Friday, June 02, 2006

Queen Bee 2006


13-year-old Katharine Close won the 2006 National Spelling Bee yesterday. The word that won her the trophy - 'ursprache', which means a parent language. I always thought Indian kids did very well in this (last year's winner was an Indian too). But no Indian kids in the top 3 spots this time.

This year's Bee was telecast on prime-time television(ABC) for the first time. I did stumble upon it as I was channel-surfing yesterday night but kept going without realizing what it was.

24 Comments:

At 1:11 PM, Blogger Filbert said...

Yeah Balaji, I too was surprised that there was no Indian name in the top 3. Bcos even in the program highlights they show on TV here, almost 2 out of the 3 kids are Indian. When I saw that the first prize was by an American girl, I was looking for an Indian name atleast in the next 2 spots but was disappointed.

 
At 1:15 PM, Anonymous vic said...

ya I caught the highlights on sportscenter this morning. I noticed the lack of indians in the finals this year also… or as kornheiser from pti put it “there were not many 12 years olds with mustaches this year” lol

victor

 
At 1:15 PM, Anonymous ram said...

for some weird reason, I'm thinking of this joke from "Small Time Crooks" where Woody says, "I'd like to learn how to spell, 'connecticut.' Dont ask me why but I've never known how to spell that!"

While I dont think much of the Spelling Bee contest, the kids must be feeling really cool knowing how to spell these words and also know their meanings...

my latest fav. "pulttu" word-- Schadenfreude.

 
At 8:36 PM, Anonymous vijay said...

spelling bee contest=child abuse

Over zealous pressurizing their kids to master words which are totally unnecessary and unimportant even at our age, leave alone theirs. Its sad to see young kids stumble under stress and cry when they rush back to their parents after the miss. One of the stupider contests in US

 
At 9:27 PM, Blogger Arunkumar said...

Yeah....there were three indian kids yesterday, but my favorite was Rajeev, and I was almost sure that he would make it to the final rounds, but sadly no. I think he made it till round 5 or so. Anyway, katherine was terrific too.
vijay, I think kids should learn that winning does not matter. Learning all these words PLUS the techniques involved will pay them back in the long run.

 
At 7:46 AM, Blogger Syam said...

I am with u arunkumar, Rajiv was very confident as other kids were nervous, but these kids were really amazing....

 
At 11:34 AM, Blogger Siva Nara said...

After watching Akeelah and the bee (No one should miss this movie especially parents), I was waiting for the finals and realized how smart these kids are.

Spelling is an art like programming. No one can remember spelling for all words but how they come up with the actual spelling even if they haven't encountered the words before is the challenge.

Thanks to ABC for bringing the program live.

 
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At 9:33 PM, Anonymous vijay said...

arunkumar,I disagree.Its a big price that some of these kids pay for learning the so-called lesson u talk about. At their age they should be out there playing with other kids, watching animation movies, learning their classes and so on.I doubt that sometimes the desired effect is opposite to what u claim. Where the stress takes its toll,the children are made fun of as nerds by their classmates and they even get physically affected,wearing thick glasses by the time they are 10. Its stupid to ask them to learn something that is not needed even at our age and in such a high stress and peer pressure environment. This is true even for some of the smarter kids or prodigies leave alone the many average kids who are forced to learn all those words by rote. This is something even the participants and past winners have acknowledged later on,if you read about it on the net.

 
At 11:38 PM, Blogger prakash said...

vijay, check out the movie 'Spellbound'. It is a documentary that tracks a few participants in the SB contest. You'll see that some families are very balanced, some are a bit extreme. Some of the kids are not your typical nerds, some kids would be called nerds even if not for the SB.

Generalizing it as child abuse is too radical. If the spelling bee contest is child abuse, then so is the IIT-JEE! Kids forced to work like madmen, at an age when they aren't capable of making career choices, at an age when there are a lot of distractions ...


**Minor spoiler alert**
In 'Spellbound', there is one example of what you mention. The father of one of the kids has hired a Latin tutor, a Greek tutor etc, so his son can understand the roots of the words. It seemed like a high pressure environment, and I was cringing when I saw this. But when he lost, his father's response was very nice. I am paraphrasing, but it went something like this "My son lost, and that's a disappointment. But I hope he has learnt lessons on hard work, preparation, and handling pressure. These lessons will serve him well in the future too".

 
At 2:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too agree with vijay. Kids shoudl learn about winnign and loosing but not under the pressure theese kids goes through beging on prime time tv etc. Simply too much, me thinks.

I am not against spellign contest etc but they shoudl be done in very small scale say with in the school etc not at national levele and certainly not on tv.

Some kids can cope with stress and pressure but most can't so i am completly againts putting all children unders so much stress and pressure and putting them on tv.

anyway my 2p worth ;)

 
At 2:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But when he lost, his father's response was very nice. I am paraphrasing, but it went something like this "My son lost, and that's a disappointment. But I hope he has learnt lessons on hard work, preparation, and handling pressure. These lessons will serve him well in the future too".

there are OTHER ways a kid can learn these skills..... easier ways at that.....

 
At 6:41 AM, Blogger Vidya said...

Spelling dont like me and I dont like them.. the dislike is mutual :) But a spelling contest.. well.. I would be last lerunthu first

 
At 10:10 AM, Anonymous vijay said...

"Generalizing it as child abuse is too radical. If the spelling bee contest is child abuse, then so is the IIT-JEE! Kids forced to work like madmen, at an age when they aren't capable of making career choices, at an age when there are a lot of distractions ..."

Prakash, come on, 16- or 17-yr old kids preparing for an academic exam in topics much relevant to what they need to know at their age, and mostly out of their own willingness, is a far cry from pre-pubescent kids studying words that even ppl twice their age dont need or care to know. If they need to learn lessons on hardwork and so on, they can still do so by participating in their school competitions or acdemic exams like the IIT-JEE or the american equivalent of it(SAT and other exams) where their mistakes wont be scrutinized on National TV and the pressure wont take a toll or cause an emotional scar. The comparison is way off here. (But I do agree that IIT-JEE, and in general 10-12th stds are high pressure in India, due to the intense competition and the number of candidates competing for the limited no of seats, and it does take a little bit fun out of the life. But its a means of survival over there and the candidates are studying only their relevant syllabus)

Also for every understanding parent , there will be an equally overzealous parent pushing his kids hard. I have read a lot of accounts of this happening.

Yeah "child abuse" might sound a tad too harsh, but considering the severity of the contest here, the term is not way off the mark either and several parents themselves have used it in interviews.Plus add in all the fun being poked at these kids in school and the interactions they are missing at their age which would mould their personality.

 
At 12:52 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

filbert/vic, i think we've become so used to seeing indian names when the spelling bee results r announced :)

ram, what is 'Schadenfreude'. more importantly, what is 'pulttu'?!

vijay, i'm in 2 minds about this. i agree that parents shouldn't push their kids overly. but if the kid has an aptitude for spelling, then why not. i mean, kids r only gonna wanna play and watch tv. its upto the parents to guide them and help them unearth their strengths, right? do we know that these kids don't get to watch movies or play, etc? there might be a few parents who go to that extreme but then they r probably parents who will go to an extreme in something else. for the most part, these might be kids who have an aptitude/talent for spelling and actually liked taking part. like when i was reading for the GRE, i knew even then that i would never get to use half the words i studied for the english section. it was probably just me but it was fun learning the words, understanding their roots, etc.

i think siva said it correctly. these r not kids who are pushed to learn the spelling of every single word. they learn to analyze the word and try to figure out the spelling and that may be an interesting challenge :)

 
At 3:51 PM, Anonymous ram said...

inaa maame, pulttu naa inaa-nu theriyaadhu-nu sollte...seri, inge kundhu...unukku naan vaadyaar vesam poattikinu solltharen...

pulttu-naa peela udarthu...scene podarthu...oru maari ishtyle-nu vechuka maape...

Schadenfreude- idhu inamo german kettavaartha maari keedhu ile...idhukku inaa artham-naa oruthan feelings-aa irukka sollo adha paathu nee gujaal-aa keethu-nu solradhu...m-w.com a oru look udu...adhula keedhu baaru...

 
At 4:15 PM, Anonymous vijay said...

balaji, is the pressure worth it, thats my doubt. They can learn to solve puzzles or do crosswords or stuff like that even at home or take part in local school competitions. But the spelling bee contest is nationally televised and you see kids crying or sometimes crumbling under stress. I agree that these are kids that do have an aptitude and might have interest, but I am not sure if they can decide on their own at such an young age to undergo such stress on national TV. Got to do more with the parents.
These kids dont know what they are probably missing. And even if they are talented and have an aptitude it still means 3-5 hrs of solid reading every day from what I have heard, plus the pressure that comes with hiring tutors etc. And after all this trouble there is just one winner. What message do the other young kids get for all the pressure and hard work they have to endure? Must be heartbreaking.

 
At 11:27 PM, Blogger prakash said...

vijay, most kids don't prepare for JEE out of their own willingness. Preparation typically starts in the 8th or 9th Std. Really, how many kids know what it is to be an engineer at that age?!

Also, as Balaji pointed out, parents who push hard, will push hard no matter what. If not Spelling Bee, then the local fancy dress competition!

The one thing I question is whether the Spelling Bee is worth all the hype? But it is difficult to say anything about that. Are our cricketers worth all the money they get paid? Is Julia Roberts' work for 3 months worth $20 mil? It is what it is ...

 
At 11:52 AM, Blogger KK said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 11:53 AM, Blogger KK said...

Oh Balaji! Strange coincidence...We both have the same topic and more strange is the title of the blog...pretty close.

 
At 6:56 PM, Blogger Narayanan Venkitu said...

I missed it..but read about it.

So..did you get to watch Akeelah and the Bee? A must for a reviewer like you.:)

 
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