Thursday, June 02, 2005

Future Copy Editors of America Conference

“My dad said I’m already a winner just to have come this far,” Michael said, his voice suggesting he wasn’t quite sure he believed that.
That's Michael Paynter, the JG representative in the National Spelling Bee, which concludes today. He didn't make it past the first day of competition and clearly was disappointed. (He was the JG entry last year as well.)

Yes, we all know spelling is serious business (but not as serious as grammar!), and it's nice for these kids to get some recognition. But how important is it to be able to spell "gbo"? In the real world, we just look it up -- and now, with dictionaries online or even built into a computer's operating system (like Apple's latest version of OS X, Tiger), there's even less motivation to dedicate yourself to becoming a super speller.

But having had first-hand experience in spelling bees (the editor of this website took 11th place in the 1997 city bee), we're not advocating they be eliminated. No, we say keep them, but make sure the kids keep the competition in perspective. Anyone who has seen the excellent documentary Spellbound knows how far students -- and parents -- often go in the pursuit of being the best speller in the country.

Best speller next to any dictionary, that is.

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