We've been longtime fans of the National Spelling Bee in my house. For the last several years, we would record the daytime ESPN telecast and watch it that evening, amazed at not only the knowledge but also the poise that these champions have. So it was nice to see the whole thing time-shifted and given primetime exposure on ABC Thursday night, where viewership reached about eight million.
My daughter, who is quite a speller herself, was really into it -- these are kids her own age getting to show off their smarts. In a world where what you accomplish with your body gets so much exposure and praise on television, it's nice to see kids getting acclaim for using their brains. And considering the vicious attacks against public schools that have passed for commentaries on American education, it was especially nice to see public school students doing so well in the Bee.
I do have one complaint, however.
This is the National Spelling Bee. That should mean the best spellers from this nation. Last time I checked, Canada is not part of the USA. So what was Finola Hackett of Alberta doing in the competition?
Not that she doesn't deserve credit for doing so well (she finished second), but there should be another Bee north of the border for her and the 13 other Canadians who were among the 275 kids competing. Then, have that winner compete with our winner and the UK winner and the Australian winner and the winner from any other English-speaking nation in some sort of International Spelling Bee.
Then they can all struggle with such classic English words as heiligenschein and weltschmertz and ursprache.
In case you were wondering exactly what happened when Saryn Hooks was reinstated after first being told she had gotten the spelling of hechsher wrong, it turns out that other Bee kids in the audience knew she'd gotten it right and went to the judges with proof -- here's the story from a blogger who was there.