Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Spelling Bee or Memorization Test?

Have you ever watched the National Spelling Bee?  Pretty phenomenal watching the kids spell some pretty amazing words.  I am certain long hours were spent on the part of every contestant memorizing long lists of words known to be included in the overall list of words.

As I listened to the latest contest, I wondered how many of the words the kids were spelling were words the kids could fully define.  Seems to me that the contest is really a big exercise in memorization rather than a contest that brings about an explosion in the vocabulary of all the contestants. 

Imagine what would happen if the National Spelling Bee required that each child spelled the word and then provided at least 1 definition of the word and a sample sentence using the word correctly.  The vocabulary increase of every child would be enormous.  Perhaps the slaughter of English as I learned it would be slowed as children all over the country would be learning the meaning of lots of words rather than just memorizing the spelling list.

Sadly, I do not see this ever happening.  Our current school systems focus on “memorize and regurgitate” rather than “understand and apply.”  The current Spelling Bee format is a game of the latter when it ought to be a game of the former. 

If it were possible to draft an open challenge to the current Spelling Bee system, then I would gladly issue the challenge but alas, the school systems in the US are not interested in students being able to think.  Their system of measurement is strictly based on memorization.

What do you think?  Would you like to see The National Spelling Bee changed to become the National Vocabulary Contest?