This is a statement that I didn’t think that I would really ever be saying other than a few mock spelling bees that I had participated and hadn’t ever gotten closure on because they died out.
However, to the disappointment of many, many major spelling bees have been either outright canceled (Scripps National Spelling Bee) or postponed indefinitely (South Asian Spelling Bee). It certainly is understandable, with everything that’s going on right now. That, however, doesn’t change the fact that it is really unfortunate that many spellers aren’t getting the opportunity to experience those spelling bees.
The loss of a spelling bee is more than not being able to compete in a competition and not getting a trophy. It’s the loss of an experience that lasts beyond the week at Gaylord. It’s the loss of years of work and hours put into learning. It’s the friendships that remain even when people are hundreds of miles apart. It is true that the skills and knowledge gained can’t be taken away from the spellers that have worked so hard but that doesn’t change the fact they aren’t able to put it to use in that one singular event.
Spellers are prepared to lose, to get that one word that they don’t know or can’t figure out, to get nervous on stage and to have the jitters. Those are all almost expected, and there are things that can be done to help work around those. This pandemic and the cancellation of something seen as almost a constant (almost 60 continuous years of Scripps) have blindsided a lot of people.
Online spelling bees are a small step towards that sense of closure in terms of spelling and it is commendable what people have come up with. I’d like to congratulate all of the spellers that participated in the Spell Pundit bee and I thought that it was run rather well. However, it is very difficult to recreate that same environment, those same amazing feelings of just seeing so many people like you and getting to know people from all over the world.
Other than the fact that that a bee is wholly online, there are a few more issues as well. There of course is the issue of cheating during those bees and it is startlingly easy to come up with methods that could be employed to give a speller an easy way out. However, I don’t believe that this is going to be much of an issue going forwards. There’s quite literally nothing to be gained by cheating during a spelling bee so I think it makes a lot of arguments against online spelling bees essentially moot.