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January 28, 2005

No Clue Educators Cancel Spelling Bee

Now I have to tell you – I’ve always hated spelling bees. Maybe it has something to do with the order of the “e” & “s” in the word “does.” Back when I was a fifth grader in Mrs. Buchanan’s 5th grade class at Oak View Elementary School (this must have been 1973 or 1974). But I don’t see them as iniquitous. I certainly don’t find them to be antithetical to the mission of education.

Apparently they do in Lincoln, Rhode Island. School officials there have cancelled the annual spelling bee, a qualifying event for the national spelling bee, on the grounds that it is incompatible with the No Child Left Behind Act.

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Linda Newman said the decision to scuttle the event was reached shortly after the January 2004 bee in a unanimous decision by herself and the district’s elementary school principals.

The administrators decided to eliminate the spelling bee, because they feel it runs afoul of the mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

"No Child Left Behind says all kids must reach high standards," Newman said. "It’s our responsibility to find as many ways as possible to accomplish this."

The administrators agreed, Newman said, that a spelling bee doesn’t meet the criteria of all children reaching high standards -- because there can only be one winner, leaving all other students behind.

"It’s about one kid winning, several making it to the top and leaving all others behind. That’s contrary to No Child Left Behind," Newman said.

A spelling bee, she continued, is about "some kids being winners, some kids being losers."

As a result, the spelling bee "sends a message that this isn’t an all-kids movement," Newman said.

Uh… yeah. Allowing a couple of kids to shine is a violation of the law? Competition is unhealthy because it means there are winners and losers? Competition doesn’t encourage excellence? Are you nuts? What on earth do you think is the point of sports?

Oh, that’s right – you believe in that quasi-communist viewpoint that letting people win is unfair because it hurts the self-esteem of others. Any success which allows one to rise above one’s peers must actively be discouraged.

Furthermore, professional organizations now frown on competition at the elementary school level and are urging participation in activities that avoid winners, Newman said. That’s why there are no sports teams at the elementary level, she said as an example.

The emphasis today, she said, is on building self-esteem in all students.

"You have to build positive self-esteem for all kids, so they believe they’re all winners," she said. "You want to build positive self-esteem so that all kids can get to where they want to go."

A spelling bee only benefits a few, not all, students, the elementary principals and Newman agreed, so it was canceled.

Incredible -- makes me ashamed to work in the same profession.






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