When she was in fifth grade, Heather won her school's spelling bee. It was a significant accomplishment—the competition was stiff—and we were proud of her.
Imagine how Edith Fuller's parents feel. The homeschooled five-year-old from Oklahama won the regional championship spelling bee and on May 30 will be competing in Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC. The contest is for children through eighth grade. Here she is in action.
This Slate article takes a positive, if somewhat mocking tone, but asks, Why?
Spelling bees have a certain poignancy that, say, a science fair lacks. Being a good speller is like having beautiful handwriting or being an excellent seamstress: It’s impressive, but it’s almost totally unnecessary for most 21st-century adults. If STEM is the future, spelling feels like the past.
To which I must respond, Why basketball? Why golf? Why the Olympics? If the significance of spelling bees, and of spelling as a skill, are questioned "in the age of spell-check," what's the point of knowing knowing how to throw a javelin or to jump long and high in these days when we don't need to hunt for our food and escape cave bears?
It's possible to overdo anything, of course, and not everyone will find it worthwhile to attain Olympic or spelling bee champion status. But developing the mind and body is its own justification.