In our last article on this topic, we outlined some pros of joining a spelling bee. We covered the outcomes of English-speaking Canadian kids joining spelling bee contests in both Canada and the U.S.A.
And, like with all subjects on giving our kids the best education possible, there are many points to debate. In this article, we’ll cover the other side of the spelling bee argument – the cons.
The cons of spelling bee competitions
Regardless of country, opposition to English-language spelling bees can be summarized as the following arguments:
They challenge kids to learn words that they will never use again, and that have no meaning or prevalence outside of the spelling bee context
As this opinion column quotes, spelling bee competitions contain “Words known only to people with two Ph.D.’s. Words used only by extremely fanchonette academics and, of course, slobberhannes newspaper columnists who drop them into their prose for a lame joke.”
Spelling bees create immeasurable standards to determine a winner
Some say they create unfair competition, since the difficulty level of words that kids have to spell is relative and hard to measure. The kids may also be assigned words that they happened to study, or not. So there is some ‘luck’ involved, which may not be a true test of skill.
Pronouncing words can be based on accents, which makes spelling bees confusing
Pronunciation can throw off a contestant. Some words are pronounced based on accents from other languages. And sometimes, one region of a country pronounces a word differently than another region.
Spelling bees can put kids on the spot, and make failure a dooming experience
It’s true, spelling bees can embarrass kids who get the answers wrong, potentially. Though, this is contested (like all points in this article), as spelling bees are competition, like any other sport. Though, since the American Scripps National Spelling Bee is televised, that can make the fall harder to recover from.
Spelling bees don’t actually teach language skills, if that is their end goal
Literacy involves more than memorizing words, and takes actually reading and using words.
When it comes to Canadian kids and spelling bee contests, the choice is theirs, we say!
While we have identified pros and cons to spelling bee contests in Canada, in the end, it is the child who gets to decide whether they want to participate. Like any other passion or extracurricular activity, the spelling bee is just one of many to pick from. Some kids will like sports, some piano or guitar, and others will be obsessed with geography or space. We say, let them take their pick. Spelling bees are a great competitive activity that can benefit some. To others, the possibility of public failure, a learning disability, or some other setback may make spelling bees a horror to think about. And that’s ok! The choice is theirs, we say!