible for some of the high-profile schools shootings of recent years:

I wonder if kids who shoot up schools tend to be "stupid nerds" as opposed to "intelligent nerds?" Does prestige for one's intelligence or "genius" protect one from acting out violently? Perhaps--certainly some school shooters felt that they were not living up to their potential--but maybe they knew deep down that they had little potential for doing great things and this pushed them over the edge when combined with bullying.

It seems to me a plausible speculation. Certainly, the Columbine killers and some other school shooting perpetrators seem to fit the "stupid nerd" profile. As far as I can tell, these individuals were "nerdy" enough to be interested in ideas (including various crackpot theories that they used to justify their violent acts), but not enough to actually accomplish anything of note in the academic or intellectual spheres. And of course most shooters do indeed tend to stand low on the high school social totem pole. However, we won't know if the theory really does explain a substantial proportion of school shootings until someone does a systematic study.

I should emphasize that even if Smith's theory is correct, it in now way justifies the shooters' acts. Killing people is not a defensible response to social putdowns. Her theory also does not change the reality that the overwhelming majority of "stupid nerds" aren't dangerous. Even if school shooters are more common in this subgroup than in others, they would still be only a miniscule fraction of the total "stupid nerd" population.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. "Stupid Nerds" and School Shootings:
  2. The Tragedy of the Stupid Nerd: