Saturday, June 02, 2007

Good for a Laugh

June 2, 2007

Say what you will about the National Spelling Bee. Movies have been made that touch people's hearts; movies about little kids learning the joy of achievement, about adults learning from children; movies about the pressure, tension, and the miracle of a child being held to some arbitrary standard and transcending the challenge. Broadway plays that win Tony Awards have been produced about spelling bees. I've said a lot about the spelling event over the years. I once wrote an angry letter to the editor of the local paper about it. As a matter of fact, I'm ag'in the whole thing.

We used to have spelling bees in school as a way to drill correct spelling into us. As such, they were harmless, and did get us to focus on a list of words and rules that would help us in a world before the Spellcheck feature on computers did it all for us. But the "national spelling bee" concept erased any real learning value in spelling bees and made it a showcase for children, a new arena in which parents could micro-manage their children's lives and the media could make a hero of a child, after months of memorization, repetition and focus on a single activity would happen to be dealt a list of obscure words that he had worked on learning to spell and not crack under the pressure by actually spelling the last one right.

It's no coincidence that most winners (including this year's) are home-schooled, where they are given full-time to focus on the one important thing in life: learning how to spell the words they might be given in the bee.

Usually the winning word is one that adults don't know the meaning of, and the child will likely never have the need to use. This year is no exception there, although the word itself does not seem to be a very difficult one. As in most tests, winning the spelling bee has more to do with guessing right than anything else.

But this year there was a treat in the contest.
It seems that most of the serious young spellers are normal, well-balanced kids after all, as exemplified by the adorable moment replayed most often on the tv news after the event. An 11-year-old from Terre Haute named Kennyi Aouad was given the word "sardoodledom" as his spelling word. Don't tell me he's not a good speller; he's had to go through life spelling both Kennyi Aouad and Terre Haute. Well, the word sardoodledom was one he'd never come across before -- except maybe on his spelling list -- and hearing it pronounced cracked him up. He knew how to spell it, but just saying he did struck him as funny. He would lose it every time he had to pronounce it. If you didn't see the footage of his spelling the word, look for it on YouTube; it's surely there, and it will give you a laugh today and a smile forever.

Can't help but love this kid! Can't help but hope that he knows how much joy he gave us jaded curmudgeons who hate the National Spelling Bee but love the spellers.


Mary Lois said...

I went to the YouTube site and nothing has been posted about the "sardoodledom" incident -- yet. Keep trying, maybe it'll be up today.

sinjap said...

"As in most tests, winning the spelling bee has more to do with guessing right than anything else."

come on, give us lifelong nerds a little credit

btw, i was my state spelling bee champ in 6th grade :-)

Mary Lois said...

I was a great speller myself, and always did well in spelling bees. Maybe the advent of the "National Bee," (which took all the fun out of it for me), was not a bad thing.

But consider this list of words: Euonym, chiaroscurist, logorrhea, demarche, succedaneum, prospicience, pococurante, autochthonous, appoggiatura. Are they in the vocabulary of the most adults, much less ll-year-olds? More importantly, what is gained by knowing how to spell them? The list is the final words that the lucky winners in the National Spelling Bee were able to spell since 1997.

You and I might have been coached at age 11 to be able to spell them. Would we be better for having done that? Isn't there something better we could have been doing?

Sounds like a lot of sardoodledom about nothing to me.

sinjap said...

not saying that memorization and regurgitation are a good thing..just how i got through philosophy now is 180 degrees off that actually

but what else do the nerds of today have to look forward to? generally spelling bees and science fairs don't sell tickets like friday night football games...and i don't know any nasa engineers that get million dollar tv commercials and endorsements...the incentives are all wrong these days

but yeah, they're so cute up on stage trying to enunciate the toughies

Officious Oaf said...

National Spelling Bees are a bigger waste of time than trying to see how many champagne glasses can be stacked on top of one another before the pile comes crashing down. Don’t get me wrong; I am all in favor of correct spelling, for at least it reflects a degree of literacy, and heaven knows just how much more of that we could use in a world where reading –and writing- are something no longer well taught in school, nor seems to be necessary to make it in life. But to learn to spell words that the contestants never ever will use again including other spelling bees is, as I said, a huge waste of time. Why not learn something useful like learn a multiplication table up to 120 times 120 or the names of the capital cities of all the countries in the world or the specific gravity of all known elements or maybe the names of the city councilmen in one’s town?

…Alright, already, so spelling bees are big events as a way for those little buggers with good memories and pushy parents to get their 15 minutes of fame, accompanied by a tacky trophy and perhaps a bit of prize money. The sponsors and producers at a national level of a spelling bee can see big bucks roll in so they make a big deal out of wasting time. Of course, if we were to look around for other similar time wasting events, “Miss Something or Other” beauty contests would immediately come into our sights.

Bah humbug to spelling bees and other ‘flashy’ wasteful events.

Thierry Beauchamp said...

I like a good sardoodledom now and then... I find them a nice distraction from life's unpleasantries.

Did I spell unpleasantries right?
; )

Thierry Beauchamp said...

Top 5 sardoodledoms for men:
1) It's a Wonderful Life
2) The Champ 1931
3) The Champ 1979
4) Rocky 1-6
5) Nothing in Common

great lines from top 5 sardoodledoms:

1) my brother George the richest man in Bedford Falls...

2/3) get up champ, get up

4) stay down...

5) You could've been a great anything, son...

Mary Lois said...

Our old friend "Theirry Beauchamp" has returned! I can't seem to find a definition of "sardoodledom." Could you enlighten us?

Theirry Beauchamp said...

Who ,but I, should answer this question?

[fr. sardoodle (blend of Victorien Sardou, French playwright criticized by G. B. Shaw, for the supposed staginess of his plays and doodle) + -dom]
usu. capitalized mechanically contrived plot structure and stereotyped or unrealistic characterization in drama: staginess, melodrama

Mary Lois said...

Leave it to the French to bring Sardou into interesting theory, but I have my doubts.

John Sweden said...

How about a spelling, give it's meaning and use it in sentence about your life bee. In which the reward would be for the best life-enlightening sentence. There would be one judge for spelling, one judge for meaning and Simon Cowell from American Idol for sentence.

Now you've got the basis of good sardoodledom of a bee.

By the way, I don't know if if any of you have spelt sardoodledom correctly, as it is not in my spell check.