Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Children and competition


Competition weighs down heavily at the Spelling Bee (photo courtesy: tree and j hendshill)

I love watching the Spelling Bee. Its nerve-racking, exciting, and yet I really feel for the kids. But who pushes them? Is competition at that level really good for them??

This weekend, I saw the critically acclaimed documentary Spellbound (highly recommended), a film that follows six kids from extremely different ethnic and demographic backgrounds as they compete for the National Spelling Bee in the United States. I was absolutely surprised. The children were often extremely self motivated (rather than being pushed by their families); and deeply cared about doing well. Often they did it because they cared about the material and it gave them something to strive for.

Competitions like these are equally critical for children living in poorer countries. They need something to strive for and be a part of; and they need to have the chance to be around kids like themselves. Universities often give them that, but I wonder if it comes too late. Shouldn't we want to capture a kid's interest before they head to university?? Shouldn't the poor kids of India, China, and Sub-Saharan Africa who so desperately need some hope to cling to be given the chance to meet and compete in events like this??

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