Home Schooling? How Do You Spell That?

When California homeschooler Evan O'Dorney, 13, won the National Spelling Bee on Thursday night, the nation's paper of record reacted with a yawn.

Instead of focusing on the winner, The New York Times ran a story about an immigrant from India who lost in the second round of the competition. That boy, Kunal Sah, 12, who is living in Utah, had hoped a victory would secure his family's legal status in the United States. Thus, the Times managed to use the National Spelling Bee as one more forum for pushing the plight of immigrants.

Not until the middle of the story did The Times get around to recognizing the winner, noting only his name and hometown and the fact that the AP reported his victory.

The Washington Post's Elissa Silverman, meanwhile, in her article “The Sweet Spell of Success,” ignored completely the fact that Evan is homeschooled, and chalked up his win to tuna sandwiches from Subway. That's right. The subheadline reads:  “Fueled by Tuna Sandwiches, California Teen Tops 300 students.”

Likewise, USA Today ran an Associated Press story that mentioned only that Evan liked to eat fish before competing. Nothing was said about his home schooling.

The Los Angeles Times noted in its third paragraph that Evan “is taught by his mother, Jennifer O'Dorney, through San Ramon's VentureSchool home study program.”

The media as a whole studiously ignored the ongoing story of homeschoolers scoring remarkable successes at the National Spelling Bee and other competitions, such as the National Geography Bee.

CBS' The Early Show's Russ Mitchell interviewed Evan and his parents, but home schooling never came up. Same with Al Roker's and Meredith Vieira's interview with the family on NBC's The Today Show.

ABC's Good Morning America's Robin Roberts, on the other hand, was right up front about Evan's education during an interview this morning with him and his parents:

Roberts: And the champion is here with us this morning. Evan, his parents, Jennifer, also his homeschool teacher and coach, and Mike. I hear you're a whiz with the numbers as well Mike?

Mike: Sometimes.

Roberts:  Congratulations.  Have you gotten any sleep?

Evan: Yeah.

Roberts: Good, so nice and rested and ready to go. Because you're the champion now.

More fish, anyone?

Robert Knight is director of the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the MediaResearchCenter.