Tomorrow morning, 9:30 am, at the Regional High School's Performing Arts Center, champion spellers from Island elementary schools, the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School, and the home school community will compete in the Vineyard's Island-wide Spelling Bee.
As the Vineyard sponsor of the Island Bee, the Times underwrites the program that leads to one Island student traveling to Washington, D.C. in late May to compete in the National Spelling Bee.
Tomorrow's Bee will be the fifteenth that The Times has underwritten. It is one of the most rewarding contributions that this newspaper makes. I mean, rewarding to us.
This is spelling bee season nationwide. The Times joins 267 other community-minded daily and weekly newspapers serving English-speaking populations around the world in what is the largest and longest-running international effort to promote education. The E.W. Scripps Company organizes the competition as a non-profit undertaking. The Times joins in because the demanding effort to promote learning and academic excellence among English speakers means a lot to us as employers, parents, and community members.
According to Scripps Howard, the Louisville Courier-Journal started the event with nine contestants in 1925. In 1941, Scripps Howard assumed sponsorship of the program. There was no Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee during the World War II years of 1943, 1944, and 1945. Co-champions were declared in 1950, 1957, and 1962. Of the 77 champions, 42 are girls and 35 are boys.
The purpose of the National Spelling Bee, according to Scripps Howard, derived from a broad and commonly held understanding.
"Business men, editors and educators generally agree that graduates of high schools and colleges are less competent in spelling than in any of the fundamental subjects such as arithmetic, geography and English. The Spelling Bee introduces competition among individuals who aspire to grade championships, establishes class and school spirit in the contests between grade winners and school champions and instills ambition not only in the best spellers who win the Washington trips, but among the thousands of boys and girls who, falling short of championships, resolve to better their standings in the next match.
"The sponsoring newspapers recognize the National Spelling Bee as a valuable educational project to be run only in strictest cooperation with school authorities. It has been said that propaganda teaches children what to think, while educators propose to teach them how to think.
"The Spelling Bee, as conducted by member newspapers, gives children an incentive to study a fundamental, uninteresting subject, but it neither tries to teach them what to spell nor how to spell."
But I mustn't do the Bee a disservice. This is not dry stuff. This is as exciting as a championship hockey game. The students, parents, teachers, and friends in the audience tomorrow morning will enjoy a thrilling couple of hours. I have never understood how the champion spellers stand up to the difficulty, the excitement, and the pressure.
The contestants tomorrow are Emerson Mahoney, a 4th grader at the Chilmark School; Riley Donegan an 8th grader at the Tisbury School; Chris Pitt an 8th grader at the Edgartown School; Tyler Shapiro a 7th grader at the Oak Bluffs School; Anna Hughes, an 8th grader at the Charter School; Franklin Pilcher, a home school student; and Ian Tripp, an 8th grader from the West Tisbury School.
It's a morning of cheers, whoops, applause, and groans - this is intellectual competition to be sure, but it is not soporific. Tomorrow's Bee will get your juices flowing. Join us.
The Spelling Bee will be broadcast live on MVTV, cable Channel 14.