Should the National Spelling Bee Make Us Squirm?

What Women Really Think
May 28 2009 6:01 PM

Should the National Spelling Bee Make Us Squirm?


Tonight you can see the finals of the National Spelling Bee on television and watch as the kids contort under the mounting pressure. They "tug at their hair and display preadolescent tics that are hard enough to manage in front of malicious middle-school classmates let alone a nation of living-room critics, sportswriters, and live bloggers," as Steven Fatsis, author of Word Freak , writes in a column today on the Daily Beast .


I’m inclined to agree with him that the spectacle should make us adults squirm, too, at least a little. But I’m not sure the problem is that we’ve blown this event into something way too serious, as we do so many of our kids’ endeavors these days, destroying open-ended fun by forcing them under the performance spotlight. I’d say something like the opposite is also going on: Should it make us squirm even more to recognize that part of why we go overboard with this display of brain exertion is precisely that we don’t really take spelling very seriously at all?


Photograph of  Sidharth Chand in the 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee  by  JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images.



Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Lifetime Didn’t Find the Steubenville Rape Case Dramatic Enough, So They Added Self-Immolation

Why Hillary Clinton and Other Democrats Are Shrewd to Frame All Issues As “Women’s Issues”

  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.