Jocks, Nerds, and Little Jemmy Madison

800px-James_Madison,_by_Charles_Willson_Peale,_1783December 15th marks the 223 anniversary of the adoption of our Bill of Rights. James Madison, considered the Father of the Constitution, was instrumental in the adoption of those first ten amendments that we now consider fundamental to the protection of our liberties.

Madison, one of the youngest of  our Founding Fathers, was considered by many of the Founding Fathers to be the most intellectual of the group.  He was also a nerd.  At least that’s what my daughter tells me. She was working on a middle-school project about the American Founding Fathers and asked me for a character sketch of the Father of the Constitution. After my brief description she concluded “Hmm. Sounds like a nerd to me.”

She’s probably right. James Madison was bookish, introverted, a hypochondriac, and not much of a fashion plate. And, what you may not know, is that he is still alive today. In the halls of middle schools across America, James Madison is routinely slammed into lockers when he walks down the hall.  He often elicits giggles in class.  The girls barely notice him. The teachers adore him. He’s brilliant, but socially awkward. You know the kid. In fact, you know most of our Founding Fathers. They can be found in middle schools across America today, just like the one my daughter attends. Perhaps you’ll recognize them from your own middle school days, if you only look a little closer.

Student A – Coming down the hall is a disheveled, chubby kid with glasses and a stack of papers locked under his arm. He started a science club and is always tinkering with lab equipment when he has free time. He’s not super popular, but he’s generally well-liked because of his sense of humor and wit. He’s the kid who moves easily in and out of different social circles because he’s able to get along with everyone.

Student B – Getting his books out of his locker, this tall lad in a business suit is head of the campus Junior Achievement chapter. His favorite class is Economics. He was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” by his peers and has reputation for being an over-achiever. The teachers think he’s brilliant, but some of the other students see him as a bit of snob. He doesn’t have many close friends, but doesn’t seem to care.

Student C – That quiet guy in the cafeteria eats his sack lunch by himself everyday by choice. He spends most of his time writing in his journal, but nobody is sure what. He’s tall and good-looking but not particularly gregarious. The girls think him mysterious and a bit detached, but in a dreamy troubled-poet sort of way. The boys don’t get him at all. He doesn’t seem much into sports or video games. He’s not a nerd but nor is he a jock. He’s sort of the rebel type. A loner. The kind of guy the girls want to date.

Student D – On the field he stands out simply because he’s so much taller and stronger than the other boys. In terms of athletic prowess he plays at the college level even though its only middle school. He’s the captain of the football team and is a natural leader. He’s always well-dressed and conducts himself as a young gentleman with the ladies and as a natural superior to the other boys, though he treats them with respect. He’s not the brightest student in school, but is admired for his persistence, determination, and the way he conducts himself. The kind of guy that mothers want their daughters to date.

Student E – Head of the debating team, this passionate young man has made a reputation for himself as being somewhat argumentative and volatile. Some might even say he is obnoxious. You know the guy. This is the guy in class that always wants to start an argument with the teacher, challenge the theories in the textbook, or explain to other students the stuff they don’t understand. He’s the kind of guy that seems willing to fight for a principle even when the teacher has explained the logic against it. He feels misunderstood and thinks people don’t recognize his native intelligence. He has a low tolerance for the jocks, who in his opinion are overrated and receive unwarranted attention merely because they look good in uniform.

Middle school isn’t an easy time for anybody. But the next time you slam that kid into the locker, just keep in mind that little Jemmy eventually went on to found a nation, serve as president, and married Dolly Madison. And in case my daughter asks, Dolly Madison was the most popular and prettiest girl on the cheerleader squad.

Nerd indeed.

Check Your Answers:

A. Ben Franklin

B. Alexander Hamilton

C. Thomas Jefferson

D. George Washington

E. John Adams

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