EDITORIAL: Why are Indians the best spellers?

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Ansun Sujoe, left, and Sriram Hathwar get a ticker tape celebration after winning the National Spelling Bee. (Photo by Mark Bowen/SNSB)

Thirteen of the last 17 Scripps National Spelling Bee winners, including eight in the last seven years, have been Indian Americans.

This raises many predictable questions and reactions, the first of which is: Why are kids of Indian descent such good spellers?

The answer of course is the same reason why anybody is good at anything — practice. Any Internet research into the topic will yield more and more answers that become less and less interesting with each click. Like other Asian American groups, they study hard. Like other Asian groups, they have a strong work ethic, and consistent family support. Many are the children of high-skilled tech immigrants who instill the importance of education in their children. Etc., etc.

Good for the winners. Kids who work and study hard have earned their well-deserved victories. They reap the benefits of their dedication, and bring joy to their families. They represent the dream of future success that all Americans have for their children.
Representing the nightmare of future failure are some of the racially tinged responses to these American kids’ achievements, evidenced, as all things are, on Twitter.

“We need an american (sic) to win this spelling bee.”

“The kids in the spelling bee should only be AMERICAN.”

“Shocking that neither of the Spelling bee champs have names that sound American.” This last tweet from a ‘Grant Moore,’ whose Twitter feed also contains such gems as “There’s no way Owen Wilson gets that girl from wedding crashers, he does not pull” and “Anchorman 2 greatly exceeded my expectations” and “Watching the Grinch instead of studying for finals” and “This new south park episode might be the most racist one ever. And I love it.”

Obviously, Mr. Moore should, and mostly does, leave commenting on issues of intelligence to the intelligent.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee has been going on since 1925. The names of the participants throughout the years have changed just as America has changed over the course of the last century. The spelling bee is open to anyone. The first winner was named Neuhauser. Is that American enough? The most recent non-Indian winner was named O’Dorney. Is that more American? People need to stop fretting over how American Americans are, and go out and get good at something. Win a prize and make your country proud of you and your “American” name. (end)

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