Those of you following my carping on Twitter last night will have noted how offended I am by ABC’s efforts not only to turn the National Spelling Bee into an American-Idol-style “reality” competition (pop music bumpers! glossy expensively-produced mini profiles on the contestants!) but also to make the kids seem “normal”. As I ranted: They’re not normal! They’ve worked hard! They have whole reference libraries in their brains!

You know what it also reminded me of: beauty pageants. Get all the Miss America contestants together to frolic in the surf in their bikinis together, laughing and giggling, oh those girls: aren’t they just the best of friends? Even though they’re all actually somewhere between incredibly nervous and focused on the next day and wanting to poison the 49 other states to eliminate the competition. So yes, let’s turn the smartest kids in the country into a bunch of empty-headed bimbos. Maybe next year they’ll be wearing glitter. It’s all about making smart people seem less menacing. Menacing!


The Times – Kavya Shivashankar wins US Spelling Bee with ‘Laodicean’

Kavya became the seventh Indian-American in 11 years to claim the title, including back-to-back winners who want to be neurosurgeons. Her role model is the 1999 winner Nupur Lala, who was featured in the documentary Spellbound and is now a research assistant in the brain and cognitive sciences laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Now, isn’t that more interesting than knowing that the blond kid’s favourite band is They Might Be Giants?