National Spelling…er…Vocabulary and Spelling Bee

Some of you may already know that I was a participant in the Scripps National Spelling Bee as an 8th grader. It was a real thrill.

A rule change will have a major impact on the competition this year and as an alum of this event, I feel compelled to offer a few comments.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/28/us/spelling-bee/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

From the article:

This is the first time in its 86 years that the competition has introduced a vocabulary component.

It will count for 50% of a speller’s overall score and will help determine which competitors take part in the semifinal and championship rounds.

Spelling tests, both computer-based and onstage, will make up the other half of their scores.

“It doesn’t make sense,” said Sanat Mishra, who last year made it to the finals of the South Asian Spelling Bee, but is not competing at the National Spelling Bee. “I don’t get the rule.”

Speller

You’re right, Sanat. It doesn’t make sense. It’s the National Spelling Bee, not the National Vocabulary and Spelling Bee.

But the people who run it feel differently, and thus the kids who are in this year’s event and no doubt those in the future will be participating in a completely different contest than what it was designed to be.

Sure, kids could stand to learn all kinds of things in addition to spelling but you’re missing the point with what you’re doing to this competition. You don’t change the Super Bowl to a football game combined with a 5K because you want the players to get more exercise.

My thoughts of course mean very little and in the big picture of life, this is quite trivial. However it is very frustrating to see an event I considered hallowed ground back in my time get watered down as years have gone by due to television broadcast needs, and now completely altered to further serve that purpose of whittling away participants in the interest of time.

I feel bad for the kids who may never get to participate in this event as it used to be – a bunch of really hard words that you had to practice for and then spell correctly in front of a microphone, not in a written exam…and not in addition to a vocabulary test.

I am d-i-s-a-p-p-o-i-n-t-e-d in this change but am o-p-t-i-m-i-s-t-i-c it will be overturned sometime soon.

Regardless of the rules, good luck to all of this year’s participants. Do your best and know you’re already a winner for making it there. More than anything else, just have fun!

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