Are spelling tests stupid?

Every week, my kid — who is in second grade — has five spelling words to learn. We have numerous strategies to learn them, from flash cards to Scrabble tiles, but it turns out, spelling is not one of his strong points. He continues to spell words phonetically, and often whines about the purpose of silent letters or the fact that computers fix your mistakes anyway. (How does he know that?)

As a writer, I believe learning to spell is important. To me, it’s an important skill that makes one sensitive to words and language. Plus, computers make mistakes, too, and do not catch all spelling errors, especially when a word is misspelled in the form of another word. (Doh, I hate when that happens!)

Also, a few years ago, I emceed two adult spelling bees for, and people came out in droves for the love of the spell.

All of that said, now that I spend hours a week grilling my kid on spelling words, I am questioning whether or not it’s really necessary to spend this much time on it. I take education very seriously, but I am from the “let kids be kids” camp. I believe seven hours of learning is enough for one day and homework for a second grader should be minimal to none.

However, even though I’m on the fence about spelling tests, whenever I start to think that they are a complete waste of time, I remember Dan Quayle’s famous “potato” debacle — or Barack Obama’s inability to differentiate between “advise” and “advice” — and I keep quizzing.

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