I believed it when I was fifteen and I believe it now decades later. Grammar is Fascist and spelling should be optional. Punctuation is alright as long as nobody tells you what you can and can’t do with it. It’s like making kids learn to play and listen to boring music. No eight year old should ever want to go to the orchestra and if I had my way no kids would be subjected to spelling bees either. After all, if the Vice President doesn’t have to know how to spell than no one else should have to either.
If I was responsible for the future success and happiness of a child, I would see it as my sworn duty to keep him or her away from the abuse that is the spelling bee. Kids are very impressionable and everything must be done to spare the core of their innocence from the dulling prison of the world of spelling bees no matter how many Apple Powerbooks they threaten to give away to the winners. Spelling Bees lead to footnotes which lead to Latin which leads to forever becoming a loser in life. I haven’t done the amount of required research that spelling fans would probably insist on, but I feel pretty safe in saying that neither James Dean, Elvis Presley or Paul Newman ever participated in much less won a spelling bee. The only cool historical figure ever to participate in a spelling bee was Charlie Brown and he was cool in a “but I sure wouldn’t want to be him” kind of way. If you stick your child in a spelling bee you are dooming them to a life of endless unhappiness barren of any spark of wonder, creativity and joy.
I’m guessing that of my forty favorite words about half of them aren’t even in the dictionary. Spelling bee kids aren’t even allowed to think about those words. Where would America be if someone told Chuck Berry there were no such words as motorvating or coolerater? What horrors would we be susceptible to if artists like Bob Dylan and Louis Armstrong hadn’t been allowed to use the word ain’t for the last eighty years? Nowhere I want to hang that’s for sure.
Ask your kids. They know the truth. Every white kid in America wants to be a black rapper and if there is anything a black rapper hates it’s spelling. A rapper would rather let you steal his woman or play with his guns than spell a word properly. Here’s the ticket. Rappers know what they are talking about. Aside from the lifestyle issues, if your kid is listening to rap you should encourage it. Go out and buy him or her the explicit version of his favorite CD so he doesn’t look like a punk in school. Rappers have fun with words and that’s what they’re there for. They bend them, shorten them, mix them together with names they dig like Van Damme or Stymie. Rappers pronounce words in new, amusing and sly ways. That’s who I want my kids hanging with. I am forever of the belief that you can get a kid interested in anything if you start it off with something they like. When I was a kid I went from Muhammud Ali to Malcolm X to Jimi Hendrix to Miles Davis to Duke Ellington. Eventually, I would even got around to some William Shakespeare. Sadly too many people think it is better to start off with William Shakespeare, which often leads to never finishing another book without pictures ever again in your life.
Sure, if you must lock your kids into their rooms and have them try to memorize the exact spelling of every word in the English language, when at worst the best that modern post spell checker life necessitates is that you come reasonably close. Why are your kids mindless, unquestioning automatons? Because you made them waste their time memorizing exactly how to spell every word for the rest of their lives.
Go ahead encourage your kids not to use words that they can’t spell. Modern spell checkers teach kids the proper spelling of words through their corrections. I’m guessing outside of the spelling bee world the kids that know the most words are the kids that spelled the most words incorrectly when they typed up their essay on Life in the Victorian World.
Kids like to ask why and that’s a good thing. Why do we have to learn to spell? Because a really old book associated with some guy named Webster says so. The only question a spelling bee kid is ever going to ask in school is “Are we going to be graded on this?” and we all know what a drag those guys were.
In spelling bee, it’s more important to know how to spell a word than it is to know what it means. What nonsense Bizarro world came up with that notion. Spelling Bees are backwards. The judges should spell out the words and the kids should have to find a way to use them in a sentence. What’s the point of knowing how to spell a word you’ve never heard before and never will hear again? Let’s look at two scenarios following the request to spell the word “consanguinity.”
Scenario One: Your child has memorized the word by wasting tons of time that could have been spent actually reading a book with ideas in it that contains words he’ll eventually actually use.
Scenario Two: Your child guesses, which is as productive as figuring out how many jellybeans could fit into the Washington Monument. My kid is skipping the guess the jellybeans classes!
Right about now your English teacher is telling you some nonsense about how even abstract painters had to start out by learning how to draw and paint realistically. As if Jackson Pollack or Andy Warhol could fix up the Sistine Chapel if worst came to worst. If it is with my last dying breath, the one thing I’ll forever hold to be true is that dictionaries were never made to be read straight through from the beginning to the end.