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Spell As I Say, Not As I Do, Say Alabama Teachers

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A spelling bee for teachers in Alabama's Jefferson County school system was cancelled after "the fear and the paranoia about it expressed by the teachers was so strong the superintendent felt it was an exercise in futility to have it," according to a school system spokesman.

Superintendent John J. Hunt originally proposed the idea, the spokesman said, to boost camaraderie among teachers and improve communications skills.

The words for the bee were to be taken from the list used by eighth-grade competitors in the national spelling bee sponsored by the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain.

The superintendent eventually cancelled the bee on the grounds, put forward by the Jefferson County Education Association, that the spelling bee would be "demeaning" to teachers.

Mr. Hunt assured teachers that the results would not be used in teacher evaluations, but protests continued until he relented.

It's not that the teachers have anything against spelling.

"While everyone should try to spell words correctly," said a recent edition of the teachers' association's newsletter, "the ability to spell words correctly and win a spelling bee does not necessarily correlate with teaching ability."

"The hue and cry of this was, why do we correct children in spelling if this is not important?" said the school district spokesman.

The system has no plans for future spelling bees, the spokesman said. But it will continue with its publication of The Underground Grammarian, a one-page newsletter that calls attention to and corrects teachers' grammatical errors in memoranda and letters.

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