Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Miss America vs. the Spelling Bees

A few weeks ago, I complained on this blog that spelling bees gave a false impression of what intelligence is. That may be true, but on the other hand, they're getting some amazing attention of late. USA Today has an interesting piece today pointing out that, this year, while ABC dropped the Miss America pageant, it is broadcasting the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in prime time. Clearly, something has happened when a major network decrees that letter-slinging 12-year-olds make better TV than swimsuit-clad co-eds.

I have a theory on this. The Miss America pageant has turned viewers off these past few years by becoming horribly confused. It's not really a "beauty pageant" anymore, it's a "scholarship contest." So the contestants wind up being pretty, but not too pretty, talented, but not too talented (they can't be professional performers), and they have to feign interest in the most politically correct causes imaginable. The girls are smart, but they're not judged on their academic prowess. Who wants to watch that?

On the other hand, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has no such confusion. Candidates win by spelling words correctly. Anyone can figure that out. I compare it to the Miss USA pageant, which is pretty much all about looks. Miss USA has seen its TV ratings rise of late, and so has the spelling bee. Are you all tuning in to the spell-down finals on June 1?

No comments: