Stop whatever you’re doing right now and take a moment to think about the tremendous accomplishments of Kush Sharma, 13, and Sophia Hoffman, 11. The Kansas City-area students just wrapped up the Jackson County Spelling Bee in a competition so intense it took more than two weeks and 95 rounds before Kush was declared the winner.
But really, does anyone think there was possibly a loser in this challenge? In fact, it would seem the only loser is anyone who thinks teachers in the United States aren’t doing an exceptional job and students in this country are lagging so far behind other countries.
Sure, you can read the stories and analyze the statistics — like, how globally, students in the U.S. are slipping academically compared to their counterparts in countries including Vietnam and China, for instance. Math and science aren’t the strong suits of our kids compared to so many other nations, with our kids ranking 26th in math, trailing such nations as Slovakia and Portugal, and slipping to 17th-place world-wide in reading compared to 14th place in 2009.
There’s no question we have a long way to go. Our education system is flawed and failing in many areas.
“We must invest in early education, raise academic standards, make college affordable, and do more to recruit and retain top-notch educators,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in December.
But that doesn’t mean we’re a nation of dummies. For every salacious story you read about some anomalous teacher doing bad things in or out of class, and for all the troubled kids who make mistakes that make headlines, there are hundreds and thousands of teachers and students about whom you don’t read or hear who go above and beyond to impart to their children or classmates around them the knowledge they need to go out in the world and make a difference, big and small.
The marathon spelling bee between Sharma and Hoffman is proof that it’s really not all doom and gloom. A seventh grader and a fifth grader, under intense pressure to win, held their ground and spelled words that most adults you know would struggle to do correctly — probably even with the help of spell check.
What makes this competition even more astonishing than the intelligence and stamina these kids is their poise and graciousness.
“I was pretty sad when she got that [final] word incorrect,” Kush, who will go on to the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., later this spring, said to one news outlet his when win was sealed, explaining how the experience made the two friends in addition to rivals.
The United States’ education statistics may not be the brightest. But don’t count out our kids just yet. Especially when it comes to spelling the word “count.”
Photo credit: Wikipedia
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