This year the Scripps National Spelling Bee was won by 14-year-old Indian-American Harini Logan from Texas and she beat another Indian-origin pre-teen. They’re just two in a long line of seemingly effortless spellers. Find out how their effort goes beyond simply putting alphabets in the right order.
Indian-Americans have dominated the Scripps National Spelling Bee over the past two decades even though they make up only about 1 percent of the US population.
Almost predictably, 14-year-old Indian-American Harini Logan from Texas won the prestigious 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Logan spelled 21 words correctly within 90 seconds to win the Spelling Bee, beating Vikram Raju in a marathon, PTI reported.
The event was not held in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, Scripps National Spelling Bee had eight co-champions, of whom seven were Indian-Americans.
Since 1999, 27 Indian Americans have won the Spelling Bee championship, including Harini Logan.
Balu Natarajan became the first Indian American to win Scripps in 1985. Coincidentally, his son Atman Balakrishnan also participated in the competition in 2018.
Rageshree Ramachandran was the second Indian-American to bring home the top prize in 1988.
Between 1999 and 2020, 26 Indian-Americans won the championship. African-American student Zaila Avant-garde won the US Spelling Bee competition in 2021, to break the 12-year-long winning streak of Indian-Americans.
The past Indian-American winners include 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 and Rohan Raja (2019).
Why are Indian-Americans so successful?
According to Pawan Dhingra, professor of sociology and American Studies at Amherst College, the success of Indian-Americans at the Scripps National Spelling Bee stems from the firm commitment of their families to spend the kind of time and money needed to prepare their kids.
These children are not just brilliant in spellings, they also excel in geography, mathematics and other academic competitions, Dhingra wrote in The Conversation.
Dhingra had interviewed over 100 Indian-American parents between 2011 and 2018 who believed their children would require a strong academic record to get admission into a prominent university. The academic record would compensate for the weak networking, the parents said.
As such, Indian-American parents looked for hobbies for their children that gave priority to “all kinds of educational attainment,” Shalini Shankar, author of Beeline: What Spelling Bees Reveal about Generation Z’s New Path to Success, told The New York Times.
Spelling soon became an extracurricular activity, sometimes being passed down in families, like in the case of Balu Natarajan.
Another report by Washington Post attributed the impressive performance of Indian-Americans at spelling bee contest to their perseverance, hard work and well-educated parents.