The War on Merit

The War on Merit. By Karol Markowicz:

The War on Merit in America’s schools is spreading — and threatening to take an ever-bigger toll on kids’ education.

Last week, California’s Department of Education rolled out a draft framework for teaching math to K-12 students. The framework contains 13 chapters, most focused on (no joke) achieving “equity” through mathematics instruction. It would no longer group kids by ability, teach algebra to eighth graders or calculus to high schoolers or refer to gifted children as “gifted.”

California isn’t the only place, of course, that has tried to dumb down school curricula in an effort to treat all kids the same in order to pretend there’s no differences between them. …

Look: Parents don’t have their kids apply for these programs because they are racist; they do it because they know the regular curriculum their kids get in regular city schools is weak. Math is usually a joke; reading and writing often even more so. A G&T [gifted and talented] program might mean their kid has to actually try to succeed, instead of just coasting through classes. Yet parents clamoring for more difficult work for their kids get called “racist.”

Not content with removing the G&T test, the DOE is now pushing to get rid of G&T programs themselves. Middle schools have already scrapped “screens,” such as test scores and grades, for admission this year in favor of lotteries. The city’s most competitive (and often best-performing) high schools constantly fear they’ll be forced to water down their standards.

And all in the name of racial equity.

All outcomes must now be the same. (What about basketball? 75% of NBA players are black…)

Science fiction writers got here 60 years ago, most famously Kurt Vonnegut:

“Harrison Bergeron” is a dystopian science-fiction short story by American writer Kurt Vonnegut, first published in October 1961. …

In the year 2081, the 211th, 212th, and 213th amendments to the Constitution dictate that all Americans are fully equal and not allowed to be smarter, better-looking, or more physically able than anyone else. The Handicapper General’s agents enforce the equality laws, forcing citizens to wear “handicaps”: masks for those who are too beautiful, loud radios that disrupt thoughts inside the ears of intelligent people, and heavy weights for the strong or athletic.

One April, 14-year-old Harrison Bergeron, an intelligent, athletic, and good-looking teenager, is taken away from his parents, George and Hazel Bergeron, by the government. They are barely aware of the tragedy, as Hazel has “average” intelligence (a euphemism for stupidity), and George has a handicap radio installed by the government to regulate his above-average intelligence.

Hazel and George watch ballet on television. They comment on the dancers, who are weighed down to counteract their gracefulness and masked to hide their attractiveness. George’s thoughts are continually interrupted by the different noises emitted by his handicap radio, which piques Hazel’s curiosity and imagination regarding handicaps. Noticing his exhaustion, Hazel urges George to lie down and rest his “handicap bag”, 47 pounds (21 kg) of weights locked around George’s neck. She suggests taking a few of the weights out of the bag, but George resists, aware of the illegality of such an action.

On television, a news reporter struggles to read the bulletin and hands it to the ballerina wearing the most grotesque mask and heaviest weights. She begins reading in her unacceptably natural, beautiful voice, then apologizes before switching to a more unpleasant voice. Harrison’s escape from prison is announced, and a full-body photograph of Harrison is shown, indicating that he is seven feet (2.1 m) tall and burdened by three hundred pounds (140 kg) of handicaps.

George recognizes his son for a moment, before having the thought eliminated by his radio. Harrison himself then storms the television studio in an attempt to overthrow the government. He calls himself the Emperor and rips off all of his handicaps, along with the handicaps of a ballerina, whom he proclaims his “Empress”. He orders the musicians to play, promising them nobility if they do their best. Unhappy with their initial attempt, Harrison takes control for a short while, and the music improves. After listening and being moved by the music, Harrison and his Empress dance while flying to the ceiling, then pause in mid-air to kiss.

Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, enters the studio and kills Harrison and the Empress with a ten-gauge double-barreled shotgun. The musicians put on their handicaps again after she threatens them at gunpoint, and the television goes dark. George, unaware of the televised incident, returns from the kitchen and asks Hazel why she was crying, to which she replies that something sad happened on television that she cannot remember. He comforts her and they return to their average lives.