With close to a 100-years-old history, the Scripps National Spelling Bee can be considered an American institution. While the idea of studying the dictionary and memorizing lists of words might not grab you the competition, boasting both prestige and sizable cash prizes, proves attractive to many.
It is worth pondering what it says about our society that last year’s Bee was canceled for COVID when previously the only missed years since 1925 were during World War II, but that isn’t my focus today. Since the color of people’s skin is being elevated, noted, focused on, and highlighted endlessly today as we march boldly backward, promoting racist attitudes, I was struck by a picture of the winners of the 2019 contest. Unlike earlier years that produced one winner, or possibly a tie between two contestants, 2019 saw an unprecedented eight youngsters grab the title. Take a look at the winners’ proud faces yourself, and you will see that seven of the eight are dark-complexioned. While Erin and Christopher carry what might be called typical American names, the other winners were Shruthika, Saketh, Rishik, Sohum, Rohan, and Abhijay. In fact, seven of the winners are the children of immigrants to the United States from India.
In a piece titled, The Immigrant Paradox: Why Are Children of Immigrants Doing Better? Dr. Leonard Sax (whose books I strongly recommend) highlights this point. He posits three reasons that children of immigrants are excelling today, while children born in America are doing less and less well. He avoids the cultural third rail by not discussing legal vs. illegal immigration or dividing immigrants into their countries of origin. That does matter though, as each group comes to this country with a cultural background, and only some of those backgrounds promote the ideas he extolls. A little research, as well as personal experience, tells me that immigrants from many Asian countries, from many countries in Africa, and from India are indeed excelling. Meanwhile, American kids are increasingly depressed and uneducated (perhaps schooled, but uneducated). It is noteworthy that the seven spelling bee winners were immigrants from only one country, not a diverse group. Nonetheless, Dr. Sax’s points are worth noting.
When you read about rising rates of anxiety, lowering rates of literacy and math competency, and moral confusion among American children, it’s important to remember that this is a crisis from which not every country is suffering. What is more, it is a crisis that we are choosing for our youth, not one that is preordained.
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