Yep. You read that right. I think the spelling bee is bullshit. And, yes, I’m talking about the Scripps National Spelling Bee that ended yesterday. Want to know why?
(In full disclosure I’m going to pause for a moment to admit that yes, we did have a personal favorite to win. Rosie goes to middle school with Vanya Shivashankar and they are friends. Vanya came in 5th last year and was one of the favorites to win this year’s contest. Unfortunately, she was ousted in the semi’s. That’s only part of the bullshit.)
I was a little confused in the first rounds when they started calling names of kids that spelled words correctly but would be going home. Back in my day, a spelling bee meant that you stood on the stage and spelled words until the bitter end. In today’s modern world, I guess that’s no longer good enough (or maybe it’s too lengthy for TV). As I found out on Wednesday, spelling bee rules have changed. Now they include computerized spelling and vocabulary tests.
So, here’s how it works. You spend hours (and for Vanya years) studying for your middle school spelling bee. It’s done the old-fashioned way where you spell until someone loses. Then you get to the national contest and all the rules change. Doesn’t make sense to me.
So, I checked out the new rules (which I read went into place last year so I’m a little late). The computerized tests are taken before the live spelling round. So, the contest works like this. If you spell a word wrong, you’re out. If you don’t, based on your performance on the computerized test the night before, then you may or may not get to stay. Sounds fair? Right?
These kids have studied for hours (and in Vanya’s case years) to prepare for the spelling bee. They’ve learned to spell out loud and deal with the immense pressure of standing on a stage by themselves in front of a microphone for the whole world to see (that in itself is a huge skill to learn). The addition of a computerized test to the contest, adds a completely new skill set for a child to master. And, yes, I guess you can argue that if a kid knows how to spell the words out loud, they should be able to ace a test, but that didn’t happen. Kids that spelled all their words correctly, were ousted due to test results. I think that’s crap.
If you’re going to have local contests, then they should have the same rules as the national one. That way the kids that feed into the spelling bee all have the same study prep and chance (BTW, the official study prep site for the bee does not have a computerized sample test to take. Interesting). Makes it fair.
Oh, and I forgot to mention, this year’s spelling bee had two winners because they ran out of words for the competitors to spell. For real? Wasn’t it just this year that a Kansas City spelling bee ran out of words and the two competitors had to come back at a later date to finish the competition? Just another example that there’s inconsistently with the local and national contests. Hey Scripps? Can you at least make the rules fair?