For the first time since 1962 the annual Scripts National Spelling Bee ended in a tie. Despite the surprising results, what isn’t as surprising is the increasing dominance of Indian-American children in the competition.
Not only are both the 2014 co-winners, Sriram Hathwar and Ansun Sujoe, of Indian descent, but their victory marks the seventh year in a row in which Indian American students have emerged victorious. Indian-Americans have won 13 of the 17 Scripts tournaments held since 1999. This, despite the fact that Indian-Americans make up less than 1 percent of the US population.
Of course, there is no evidence that children who are of Indian descent have some type of genetic predisposition to being fantastic spellers. But the recent dominance of those with roots in the subcontinent is no mere coincidence.
Some believe that the unprecedented winning streak may have its roots in the work of the North South Foundation, a volunteer, non-profit organization focused on granting educational opportunities and college scholarships to Indian students both in the US and abroad.
Founded in 1989, the foundation holds its own academic tournaments each year in various subjects including spelling. These tournaments serve as a minor league of sorts with many of the winner moving on to the Scripts tournament.
In addition to the North South Foundation’s spelling bee farm league, many Indian parents emphasis the value of spelling as a way for their children to learn about the English language and ensure that their children assimilate into mainstream American society.
This year’s usual result in which two students shared the National Spelling Bee title came after both Hathwar and Sujoe exhausted all of the words that had been designated for use in the tournament’s championship round.
This marks only the fourth time in the tournament's 89-year history that the trophy has been shared by two winners.