This year’s Spelling Bee cancelled

I have argued in multiple posts that I think that the Spelling Bee contest is not a good use of young people’s intellect. The skills it teaches are not commensurable with the time, energy, and resources that the children’s families put into it. The format of the contest is not designed to even produce the best spellers, because luck plays a significant role in determining the final outcome. The contest is designed to produce TV drama (and ratings) by putting these young children under enormous pressure.

So I can’t say that I was sorry to hear that this year’s contest, like so many other events, has been cancelled. I do feel sorry for all those young people who had been devoting so much time to preparing for it because those who think that they can be winners pretty much give up everything else for years on end in pursuit of that goal. Perhaps being released from the pressure to memorize the spelling of obscure words will allow them to explore other areas of creativity and discover new pleasures in life. I hope so.

Will the Spelling Bee recover after social distancing ends and make a come back? Sadly, it seems likely because there is money in it.


  1. StonedRanger says

    There is money in spelling? I find that absolutely amazing. Spending just a half hour reading on the internet would lead one to an entirely different conclusion. Even news articles are rife with misspellings. I learn something new every day. Thank you.

  2. says

    @ StonedRanger No. 1…

    As a former magazine editor who experienced the transition from hot type to electronic publishing I would suggest that what you’re seeing is not an ignorance of spelling but rather the elimination of multiple levels of copy editing as staffs have been forced to contract.

    When I first entered the profession it was possible that as many as six or seven people would see copy before the presses rolled. Now you’re lucky if two sets—the writer and a copy editor—review a story before someone hits publish.

    The Christian Science Monitor was once legendary—thanks to people like one of my professors, Dr. Dru Evarts, fondly known as Conan the Grammarian—for not have a single spelling, grammatical or typographical error in an entire issue.

    Bonus points: how many errors are there in this comment?


    Jeff Hess

  3. Matt G says

    Get rid of spelling bees. Replace them with vocabulary bees. Vocabulary is how many colors you have on your palette; spelling is how well you color inside the lines.

  4. StonedRanger says

    @hyphenman #2 I agree when it comes to online news and articles that it does boil down to a lack of editing. But there is so much more when it comes to reading online. Blogs, comment sections, and the like. But even without the layers of editing, you would think that all those spelling errors just wouldn’t be there. As a writer, I would think that good spelling would be a minimum requirement for the job. Knowing that there are fewer layers of editing available would seem the perfect reason for self editing. BTW, I saw a missing comma and have should be having in the last paragraph.

  5. jack19 says

    A couple interesting developments with the bee:

    1) Paige Kimble, the former national champion who’d been the “Executive Director” of the National Spelling bee for nearly 30 years, “stepped down” from her role in December. 😲

    Was she forced out--gotta wonder! 😉 She’s only 53, so it’s not like she’s probably retiring.

    2) This year, the national bee will be “virtual” until the final rounds held in Orlando in July, with only 10 to 12 spellers attending.

    Don’t know what to make of all this. I just hope it means that the bee is weakening, rather than gathering steam. 😛

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