Why do Indian Americans reign supreme in Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion? | World News - Hindustan Times

Why do Indian Americans reign supreme in Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion?

Jun 03, 2023 10:31 AM IST

With 2023 Champion, Dev Shah, Indian-Americans illuminate the Scripps National Spelling Bee stage.

Over the past two decades, Indian-Americans have demonstrated their dominance in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, despite comprising just 1 percent of the US population.

Unleashing the spellbound brilliance. (Image Credit: The E.W. Scripps Company)
Unleashing the spellbound brilliance. (Image Credit: The E.W. Scripps Company)

Continuing this trend, 14-year-old Dev Shah from Largo Texas, an Indian-American prodigy, claimed the prestigious title of the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion.

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ALSO READ| Who is young Indian American spelling prodigy Dev Shah?

In the preceding edition of the Spelling Bee held in 2019, eight co-champions were crowned, and remarkably, seven of them were Indian Americans.

Since the year 1999, Indian Americans have consistently made their mark in the Spelling Bee, with an astounding 27 champions hailing from this community, including the talented Harini Logan and Dev Shah. Their remarkable achievements serve as a testament to their exceptional linguistic skills, dedication, and relentless pursuit of excellence.

Previous Champions

Balu Natarajan became the first Indian-American to claim victory in the Scripps National Spelling Bee back in 1985. His son, Atman Balakrishnan, followed in his footsteps and participated in the competition in 2018, carrying on the family's legacy.

Rageshree Ramachandran was added to the list of Indian-American champions by securing the top prize in 1988, showcasing the community's continued success in the Spelling Bee.

From 1999 to 2022, a remarkable total of 27 Indian Americans triumphed as champions in the competition, displaying their extraordinary linguistic abilities and dedication to excellence.

However, in 2021, Zaila Avant-garde, an African-American student, broke the 12-year winning streak of Indian-Americans by winning the US Spelling Bee competition, marking a significant milestone for the African-American community.

ALSO READ| Indian-American 14-year-old boy crowned US National Spelling Bee champion

Among the notable Indian-American winners in the past years are Nupur Lala (1999), Pratyush Buddiga (2002), Sai Gunturi (2003), Anurag Kashyap (2005), Sameer Mishra (2008), Kavya Shivashankar (2009), Anamika Veeramani (2010), Sukanya Roy (2011), Snigdha Nandipati (2012), Arvind Mahankali (2013), Sriram J. Hathwar and Ansun Sujoe (2014), Vanya Shivashankar and Gokul Venkatachalam (2015), Jairam Hathwar and Nihar Saireddy Janga (2016), Ananya Vinay (2017), Karthik Nemmani (2018), and Rishik Gandhasri, Saketh Sundar, Shruthika Padhy, Sohum Sukhatankar, Abhijay Kodali, Rohan Raja (2019), and Harini Logan (2022)

Why do Indian Americans excel at Spelling Bee?.

According to Pawan Dhingra, a sociology and American Studies professor at Amherst College, the astounding success of Indian Americans in the Scripps National Spelling Bee can be attributed to the unwavering commitment of their families. These families are willing to invest the necessary time and resources to prepare their children for the competition.

Dhingra highlights that Indian-American children not only excel in spelling but also demonstrate exceptional skills in geography, mathematics, and other academic competitions.

In his article for The Conversation, the Sociology Professor emphasizes that these children's achievements extend beyond spelling, reflecting their overall academic excellence.

Based on Dhingra's interviews with over 100 Indian-American parents between 2011 and 2018, it became evident that these parents believed a strong academic record was crucial for their children's admission into prestigious universities. They saw academic achievements as a compensatory factor for the lack of strong networking opportunities.

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Shalini Shankar, the author of "Beeline: What Spelling Bees Reveal about Generation Z's New Path to Success," further explains to The New York Times that Indian-American parents actively seek out hobbies for their children that prioritize educational attainment in various forms. Spelling often becomes one of these extracurricular activities, sometimes even being passed down through generations, as exemplified by the case of Balu Natarajan.

Also, a report by The Washington Post attributes the impressive performance of Indian Americans in spelling bee contests to their perseverance, hard work, and the educational backgrounds of their parents.

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