Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Geography bee and a dose of reality!

I watched the 2006 National Geographic's Geography bee contest hosted by Jeopardy! game show host Alex Trebek. I liked this twist to the bee better than the spelling contest. The kids were amazing. A 4th to 8th grade kid has more geography IQ than I have and that's humbling.

After rounds and rounds of elimination, when Bonny Jain from Illinois scribbled 'Cambrian' on his card for the question "Name the mountains that extend across much of Wales from the Irish Sea to the Bristol Channel", he won the $25,000 scholarship prize and the national champion title over the other finalist Neeraj Sirdeshmukh who took home $15,000 in scholarship prize. Alex Trebek was very professional and he did not make any comment on the fact that the top 5 participants were all of Indian origin. Call me ethnocentric - I dont mind. I was as proud as their parents when I saw the top 5. Inspite of the fact that I didn't know the answers to 3/4th of the questions asked, a strong current of euphoria swept over me!

That euphoria lasted but for a few moments until the kids started getting eliminated. While these kids answered stumpers like "The Kikuyu, who led the Mau Mau uprising against the British, are the largest ethnic group in which country in East Africa?" with such poise and ease (Ans. Kenya), 3 of the top 5 made atleast one mistake on simple questions about India. "A religion which is a hybrid of Hinduism and Islam requires that its followers wear head turbans; which religion is this?" was the question and Suneil Iyer responded "Buddhism". Even the hate mongers in Arizona who shot the Sikh cashier at the seven-eleven shop would know the answer now!

"Onge tribe is native to which chain of islands that are part of India but close to Burma" (Ans. Andaman & Nicobar). Yeshwanth - the 3rd place winner blew it up. These kids are brilliant. They might have used focused preparatory materials for sure; but brilliant nevertheless. But it would be a huge mistake to identify them as Indian kids. The similarities cease to exist beyound their names and color of their skins. Apart from these superficial similarities, they are just akin to other highly competitive bee participants who passionately memorize any curios factoid and data without internalizing the passion. Again, call me mean, narrow-minded or provincial - I dont mind. But the euphoria was no more when the competition got over!

Parochially yours,


At 9:35 AM, Blogger Gaurav said...

Absolutly. I don't think they do anything but hold onto the knowledge. They are just short term containers of facts and trivia. The only impressive part is the capacity to hold rather than internalize the knowledge.


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