HomeCommunity IssuesBehind the Indian American Dominance of National Spelling Bee

Behind the Indian American Dominance of National Spelling Bee

spelling bee champ 2013Much has been made of the six straight National Spelling Bee championships won by contestants from the Indian American community.

The victory this week by 13-year old Arvind Mahankali of New York continues a pattern started in 2008, but which really goes back even further than that. Indian Americans have won 10 out of the last 14 championships.

John Chatz in his blog speculates the immigrant emphasis on education may be behind this.

He quotes former English Harvard professor Sharmila Shen from an article in the Wall Street Journal.

“The first generation immigrant parent brings with her/him a set of memories about how education works and what is to be valued. For Indians that is a memory of endless class tests doled out on a regular basis to evaluate our ability to retrieve information – spellings of words, names of world capitals, cash crops of states, length of rivers, height of mountains, and a plethora of minutiae charmingly labeled as General Knowledge.”

But Chatz also speculates that farm leagues that have been set up to groom spelling bee champions in the Indian American community may also be behind the incredible streak.

Known as the North South Foundation, the organization is run by more than a 1,000 volunteers with 75 chapters. It has been running for 20 years with competitions held in spelling, math, science, vocabulary, geography, essay writing, and public speaking.

You can read more about it in John Chatz blog.


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