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March 18, 2005

Geographic cheats

Embarrassed at the failure of government schooled kids to win over homeschooled kids at the National Geographic Bee, organizers stooped to shady tricks.

Last year's state champ in the National Geographic Bee won't be able to compete in this year's contest due to a little-publicized rules change, his parents said. 

Matt Savage, a home-schooled seventh-grader from Francestown, had already won a school-level Bee at Great Brook School in Antrim. But after his win, officials with the Bee called and told parents Larry and Diane Savage that he couldn't go on to the state contest because of rules governing how home-schoolers can enter the event....

Matt's disqualification had to do with a change in how home-schoolers take part in the competition. Prior to this year, the Savages said, it was possible for home-schoolers to take part by competing in local competitions held at schools, an option denied to public school students attending a school not hosting a local bee. This year, though, the rule was changed so that home-schoolers could only compete through contests which home-school associations had set up....

Mrs. Savage said the rule was mentioned — but it was mentioned in the rule book, which they didn't have, and also on the frequently asked questions page of the Bee's Web site. According to Mrs. Savage, parents whose children had competed in the Bee before wouldn't likely check the FAQ section for information, but would have noticed a large front-page advisory.

The National Geographic Bee is a contest for students in fourth through eighth grades. Contests are held at the school, state and national levels, with the national winner earning a $25,000 college scholarship.

"We're sorry this happened," said Mary Lee Elden, the National Geographic Society's director of geography competitions, "but our lawyers tell me I have to follow the same rules for everybody. If you don't, that's when a contest becomes unfair. 

"It's pretty clear by the rules," Elden said, regarding the entry qualifications, "and the teacher acknowledged he didn't read it."

You can almost hear the smugness in her voice, can't you. Do they really think people won't know this is intentional? Do they really think it won't tarnish the contest, so that the winner this year will have to endure the comments, “Yeah, you won, 'cause they cheated”? Do they really think homeschoolers won't figure it out and study the rules with a fine tooth comb each year?

Posted by Danny Carlton at March 18, 2005 11:17 AM

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