Cornering the market for spelling bee championship

Well, what do you know? Once again Indian American kids have won the spelling bee. We’ll come to that in a bit. But first, here’s Akash Vukoti of San Angelo TX, just six years old and was the youngest of 280 contestants of the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee finals. He’s been at it since he was 2 years old. He’s pretty amazing. Watch this short video of him on a sneak peak of the NBC primetime show, “Little Big Shots,” which premiered in March. The little guy is full of beans and is an absolute delight.

He can’t stay put for even a second. He’s a billboard for hyperactivity. “Stand up, like you do at the contest. Act like you have a number on,” Steve Harvey tells Akash.

Anyhow, Akash did not win the championship. (He’s got another 6 or 7 years to do that.) “The Scripps National Spelling Bee ended in a tie for the third consecutive year Thursday night, with Jairam Hathwar and Nihar Janga declared co-champions after a roller-coaster finish.” And for the third consecutive year, the winners were Indian Americans. They’ve been champions for nine straight years and 14 out of the past 19. In 2015, the champs were Gokul Venkatachalam and Vanya Shivashankar. Vanya’s sister was the 2009 champion! It apparently runs in the family.

Although Akash didn’t win the championship, he’s clearly a champ. The guy is a natural performer and a stand up comedian. Here, you can see for yourself. He’s hilarious. At the end he rattles out the spelling of the longest word in the dictionary.

Here’s another Indian American featured in the “Little Big Shot” program. Kedar is only 7 years old and is into coding.

All this is really heart warming. Although I am stressing the Indian-American bit in this post, I don’t really care about that aspect. What I am amazed at is the dedication, hard work and parental support these kids have. They are the lucky ones. I also note in passing that these successes point to some simple economics concepts such as learning by doing, the importance of role models, and the acquisition of comparative advantage leading to competitive advantage.

Author: Atanu Dey


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