I may get flack for this blog post, but I really don’t care. It is my opinion, and I am sticking to it.
In case you haven’t heard, there is a debate going around the internet about how Jeopardy (Alex Trebek in particular) handled an incorrect answer given by a young 12 year old boy named Thomas Hurley during “Kids Week” on the show. He made it to final Jeopardy, misspelled the answer, and as a result lost what he had wagered, leaving him in second place. I feel it is of particular importance to note that whether they had given him credit or not, he still would not have overcome the winner to attain first place, so it’s not as if this debate could even change the results.
Here is a link to the article from the Globe and Mail:
It comes down to a spelling error that cost him a correct answer. Even if he spelled it correctly, he still would have been in second place, with a total of $2000 awarded.
The internet is abuzz with people saying that they shouldn’t have let a mistake in spelling cost him his answer, since he obviously knew what the correct response was. People are chastising Alex Trebek, for saying “You misspelled it badly”, saying he was insensitive. People are saying they will never watch the show again, and that Trebek was too hard on him. The young boy himself is quoted as having said “It’s just upsetting to have lost that way. I don’t know why it would have counted as the wrong answer”.
Woah, woah, woah. Hold the phone.
He thinks that’s the reason he lost? Even if they counted it as correct, he wouldn’t have overcome the total of the winner, and would have still landed in second place. His lack of spelling skills is not the reason he is in second place. It is because he didn’t have enough correct answers throughout the entirety of the game to overcome the other player, no matter how much he decided to wager. The kids and teens who are on Jeopardy know how the game works, and are held to the same rules of the game as adult players are. Sadly for young Thomas, an adult who misspelled an answer would be held to the same result.
Secondly, the article is misleading. In its title, it calls the error a typo. Correct me if I’m wrong, but he wasn’t typing. He was writing. A typo occurs when you are typing and a finger mistakenly hits a key that is adjacent to the one you intended to push. It is a mistake in the writing/spelling process of printed material. He was writing by hand, so adding in an extra letter is not a typo. It is perhaps a lack of focus. It could even be put down to nerves. It isn’t, however a typo. In the end, it comes down to the fact that he spelled it wrong. If they allowed everyone who spelled answers incorrectly in final Jeopardy to be awarded for trying, where do you draw the line? If the answer were Bill Clinton, and I wrote Bil Cantin, and I claimed to have obviously meant Bill Clinton, it is unfair to the other contestants who have spelled it correctly.
Am I finished my rant? Hell no.
We are coddling our children in today’s society. Kids these days are growing up with computers, spell check, and grammar check. They don’t have to learn how to spell because a computer tells them how to do it. They are growing up without learning how to write cursive or sign their own name. Teenagers now have handwriting that resembles those in the 2nd grade. For shame.
The thing is, we can’t blame just teachers for this. It falls on the parents, too. Parents who don’t hold their kids accountable for their poor grades. Parents who call up an employer after their child has a job interview to try and “help them secure the position”. Parents who call their children’s University professors to explain that “Sally was busy with basketball and didn’t get to study as much as she should. Could you please reconsider her grade of ‘C’ or give her another chance?”. We are not raising kids who learn to overcome failure and adversity. We are not raising kids who will be self-sufficient and able to take on the world on their own. We are raising kids who feel entitled.
We are raising little boys like poor Thomas Hurley, who is obviously an amazingly intelligent kid, but who feels slighted by “the man” because he doesn’t want to be held accountable for his own mistake. And that’s all it was – a mistake. Was it an unfortunate one? Of course it was! Did it severely change the course of the rest of his life. Of course it didn’t. He still got second place and ended up learning an important lesson. Double checking your work is important. His Mom and Dad won’t be able to secure everything for him for the rest of his life. It sucks. It’s embarrassing. It’s life.
Now do I feel that Trebek was slightly harsh by saying that it was badly misspelled? Of course I do. It wasn’t BADLY misspelled. It was one extra letter. It might have been more fitting to say “It’s regrettable that you didn’t double check your spelling. Unfortunately you did spell your answer incorrectly, therefore it cannot be counted as correct”.
Is all of this enough to make me stop watching Jeopardy? No. Life is hard, and the lessons we learn are hard.
Hopefully this boy will eventually look back on this event as simply that – a lesson learned.
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