Friday, May 31, 2013

You can steal?

So, a few things. Won't go into too many revealing details (I hope), but I've tipped my hand too far before, and in vino veritas, so why not?

Arvind Mahankali: Very, very deserving winner this year...none more so. Major kudos and respect to him.

Last few words: As per usual, slightly arbitrary. First "cyanophycean" (as a noun, no less), then two words later, "knaidel" to wrap it up? (Not quite on the level of "luge," but we've been blessed with tougher winning words over the years. Obvs, not Arvind's fault.)

German: Finally pwned. "Jugendstil" and "schwannoma" - and for that matter, the whole German language - can eat it. I only wish Arvind had said so before he launched into "knaidel." It would have been poetic justice. But there's ice in that man's iron veins. (And yes, I said man. His voice dropped like an octave over the past year.)

Pranav Sivakimar: Very deserving runner-up. Confidence in spades...and the goods to back it up, too.

Sriram Hathwar: Very glad to see him back in the finals where he belongs. Great showing. Watch out for him next year.

Vismaya Kharkar: Holy root knowledge, Batman! She was AWESOME. Even (or maybe especially) on her last word, she showed nonpareil navigation skills...and was still ruthlessly felled by the almighty schwa. Major respect to her.

Vanya Shivashankar: Charming, adorable, and totally in her element. Or as she puts it, simpatico. Arguably the crowd favorite. A future title is inevitable. (I mean, c'mon...her older sister, a former champion, is her coach! Yowza.)

Amber Born: LOVE LOVE LOVE. The other crowd favorite. She wants to be a comedian or a comic writer? Consider her career begun. I can already see agents offering her contracts...and she hasn't hit high school yet. Oh, and yeah, awesome speller, if that wasn't obvious.

Grace Remmer: Awesome, awesome showing, felled by a tough one. Props to Arvind for having the class to say on ESPN he would not have known her word, either.

And now, for the un-PC, potentially offensive portion of tonight's broadcast...(read it while you can, may be taken down at some point)

I'm thrilled that the bee this year recognized awesome talent, as it always does. And I have no question that, as I stated above, the winner and runner-up - and all other high placers, for that matter - were very deserving. Obviously, there's a lot of talent from Indian-Americans. (And I feel comfortable saying that these are mostly, if not all, first-generation Indian-Americans, too...all of their parents have moved from India or points close by, and speak with a pronounced accent.) At least as far as spelling goes, a major line has been drawn. Both last year and this year, the top three were Indian-American; this year, only 2 out of the top 9 were not Indian-American. Folks, these are observations, nothing more.

And now for the judgments. I think that the Indian Americans I've seen in action and have worked with are doing something really right here. They have their heads screwed on right. (Maybe a bit too right in some cases, but their ambition is admirable, and their hearts are in the right place.) In contrast, a few months ago, my mother said that a family friend's daughter had made it to the oral rounds in the state bee. I offered up my services...well, via proxy, at least...but my mother shot my offer down, saying, "Oh, you're probably out of their price range." Really? I know these people...if they're family friends, they're not hurting for money. (This is the rarefied air my parents and their friends inhabit.) Besides, I've been working with kids whose parents are actually hurting for money, yet they still somehow find it worth their while to scrounge up the money to pay me to further their kids' education. And I very worthwhile, tangible ways that will pay off tremendously for years to come.

The potentially racist part? I'd like to see a bee that doesn't act as a kind of surrogate North-South Foundation bee. (This is the bee series that is only open to those of Indian-American descent and similar. Think Sri Lankan or perhaps Bangladeshi.) At some point, I'm certain the kids up there are thinking, "Hey...this is just like the bee that will take place a few months down the road!" The non Indian-Americans need to step it up somehow. And I don't mean this in a "beat the Indians" kind of way. But Indian-Americans, as I said up above, are doing great and in many ways, setting the standard nowadays for academic excellence. And this bleeds into excellence in many other areas of life. Why can't the rest of the populace do the same?

Count 'em: Four (nah, five) kids are waiting to work with me for 2014. Two Three Indian-Americans (including a brother-sister combo), one Asian-American, and one...damn, can I actually say two? Caucasians are wanting to work with me to prepare for next year's bee. So maybe that's six. Maybe I'm a, I'll own it. I'm quite biased, but seriously? This competition teaches a hell of a lot more than just memorizing words. Want to learn how to conduct yourself gracefully under pressure? How to think on your feet? How to behave appropriately when you have microphones shoved at you by reporters wanting that perfect 5-second sound bite? These are all extremely applicable skills in life. Sitting in class won't teach you these things. Speech will. Debate will. Drama will. Performing arts will. Journalism will. Many sports will. But many (not all) of those experiences take place in high school, after the realm of the spelling bee. Want a really, really awesome head start? That's where rare folks like me come into play.

I have more to say (vocabulary, anyone?), but this will suffice for tonight. Bed, bed, perchance to sleep...


( we can add another motivated brother/sister combo to the list, as of a few hours ago. Make that a full EIGHT kids. I've worked with them before and adore them, and no, their parents are not swimming in money, but boy, do they have their hearts in the right place. Maybe I should contemplate quitting my day job and just become a full-time coach or something.)


BeeFan said...

Great comments! I've been thinking today about the way the 18 semifinalists were whittled down to the 11 finalists. To me the test is fair since all the kids get the same words (except 2 vocab words), but I'm not sure what the best way is to handle the "transition procedure" from semis to finals. It was a problem a few years ago and I think it's still a problem.

Hypothetically, what if only 13 kids were left on the stage after round 6, meaning only 1 will be left sitting on the stage and medal-less, clapping for the 12 other medal-clad finalists? There'd probably be an outcry.

For one, I think they shouldn't waste kids' time with taking the test if they aren't going to qualify anyway. So have the semifinalists spell on stage for a couple of rounds, and then the survivors can take the test to see who moves on to the Finals. For another thing, I'm not sure it was a good idea to announce the Finalists while the kids were still sitting on stage, complete with medal ceremony.

Hmm, that's another thing, the medals and the "medal ceremony." I'm ambivalent about those. Was this the first year for that?

BeeFan said...

I forgot to ask, what do you think is the best way to handle the transition from semis to finals (the test, announcing finalists, etc.), the medals, etc.? Also, what are your thoughts on the vocab portion?

Uncle Spike said... commentary on the bee beyond my blogposts. You'll have to find my other website for more incisive posts. This is just where I can be more unreserved and less professional about my opinions.