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I am a spelling freak. Outside of typos (which I admittedly make on this site), I get seriously upset if I spell something wrong. If I’m unsure of a spelling, I have to look it up or use a synonym rather than venture a guess.
I once misspelled “corrugate” in 7th grade, which knocked me out of my middle school Spelling Bee. Not that I’m bitter.
I never “studied” spelling, though. I just tried to take notice of it when I came across new words.
Is it a useful skill? It can be. Learning the roots of words can help you recognize and define them. There’s plenty to be said about how well you learn to pay attention to details.
When I watch the Spelling Bee on TV, I don’t think most of those kids are brainwashed. Sure, they spend a lot of time studying for the Bee in the weeks leading up to competitions, but with that much money and pride on the line, who wouldn’t?
Now… if spelling becomes your life, that’s a different story. If your parents push you to become an errorless speller, that’s pretty scary. I don’t think all those Spelling Bee champions deal with that sort of pressure. The only pressure a lot of them face is the kind they put on themselves.
Maybe you disagree and find spelling at that level completely useless. But with that in mind, check out Meredith Blake‘s dispatch in The Atlantic about the Bible Bee:

This year, over 6,000 contestants took part in more than 150 qualifying bees nationwide. While these numbers pale in comparison to the estimated 11,000,000 who competed in local spelling bees, the Bible Bee has one significant advantage over its secular counterpart: money. The Bible Bee hands out some $260,000 in cash prizes, with $100,000 going to the winner of the top age category. Compare that to the Scripps champion, who takes home a measly $30,000. Given that sort of monetary reward, it’s easy to see why Widdoes predicts the bee will attract some 25,000-30,000 participants next year.
Liesl Lawrence was the ultimate victor at this year’s bee, taking home $100,000 which she plans to use towards college tuition. The 17-year-old from Georgetown, Texas, first learned of the competition through an ad in World magazine, a bi-weekly Christian news magazine. (Sarah Palin’s ghost writer is an editor at the publication.) Over the past six months, Liesl estimates that she practiced an average of three hours a day, memorizing 14 verses five days a week; weekends were for review.

The article also discusses a lot of the similarities and differences between Bible Bee and the Spelling Bee — as well as their overall usefulness.
There are lots of parallels between the two but here’s what I’d like to know:
Do you think the Bible Bee brainwashes children?
Either way, how is it different from the Spelling Bee?

I suppose the Bible Bee has one advantage — kids can always aspire to take over Jack Van Impe‘s job, spouting bullshit and quoting Bible verses in every other sentence… as if they matter.