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A word from an ex-spelling champ

September 26th, 2013

Not to boast, but I used to be a spelling champion. Go ahead. Judge me. I dare you. I’ll admit: I was once a young, frizzy-haired nerd with poor eyesight and a tendency to be labeled as the “walking encyclopedia” – but a nerd who used the “i before e except after c” rule as a weapon to defeat my grade school nemeses. (Take that, popular crowd.)

I reveled in my spelling bee success. I knew my double letters, silent k’s and p’s and I could even define the given word for bonus points. (Wow, I really was like one of those dorky kids in the movies that everyone hates, wasn’t I?)

It seems like it was just yesterday my fifth grade teacher, Sister Anne, presented me with a bag full of stale candy and an outdated edition of Newsweek as a token of praise. I’ll never forget the pride that swelled up inside of me as I stood in front of the class, clutching my well-deserved prize, realizing my secret to success was my intellect. I felt invincible.

Let’s examine my present-day self, shall we? Last week, I sat in my philosophy class with little beads of sweat dripping down my forehead; a knot formed in my stomach, and I felt nauseous. The hot sweat turned into a cold sweat. No, I wasn’t taking a test. I was simply jotting down lecture notes. But I froze. Why? I forgot how to spell “acknowledge.” Thoughts whirred through my brain at the speed of light. “Is there a ‘c’ or no ‘c’? Okay, I’ll put a ‘c.’ Wait, that doesn’t look right. There’s a ‘d’ somewhere in there, too, right?” This may seem like a pretty simple word. But, at the time, I felt like I was trying to draft a solution for world peace or find a cure for cancer.

This wasn’t the first occurrence of my “spelling brain fuzz” quandary. It’s been happening quite often – and now more than ever.

Whenever the “brain fuzz” strikes, my first instinct is to whip out my iPhone, and fire up Google. I ask you, readers, what is wrong with this picture?

We’ve become so reliant on technology; it’s made us lazy. More specifically, it’s made us intellectually lazy. Keep in mind, this confession is coming to you from the thought process of a (semi-seasoned) writer, who’s always treasured the accuracy and precision of spelling, and words in general. What have I become?

I’ve fallen into the early stages of 21st century, technology-driven brain fog. Spell check, auto correct and Google are all both a blessing and a curse. Nowadays, we can type out text messages, emails and opinion columns with a spelling security blanket to hold on to. This is truly a gift from above at 2 a.m. the night before a paper’s due and caffeine is scarce. Yet, in the long run, it’s a curse to the intellect of our society.

We’re becoming lazy. Where there’s laziness, there’s stupidity. Unfortunately, we’ve become far too comfortable with Google telling us all of the deep dark secrets of life. We can’t open up our minds and think for ourselves – even if it’s something as simple as figuring out if there is indeed a “c” in “acknowledge.”

We need to nix the dependency on the glitz and glamour that technology masterminds have bestowed onto us. Isn’t it ironic that we’ve become lazier after enjoying the fruits of technological geniuses’ labors?

I’d like to extend a challenge to you: power off your smartphones, laptops and tablets, and power on your brain. Take out a paper and pen (or a quill, ink and scroll if you really want to channel your inner Benjamin Franklin) and just write. If you begin to have a panic attack after the first sentence, I won’t judge. And if you want to double-check your spelling, there are always paperback dictionaries. Those still exist, right?