I welcome the change coming to the Scripps National Spelling Bee:
For the first time since it began in 1927, the contest is requiring young spellers in preliminary and semifinal rounds to take a vocabulary test. Organizers say it is part of the Bee’s commitment to deepening contestants’ command of English.
Since 2002, a written or computer spelling test has been a component that, along with onstage spelling, factored in determining which spellers advanced to the semi-finals.
This year, competitors will advance to the semi-finals and finals based on their onstage spelling, as well as computer-based spelling and vocabulary questions. Vocabulary evaluation will count for half of a speller’s overall score.
Why? Because while being able to spell well is an excellent skill, it is, ultimately, a short-sighted one. Deep knowledge begins with knowing what the word means.
Claire Barliant reflects on the art of browsing books, and finding what you didn’t know what you were looking for in a book next to the one you were searching for:
Along with embossed hardcovers or tattered paperbacks, the “book beside the book” will soon seem quaint. You know the feeling: searching for something specific and stumbling on another book you’ve been curious about, then finding yourself, almost involuntarily, leaning against a wall or sinking onto a footstool, happily giving up the next half hour of your life. I’m sure some people think of browsing as an invitation to distraction, but I like to think of it an intellectual stroll. Some paths lead to meaningless cul-de-sacs, others to revelations. The tactile process of pulling out a stack of books and flipping through them is, to me, more stimulating than toggling between the windows open on my Web browser. Even the nomenclature “browser” is worth noting: it removes our agency. The software does the browsing. Not us. Browsing is fundamentally an act of independence, of chasing your own idiosyncratic whims rather than clicking on Facebook links or the books recommended by some greedy algorithm.
In the end, where she wonders “where will we randomly stumble on the knowledge we didn’t even know we wanted to know?” my answer to her is: Reddit.
I’ve decided that in addition to posting about the books I read, I’ll also provide links to interesting articles I find across the web. I don’t see myself posting links daily, but perhaps three to five links once a week. If you think this is a worthy venture, please let me know in the comments!
Here are the articles I’ve read recently which are worth checking out:
(1) “The Degradation of Predictability and Knowledge” [Edge.org] – interesting, but perhaps overly pessimistic take on the internet, by Nassim Taleb, author of Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan (both of which I read and highly recommend).
(2) “In Retrospect: How the AOL-Time Warner Merger Went So Wrong” [New York Times] – an excellent interview with Stephen Case (co-founder of AOL), Gerald Levin (CEO of Time Warner), and Ted Turner on what went wrong with that fateful merger ten years ago.
(3) “Worth a Hill of Soyabeans” [The Economist] – how the gradual introduction of internet kiosks providing price information affected the market for soyabeans in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Interesting to discover that not only farmers’ profits increased but that the cultivation of soyabeans increased as well.
On another note, today is a palindrome day (01/11/10).