Spelling bees are almost always awkward. Even if you're good at spelling, there's little good that come of a kid in their gangly pre-teen years standing alone in front of a full classroom trying to be smart and look cool. Add live national television to the mix, and Stefan Fatsis wonders if it crosses the line from education to exploitation:
Kids stammer, tug at their hair, and display preadolescent tics that are hard enough to manage in front of malicious middle-school classmates let alone a nation of living-room critics, sportswriters, and live bloggers. In 2004, a 13-year-old named Akshay Buddiga famously fainted during a turn. The YouTube video is shocking — not because Akshay gets up and spells "alopecoid" correctly but because not a single person rushes to his side. "Stop the clock," one judge says in an unalarmed, schoolmarmy voice. When Akshay rises, the judge says — without any way of possibly knowing — "He's all right." As if.
The rest of his piece is in the Daily Beast today.