Time for a vintage edition of TAAH. Last year around this time I bitched
about the Scripps National Spelling Bee
. It's just as true today as it was last year:
Call me a grump, but spelling bees are about the dumbest, most useless contests around. Children are rewarded for memorizing and regurgitating particular orders of letters associated with blocks of letters organized virtually arbitrarily. It would be like having a National Phone Book Memorization Contest. It's stupid. In fact, it's worse than stupid, because it masquerades as something close to an educational endeavor.
As access to information becomes increasingly easier due to technology, children need to learn better how to access that information and use it in a meaningful way. Any eighth-grader armed with a computer hooked to the internet, or with a version of Word with a spell-check, is not really going to need to know how to spell all that well. On the rank of important mental skills, it's about 47,892. Being able to use a computer, or the internet, or the spell-check in Word...those are all in the top 500 at least.
The focus on trivial information (and can anyone seriously argue that knowing how to spell "epollicate" isn't trivial?) belittles what should be the true aims of education, such as: critical thinking, reading and writing, verbal acuity, and problem solving.
The spelling bees get a lot of media coverage because they're cute, and newscasters get to chuckle at the little kids who can spout out the spellings of arcane-ass words that no one in their right mind really needs to utter, much less know how to spell, in an average lifetime.
And as I said, it's dumb. D-U-M-effing-B.