Blogs > Cliopatria > Spelling Bee champions

Feb 14, 2005 3:12 am

Spelling Bee champions

Even without word processing, I would be asking myself this question once a year:

How does spelling bee success correlate to adult professional success, and in what fields?

I'm thinking not just of a single champion per year, but of the top hundreds of kids who learn to spell words that I could not spell and whose meanings I cannot guess.

A cursory search provides no answers. Maybe some enterprising journalist can take this on.

(I'm more interested in actual outcomes than in theoretical skill sets links, but those could be interesting, too.)

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Jeff Vanke - 2/14/2005

I share the hunch that some professional success would match spelling bee success. But I wonder what fields are more commonly pursued and excelled in than others. Maybe Scripps Howard has a good bee alumni database.

Ed Schmitt - 2/14/2005

Attention to detail... We historians are supposed to be good at that.

Tina Braxton - 2/14/2005

I was a spelling bee champ. Of all the spellng bees I entered in my life, I lost only one, and that one intentionally (in third grade--I let my boyfriend win, and he dumped me a few days later). I never studied spelling, but I read almost constantly--usually non-fiction books written for adults.

It's hard to say whether whatever it takes to make a champion speller is conducive to success in academia, or anywhere else. I've worked most of my life at pink-collar jobs, often two at a time. The fact that I couldn't type more than offset my proficiency in spelling, as far as money was concerned. I did excellent work, but that just got me more work to do, not more money for doing it.

I started college when my kids were in high school and eventually made it into grad school. I credit my reading for that. What seems to count here is money, good looks, and family background. Despite my wide reading (in which I'm far ahead of most of my colleagues), I can't get a TA-ship, and will probably finish my Ph.D. without getting any teaching experience. Considering the state of the academic job market, I will be unable to compete, no matter how brilliant my dissertation or how glowing my recommendations.

Jonathan T. Reynolds - 2/14/2005

My esteemed elder insta-brother was a spelling bee champ. He was the Tennessee champion and came in (I think), 12th in the nationals.

I, on the other hand, graduated from high school spelling on a third-grade level. Yet more evidence that he's the smart one and I'M the good-looking one.

Caleb McDaniel - 2/14/2005

I can grudgingly attest to the fact that all the drilling I did for the spelling bee helped me academically with vocabulary and memorization. But I think that's more the "skill set" outcome than the more general one you're talking about.

Mark Shawhan - 2/14/2005

I'm going to take a wild guess (as an erstwhile spelling bee type myself): spelling bee success is positively correlated with academic and professional success. This is so not because of any kind of relationship between excellence in spelling and professional success, but rather because of the correlation between excellence in spelling and interest in words and reading and learning coupled with a certain degree of work ethic, and the correlation between that set of qualities and professional success.

Jonathan Dresner - 2/14/2005

Apparently you're not the only person wondering: one school district cancelled then revived their spelling bee because they weren't sure how a one-winner event fulfilled the mandate to "raise the lowest."

Can't help you on actual research, sorry. Never saw the point of the exercise myself; though I take some pride in my spelling skills, they come from early and extensive reading rather than drills.

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