The day after the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee, I remember a quick morning conversation with my wife (you know, the one that you have between the screaming, whining, complaining, and throwing of various foodstuffs from the children). The conversation went something like this:
Me: Hey! Did you see that a girl from Orlando almost won the spelling bee?
Wife: You know, I really don’t understand the point of the Spelling Bee.
Me: Yeah, I know, right? Anyway, I’ll change his load if you brush his teeth….
There is no question in my mind that these kids are dedicated, hard-working individuals that have the right idea when it comes down to work ethic and striving for success.
… and that’s about it in terms of the Spelling Bee’s usefulness…
The Spelling Bee demonstrates (and somewhat supports) what I consider to be one of the biggest problems facing the education system today, and that is the usage of rote memorization (or rote learning) in order to succeed.
Yes, in the context of the Spelling Bee as it is today, rote memorization is most definitely the ‘best tool for the job’ in order to succeed. However, what sort of message are we sending to parents and children by glorifying rote memorization? You, too, can be on ESPN if you spend 6+ hours per day rote memorizing the spelling of words that you repeatedly ask the judges for their definition, for them to use the words in a sentence, and for their country of origin…
So, I propose the following changes to the Scripps National Spelling Bee (in no particular order):
Add a time limit: In the real world, there are deadlines. If you asked your boss, say, 15 times for the definition or meaning of a particular work-related project, your boss (if astute) would start to reevaluate their decision to hire you in the first place. Not to mention, said boss wouldn’t give you UNLIMITED TIME to work on said project….
Give extra credit to those that can provide the definition of a word, as well as use it properly in a sentence: If you can spell a word that in most circles would be considered an ‘SAT word’ (in other words, other folks want to slap you in the face when you use that word), then by all means you should at least know the definition and how to use it properly in a sentence. This will separate the true ‘cream from the coffee’.
If someone spells a word wrong, have an entertaining ‘exit’ planned for the kid: If someone is going to interrupt my sports highlights with a 14 year old misspelling “schwarmerei” on ESPN, there better be something remotely entertaining in its place. Perhaps a giant foot kicking them through giant goalposts into a safety net would do… or the stage floor just opening up beneath them and then letting out a huge burping noise. Enough of this ‘hotel bell’ crap.
Any other suggestions for ‘flipping the Scripps’?