The fact that the young contestants “broke” the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee, resulting in an eight-way tie, should be a cause for celebration, not a call for reforming the competition, Pawan Dhingra, professor of American Studies, writes in the New York Times.
“Eight adolescents kept beating the dictionary until it, in the form of [the bee’s pronouncer Jacques] Bailly, gave up, and they were all declared co-champions,” Dhingra writes.
“Is this acceptable? Shouldn’t a national championship be able to figure out how to winnow the field to one person or team? … But a spelling bee is not like any other competition. This is one case where multiple winners are actually something to be celebrated, or at least allowed.”
“Young people have enough spaces in which they must outcompete one another for prized goods,” he continued. “Youth stress is a growing pandemic, creating significant mental health concerns. Why not allow for competitive spaces that recognize sometimes more than one person is the best, rather than reserving that for a singular person? If there is one venue that is best suited for multiple winners, it is the spelling bee.”