A contest requiring people to spell words aloud (probably more difficult than writing them down correctly). If one person misspells the word they are given, the next person usually has a chance to try to spell it correctly; thus one difficult word can eliminate several contestants.

The 73rd Annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee on Thursday was ultimately reduced to three stubborn kids. The finalists all had different backgrounds and interests, and came from different parts of the country. But all three did have one striking thing in common:

They were home schoolers. And with the home-schooled population growing so fast (there are at least 1.7 million in America, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association), it's become really hard to find opponents of home education who will openly criticize the movement.

Except, that is, for the National Education Association.

In section B-67 of their 1999-2000 Official Resolutions, the NEA repeated the same bullshit that they've been relying on for the past two decades:

"National Education Association believes that home schooling programs cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience... Instruction should be by persons who are licensed by the appropriate state education licensure agency, and a curriculum approved by the state department of education should be used. The Association also believes that home-schooled students should not be allowed to participate in any extracurricular activities in the public school system."

What a progressive organization that is, eh? Thanks, NEA, for single-handedly screwing up three entire generations of kids. So far . . .

Spelling bees are especially relevant for the English language, because its spelling is so highly non-phonetic. (I remember one grade-school teacher illustrating this by writing "PHOTI" on the chalkboard and informing the class that, given the wacky behavior of English pronunciation, it could even spell "fish" -- his (?) explanation was something like

"PH" as in "phoneme"
"O" as in "women," and
"TI" as in "pronunciation."

As a 2x former local spelling-bee champ, and 1x county spelling-bee champ, I must say I have mixed feelings about them. Like most talents, a photographic memory for spellings is something that is more luck than work, and so I personally felt strange at getting credit for something I had as much to do with as having brown hair. Also, success in a spelling bee, in such an anti-geek environment as rural Ohio was in my youth, was a mixed blessing. I really did feel a bit like a freak, though proud at the same time.
Note that ability to spell need not correlate with strong abilities in other seemingly related areas, nor does it imply strong "normal" intelligence. I was, for example, an ADD child, and in the practice round of the first spelling bee in which I participated (where I went on to beat the county round), I misspelled the word "nail." (As "nial").

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