Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Theatre of the Absurde: banning achievement in France

France's socialist president wants to ban homework in school:

He doesn’t think it is fair that some kids get help from their parents at home while children who come from disadvantaged families don’t. It’s an issue that goes well beyond France, and has been part of the reason that some Americans oppose homework too.

This concern for equality has been satirized by Kurt Vonnegut in his story, Harrison Bergeron:

...In that brave new world, the government forced each individual to wear "handicaps" to offset any advantage he had, so everyone could be truly and fully equal. Beautiful people had to wear ugly masks to hide their good looks. The strong had to wear compensating weights to slow them down. Graceful dancers were burdened with bags of bird shot. Those with above-average intelligence had to wear government transmitters in their ears that would emit sharp noises every 20 seconds, shattering their thoughts "to keep them…from taking unfair advantage of their brains."

I have nothing to add, except to remind people that the story does not have a happy ending,  Harrison breaks free of his device and performs a beautiful dance, the likes of which had never been seen before.  But then, the Handicapper General, Diana Moon Glampers shoots Harrison and his partner, and equality is restored.



  1. … however this ignores the fact that Finland has driven its schools to become the best in the world by pursuing equality. The problem with both Kurt Vonnegut and the French approach is that they try and drag everyone done to the same level, rather than trying to life everyone up to the same level.

    1. I wonder how much of Finland's success is driven by the homogenous population, which would seem to favor a "one size fits all" approach.