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Posts Tagged ‘spelling

Context matters.

So does spelling.

To determine what matters, you have to be observant. To change what matters, you have to care enough to do something about it.

I went down a rabbit hole of reading one article after another about spelling bees.

The first article was a generic one about the winner of a recent spelling bee in the USA. That article linked to a second more interesting one about why Indians born or schooled in the USA seemed to dominate spelling bees.

The articles did little to change my answer to the question: Are spelling bees serving any worthwhile purposes today?

My superficial answer is no, not when you can spell check with computing devices. Modern devices even spell check as you type and you can choose to accept, ignore, or get frustrated with suggested spellings.

Digging a bit deeper, my answer is still no. The second article provided some insight into the drills and rote preparation. True to the stereotype, this is the traditional form of studying that Asian parents prefer and students seem to excel at.

The third article revealed how spelling bee coaches could charge up to $200 an hour for their services. This was a warning of the kind of para-schooling industries that spelling bees encourage.

I do not think I am overreaching. We only need look at ourselves and the enrichment tuition industry in Singapore. Outfits big and small, principled or not, are money-making machines. They thrive because drilling, finding workarounds and shortcuts, and depending on formulas are in demand.

Such approaches are contrary to the current rhetoric of going beyond academics, taking risks, learning from failure, and embracing creativity.

The next time you read about a spelling bee held here, think beyond that symptom to the underlying problem we perpetuate by not questioning this practice.

Let me spell it out plainly: Spelling bees are based on old practice and keep us in the past. The future is a journey forward and hanging on to unnecessary luggage slows us down.


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