« Important paper on molecular evolution | Gene Expression Front Page | Is it Really Bee-cause of Culture? »
June 10, 2005

Why Do Indians Excel in Bees?

Tunku Varadarajan, of the WSJ, has a humorous column in today's WSJ online (free registration maybe required) in which he speculates on why five of the seven last spelling bee champions have been of Indian origin. Many of the possibilities he presents are ideas, which have been put forward here at this blog, including culture:

This attitude draws on a particular Indian cultural trait, bequeathed to broader Indian society by the Brahminical upper stratum: Success at letters is the sweetest sort of success, the achievement nonpareil.... Indian pedagogy relies heavily on rote memorization--the result of a fusion of Victorian teaching methods imposed by the British and ancient Hindu practice, in which the guru (or teacher) imparted his learning to pupils via an oral tradition. (The Victorians, for their part, regarded correct spelling almost as a moral virtue, and certainly as a caste "signifier," to use a clumsy anthropological term.)

And he (formerly) tough U.S. immigration policy:

Educationally, Indian-Americans are the cream of the crop of a fifth of humanity, thanks to U.S. immigration laws, which, for decades, let in only doctors and engineers and mathematicians. So these children are the kids of parents who themselves competed--probably at a ferocious level--to get into the best Indian schools, and then to get here.

Go check it out; it is a very good read.

Posted by scottm at 11:29 AM