A couple of years ago, I wrote about my inability to understand the appeal of the Spelling Bee competition. It seemed to me to be not worth the enormous amount of time that people expend on it. A recent NPR report examines the extraordinary success of the ethnic South Asian community in this contest.
Indian-Americans have won the past four contests, and 9 of the past 13 — even though they make up less than 1 percent of the population.
Over the past decade, South Asians have built a veritable dynasty on the spelling bee circuit; one commentator compared their dominance to Kenyans winning marathons.
Yesterday, that dominance continued as Snigdha Nandipati won this year’s event. Second and third places also went to South Asians.
In my previous post, I wondered why, although I am of South Asian ethnicity, we were not part of this spelling juggernaut. I jokingly asked, “Was there some memo that I did not get?” To my surprise, it turns out that there is such a memo, as was indicated in a disturbing item in this report.
Indian-American spelling successes have also been fueled in recent years by the South Asian-only farm leagues that have popped up. Those tournaments act as a kind of breeding ground, where many Indian versions of the “tiger mom” start their kids as young as 6 years old. [My italics-MS]
Really? They restrict membership to just South Asians? That is troubling. Although my family did not receive any invitation, I would like to make it clear that I would not have joined even if I thought the Spelling Bee were worth my children’s time, because I dislike the idea of groups that restrict membership based on ethnicity and other tribal markers.