For a while there, it didn’t look as though Mississippi would have a champion to send to the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Since 1925, states have sent their champion spellers to the national event with the support of a sponsor to cover the cost of the state spelling bee.
But this year’s county and state spelling bees were put in jeopardy when the Mississippi Association of Educators, the state’s long-time sponsor, pulled its sponsorship because of budget issues.
Wilson Beck, president of the Columbus-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce, led the effort to find a new sponsor. Thanks to Beck’s leadership, both the 2021 Lowndes County and the state spelling bees will be held on the Mississippi University for Women campus.
The Dispatch has agreed to sponsor Mississippi’s state spelling bee for a couple of good reasons.
First, we understand the value of proper spelling and hate the idea that Mississippi would be the first state not to send someone to the national spelling bee. Mississippi is one of 21 states which has yet to claim a national spelling bee champion, and you can’t win without entering. So, we’re hoping that this year may finally be the year Mississippi joins the ranks of national champions.
After all, Mississippians should be great at spelling if for no other reason than our state’s name is the most difficult of all the states to spell — even for adults.
Yet Mississippi kids are taught how to spell “Mississippi” in first grade, and if our six-year-olds can spell “Mississippi,” they should be able to spell most any word. We should expect to be good at this competition in the same way we would expect Alaskans to be good at shoveling snow.
There is another reason The Dispatch felt obliged to sponsor our state spelling bee.
We view it as an act of contrition/penance for almost a hundred years worth of misspelled words printed in the pages of The Dispatch.
When you consider the thousands of words printed in each edition, it’s likely there is at least one misspelled word in today’s paper (hopefully not in this editorial, though). It is, as the saying goes, an occupational hazard, and discovering these spelling crimes and misdemeanors has become something of a hobby for some readers.
They keep us on our toes, certainly, and the embarrassment we feel on those occasions serves to strengthen our resolve to pay closer attention to such details. We do not have a cavalier attitude about spelling. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak sometimes.
Sad to say, but retired English teachers and George Hazard don’t live forever, so sponsoring the national spelling bee is our way of encouraging good spelling right here in our communities, thus creating new generations of unpaid quality-control experts.
In this age of social media — where it appears there is little emphasis devoted to proper spelling — there are some who say spelling isn’t everything.
As Andrew Johnson, our 17th President, once observed, “It’s a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word.”
Of course, we note that Johnson never attended school and was the first President to be impeached, so there’s that.
The view of one failed President notwithstanding, we believe that spelling is important. If anyone should recognize the importance of spelling, it’s us.
For those reasons, we are honored to sponsor this year’s state spelling bee and are appreciative to Beck, the chamber Education Committee, Mississippi University for Women President Nora Miller, Derek Rogers at WCBI, Lois Kappler at Mississippi State University, representatives of the Mississippi Association of Educators and others who all came together to make it possible.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.