Friday, June 1, 2012

I KNOW IT HURTS TO LOSE. I'VE BEEN THERE:  On his new blog, Samir Patel recaps this week's Bee, and has a message for the runners-up:
To be honest, there are very few instances where I buy into the "everyone's a champion" approach to kids' competitions. In athletic events, ninety nine percent of the time, the winning team is the one that played better on that day. It's a level playing field. However, it's important to keep in mind that the NSB is not [big capital N-O-T] a level playing field, and it never will be or can be. No matter how much analysis is put into the wordlist in an attempt to keep words at an equal difficulty level, the truth is that the difficulty is subjective. Every round has "knockout words" and "easy words." Consequently, placing in position [N minus 1] doesn't necessarily make you a lesser speller than the person who placed in position [N], and conversely, placing in position [N] doesn't necessarily make you a better speller than the person who placed in position [N minus 1]
That's an important thought to keep in mind both when lauding the winner and the other spellers. Rankings shouldn't be blown out of proportion, because when it comes to the National Spelling Bee, everyone really is a champion. Spellers stand head and shoulder above most of their classmates in terms of dedication, persistence, and work ethic, and those qualities will undoubtedly allow them to achieve even greater success in the future.
This summer, Samir will roll out "a Carolyn's Corner style National Spelling Bee preparation advice column for aspiring spellers, 100% absolutely free." Awesome.


  1. The Pathetic Earthling11:14 AM

    Samir is the awesome.

  2. Nupur1:47 PM

    This should be required reading for all kids entering a spelling bee. And really, the biggest rewards of spelling bee competition are in the intangibles that stay with everyone who put in the time and work in this competition. It's hard for spellers to see now but they'll barely remember their cash prize or who made it on Conan that year. They now know that they have the ability to work in spite of uncertain reward and I can think of very few qualities that are more predictive of success. For the reasons Samir articulated so beautifully, there are also few competitions that teach that lesson more thoroughly than spelling bees.

  3. Samir Patel2:00 PM

    Aww, thanks.

    Editorial note: after further reflection, it seems I should've used "N plus 1" as opposed to "N minus 1," as lower rankings [say, 3rd vs 6th] supposedly correlate to higher achievement.  It seems I can do quantum mechanics and vector calculus, but elementary mathematics eludes me.  =Þ.