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Bergeron Comes Alive

Kurt Vonnegut’s short story, Harrison Bergeron, is a wonderful but chilling tale. It is about a society where everyone is equal. Not just equal in status, but equal in ability. No one is too “gifted”. Too intelligent? You get a mental handicap. Too athletic? Physical handicap for you. Too beautiful for society? The government has to ugly you up a bit. Eventually, the titular character breaks from his imposed bonds and tries to inspire others to do the same and subsequently pays for it. It you have not read it, go ahead and do so. I’ll wait. After you’re done, read this.

Berkeley High School is considering bringing Vonnegut’s horrific vision to life. In an era where a science education is becoming increasingly critical not only to the job force, but to national security and prosperity, the elimination of science labs and advanced science classes for the sake of diversity represents such a disgusting and dangerous adherence to a muddled concept that it crosses from the realm of boneheaded to insane. Only a suicidal civilization would ever handicap its best and brightest on a quest to make others feel better.

A society should, rightly, reward excellence and usually does so through various means. People pay good money for a product excellently made and advertised. Actors and writers are praised for excellent pieces of work that the public enjoys. Chefs, engineers, soldiers, garment makers, CEOs… all of these people are rewarded in some way for excellence. The byproduct of such reward is not only the likelihood that they will continue that excellence, but that others will be inspired to excel as well. When a society decides that excellence is not to be praised but to be scrutinized and hindered because of disparity, then that society cannot survive. While disparities can and should be addressed, harming potentially exceptional individuals to protect the feelings of those with lesser skill will produce a society that accepts mediocrity, twisting its own logic into believing that such harm is justice. Rather than break others to make a diversity omelet, Berkeley High School should be thinking of better ways to improve the science education of its minority students.

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