June 2, 2011

"Snigdha Nandipati is up first. Her word is 'meridienne' and she gets it right!"

"She likes collecting coins and reading mystery novels. I love her geeky cheer."

It's time for the National Spelling Bee again, and that means the best place to hang out — other than in front of ESPN — is at Throwing Things, where they are bursting with knowledge... and geeky cheer.

I appreciated the prompt to go set the DVR. I hate when I find out from the news that the spelling bee was on because so-and-so spelled some word. The whole point is to live through the dramatic emotions of young kids who really care about doing something difficult really, really well. I'll watch it on HDTV, pores and all. Are the kids self-conscious about the close inspection they're getting? They never seem like they are, which is cool.

Please don't tell me I should watch one of those movies about the spelling bee. I've seen them and find them tedious, in part because they skip over the tedium that you need to live through to feel the highs.

22 comments:

Fred4Pres said...

I am guessing you would have been a good spelling bee contestant Ann.

Shouting Thomas said...

Snigdha Nandipati?

You've got to be kidding me.

The first name sounds like some strange sexual appurtenance, like smegma.

The second name sounds like some sort of Indian fried bread.

Spelling her name would be a good exercise for the kids.

Really, you can watch spelling bees? That's the old fashioned schoolmarm in you.

One of the advantages of being a college prof is that you can appear as if you actually have a sex life. My daughter is an elementary school teacher. Nobody wants to think of elementary school teachers having a sex life. Particularly not the students' parents.

Ann Althouse said...

"I am guessing you would have been a good spelling bee contestant Ann."

No. I wasn't that kind of kid. I did well in school, but not by studying. I got through elementary school on the theory -- I really had this theory -- that studying for a test was basically cheating. Learn it the first time and be tested on that. Ha ha. After elementary school, I was rebellious, but I decided I wanted straight As anyway. I developed an efficient method for scoring As and graduated first in my high-school class, but not in any way overachieving. My goal was to resist and mock the teachers, but still force them to give me the A, without devoting any more time to the project than necessary.

In junior high, we had a school spelling bee and I ended up as the 8th grade champion, which meant I had to be on the stage for some final stunt with the 7th and 9th grade champions. The word I misspelled, which caused me to lose to the 7th grader, was "ostracize." I pictured an ostrich.

Sixty Grit said...

Snigdha please!

edutcher said...

Note, please, all the East Indians. Also one Vietnamese (Phan).

Care to bet how many are home schooled?

Ann Althouse said...

"I am guessing you would have been a good spelling bee contestant Ann."

No. I wasn't that kind of kid. I did well in school, but not by studying. I got through elementary school on the theory -- I really had this theory -- that studying for a test was basically cheating. Learn it the first time and be tested on that.


You must have a photographic memory.

Seriously.

I was a pretty good speller, but, in about 4th grade, I used to go home and read the dictionary. That tends to reinforce it.

Patrick said...

Ms. Nandipati would seem to have an advantage from being used to spelling difficult words.

victoria said...

Watching the finals tonight!!!! Got it on my DVR in case something happens. Too bad ABC isn't showing it like last year.


Spell on, little nerds!!!

We love you


Vicki from Pasadena

Clyde said...

It's no wonder that the little Indian-American kids usually are among the finalists. If you can spell Snighda Nandipati, you can probably spell just about anything!

And she'll probably be going to medical school. They're a high-achievement-oriented culture.

SteveR said...

Homeschoolers and south asians. OTOH they probably aren't worth a damn at gaming or texting.

HKatz said...

I love the names here.

There's Dakota Jones and Anna-Marie Sprenger... along with Snigdha Nandipati and Surjo Bandyopadhyay.

MadisonMan said...

That's a great blog entry to read. I love words.

edutcher said...

Clyde said...

It's no wonder that the little Indian-American kids usually are among the finalists. If you can spell Snighda Nandipati, you can probably spell just about anything!

Probably makes more sense in Sanskrit.

Or Hindi.

Dustin said...

To me, this is a lot like a 4H contest for best butter churning.

It shows practice with a skill that is more or less irrelevant.

Now, I'm not talking about the ability to spell words we use when talking to eachother. I'm talking about the ability to spell words no one uses, either via memorization of zillions of words and word building segments, or learning how to engineer likely spellings.

That skill is completely useless in an era with computers. If I come across a word like 'meridienne' I can google it and learn that it's a type of sofa, and I don't need to spend hours every day learning how to handle such words.

I think the prior few generations really needed special clerical skills. It was helpful to know how to type a memo spaced just right. It was helpful to be able to act like a spell checker for exotic words.

Now, it's just an homage to the past, rather than intellectual or useful.

This is still impressive. The kids are great. Just like the kids with the 4H ribbons.

Eleanor said...

As a teaching tool, spelling bees suck. The kids who need the most help get kicked out in the first few rounds, and if you think listening to other kids spell is a good way to learn to spell, you're one of the good spellers. But it is a quaint competition. Next on the list of skills we can stop teaching kids is "long division".

Erik said...

I was an encyclopedia-reading geek at that age. Though my spelling was impeccable, I never made it very far due to stage anxiety. I'd always make stupid mistakes, and my teachers would chide me for not doing as well as they expected.

I did make it to the New Hampshire state Geography Bee though. Twice.

Coketown said...

Remember the episode of Taxi where one of the main character's kids is practicing for the spelling be by studying the dictionary? And then something happens where he ignores S through Z in favor of doing something more fun, and then in the finals his word is in the group he ignored? And he learns a lesson from it.

I only vaguely remember it to be honest. But it's the only pop-culture reference to spelling bees I know. If the subject is mistaken identity I've got plenty.

ndspinelli said...

"Magic Foot..Maaagic Fooot!"

ndspinelli said...

The 7th grade has a geography bee every year. I administered it twice and boys kicked ass. Girls are generally better spellers but even the dumbest boy does better than girls in geography bees. If you think of human nature and throw pc horseshit out the window it makes sense. I also taught both my kids how to drive. My son was older and when he got his license he knew how to get most anywhere. My daughter still needs a GPS to get places she's been 20 times!

Crunchy Frog said...

All through elementary school I finished to the same girl in the school spelling bee.

Dammit.

She was cute and I really liked her though, so I couldn't hate her for it.

wv: sphipe - let's see someone get that word right.

bandmeeting said...

I think that if she signed in correctly before the bee began they should just give it to her.

Old RPM Daddy said...

My two younger daughters have taken part in our county spelling bee the last few years. Three years ago, the elder of the two won it when she was in sixth grade (on the word “Wagnerian”), which meant she got to go to the National Spelling Bee. So here’s the rundown on how it works.

Bee Week in Washington is a busy, busy time for the kids! Many more children go to Washington than one ever sees on the television broadcast. The kids and their families are put up in one of the fancier hotels downtown. The first thing the children do after signing in is take a computer-based spelling test. Following that (on Tuesday, if I remember correctly), they participate in a mock bee in the auditorium. Performance on the computer test and the mock bee is used to determine which spellers will participate in the later rounds. In between official events, the children and their families take Bee-sponsored day trips to local attractions, hang out together, and study. A lot. Spellers selected for further competition go through an elimination round that is presented on the internet. Winners their go on to the semifinals on ESPN and the finals on ABC. Bee Week ends with an awards banquet on Saturday night, with the champion delivering a speech which I imagine was mostly written for him or her. While my daughter didn’t make it beyond the preliminaries, she had a wonderful time and made some new friends.

Funny note: At one point, late in the championship rounds, the boy who eventually won the whole thing was presented with the word “numnah.” Was “numnah” what he heard? Of course not, and the boy was a little aghast! The whole incident, including the boy spelling it correctly, can be seen in this YouTube video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjzrNWPul9E

kiruwa said...

'As a teaching tool, spelling bees suck. The kids who need the most help get kicked out in the first few rounds... Next on the list of skills we can stop teaching kids is "long division".'

If it's a skill we can stop teaching, why is there such a thing as 'kids who need the most help'? You're not making sense.

And please do not stop teaching long division. I know it's fashionable in educational circles right now, but that's mostly because none of the educators can handle any moderately difficult technical material. We can immediately spot incoming freshman who have never been taught long division in our CS program. They've been severely hampered in their ability to understand algorithms of any type.