Education: What's the Good Word?

"Boys aren't good spellers because they aren't smart enough," volunteered twelve-year-old Contestant Nancy McDaniel last week. To prove it she pointed to her fellow finalists in the National Spelling Bee: 18 were girls, ten boys. But a few minutes later Nancy was out, for misspelling liar. About 400 words later, there were a boy and a girl left, each 13. The boy, shy and nervous, was John McKinney of Woodbine, Iowa (pop. 1,350); the girl, cool and confident, was Mary McCarthy of New York City (pop. 7,454,995).

Beneath them, in the audience at Washington's...

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