Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Buzz On the Bee

The winning word in the "Super Bowl" of spelling bees, the Scripps National Spelling Bee was URSPRACHE . I'm impressed. I'm not even sure how to say it. Congratulations to the winner, Kerry Close of New Jersey.

It's a tough road to the top for these academic Olympiads. Victory for one, the agony of defeat for everyone else. A while back an 8th grade girl lost a spelling bee competition because of a bad call by the judge. She spelled 'discernible' correctly but he said she was wrong. A protest was not filed immediately, so the young lady finished in third place.

I can relate to this young lady. The same thing happened to me in fifth grade. The spelling bee was down to just two, me and a boy named Craig. We battled back in forth in a war of words for a few rounds. Then he stumbled. I spelled his word correctly plus the next word. But instead of calling me the winner, the judge gave me another word. I was so flustered by the unexpected word that I messed up. He gave the word to my opponent who spelled it correctly and the next two words. They declared him the winner and awarded him the trophy, a dictionary, and advancement to the next district finals. Immediately, my mother and teacher protested the call saying two words were unnecessary. They checked the rules and indeed I should have been the winner. But in an effort to save the declared winner any embarrassment, we were declared co-champions. Since there was only one prize available, they let him keep it. I was allowed to move to the next round, but by then I lost all my motivation. I still remember the teacher who messed up even though it was over 30 years ago.

Unfortunately, "academic abuse" isn't a crime in most states. I bet I could have made out quite well in a lawsuit. Or at the very least, made the teacher write out the rules 100 times on the chalkboard.

In all seriousness though, I wonder if that's why I have a slight aversion to academic competitions? I do enjoy a lively debate on a topic but competition just for the sake of competition is just not very attractive to me. I understand why others enjoy it. It can be a great motivator for learning a subject in depth. But it can also be very discouraging as well. I lost all interest in the sport of spelling after that competition. So if there are any mispellings on my blog, please understand, I'm a just helpless victim of Mr. O.

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