Oh, spelling bees. My stomach churns just typing the words. The pressure!
The 84th Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee finishes up tonight in Washington, D.C., and will air live on ESPN. The field has narrowed to 13 championship spelling bee finalists, who will compete for the $40,000 in prizes. Already, the group has survived round after round spelling things like “phyllomancy” and “anaphylaxis” while others went down by leaving out the “c” in “sciamachy” (isn’t one “c” enough? You don’t even pronounce them!).
There are many reasons to watch the annual spelling bee with your kids. In particular, I think it’s marvelous to see grade-schoolers freaking out over something as utterly Google-able (did I spell that right?) as how to write a word. But there are other, less rubber-necky(sp?) reasons:
Kids are spazzes these days (or maybe they’ve always been spazzes and I’m editing the memories of my younger self). Anyway, with all that pressure, all those eyes, all those TV cameras!, the competitors are amazing. If these competitors can stand there and block everything out to come up with something most adults couldn’t, then surely our own children can run through some multiplication tables in the car on the way to school.
Sure, the spelling bee in Mrs. Newman’s fourth-grade class is compulsory, but it takes real guts to compete to win — or lose. Which leads me to …
3. Losing with grace
You never see one of these competitors fight with the judges or try to lie their way out of a flub, or picking up the Candyland board and winging it across the table just because mommy drew the Princess Frostine card. … Wait, what was I talking about? Oh, the spelling bee! Yes, good sports, these kids!
2. A television event as a mirror
The spelling bee shows real kids, not the Nick’d up version of them. Kids watching at home see people their age who look like the, dress like them, sound like them. The spelling bee is not a fashion show. There are no sassy rejoinders when a judge calls out a misspelling.
1. No pink, no blue
The Scripps-Howard Spelling Bee is, possibly, the only televised event on ESPN where females and males compete against each other. Not in campy girls-against-boys teams, but as individuals. Girl winners aren’t any more newsworthy that boy winners. Having been raised in separate toy aisles at Target, with separate reading materials from Scholastic, these kids don’t see each other in terms of pink or blue. When they size up the competition, they’re thinking “strong with the Latin roots” or “that guy’s a total spaz” (see No. 5).
Do you watch every year?
Can’t get the kids of the tube? Try these 10 Videogames That’ll Keep Them Moving!