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Dystopian Elements

Connections between dystopian elements and Harrison Bergeron

What do we do with a variation?

What do we do with a variation?

What do we do with a difference?
Do we stand and discuss its oddity
or do we ignore it?

Do we shut our eyes to it
or poke it with a stick?
Do we clobber it to death?

Do we move it around in rage
and enlist the rage of others?
Do we will it to go away?

Do we look at it in awe
or purely in wonderment?
Do we work for it to disapper?

Do we pass it stealthily
or change route away from it?
Do we will it to become like ourselves?

What do we do with a difference?
Do we communicate to it,
let application acknowledge it
for barriers to fall down?

From Only One of Me.

The theme of this poem relates directly to HB and the dystopian element of government control. Harrison is different and lives in a society where the Constitution legally requires people to be equal in "every which way" and these laws are strictly enforced due to the "unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General." The government doesn't understand there is a difference between being equal and being equitable. Being equitable means "to acknowledge" differences and communicate around those differences so that
"barriers [will] fall down". Berry's poem speaks to the dangers of government enforced equality as does HB.
Teachers speak out against standards based grading at Osseo Schools

Teachers speak out against standards based grading at Osseo Schools

Osseo schools, as a governing body, implemented standards based grading as a propaganda strategy. As the superintendent stated, this approach was enacted so that "all students" will "meet high standards." However, the unstated purpose is to level the playing field so that more students will pass classes, graduate on time, and close the achievement gap. This is similar to the Handicapper General in Harrison Bergeron. Just like in HB where "everyone was equal," that is the same goal for standards based grading. However, according to teachers in this video, what has happened is that standards are actually being lowered and "grades do not accurately reflect" a student's ability.

While this is a painting from the early 1800s, the purpose is government propaganda. The Spanish government hired Goya, a professional artist, with the intention of convincing the general public that a war against France was necessary. The purpose of the painting was to "perpetuate...the most notable and heroic actions of our glorious insurrection against the Tyrant of Europe." The faceless French are executing the unarmed Spaniards. The central figure appeals to the pathos of the average citizen and enrages them about the dishonorable behavior of the French. This bit of propaganda demonizes the enemy. Rather than using a painting as propaganda, TV provides the propaganda images In "Harrison Bergeron" when a "police photograph of Harrison Bergeron was flashed" on the screen. He was wearing 300 pounds of handicaps to frighten the viewers and make them afraid that society might fall apart. One interesting twist with this example is that the viewers are faceless while Harrison eventually is freed from his handicaps. Harrison is the central figure but in Vonnegut's world, the faceless masses (the audience) are the heroes and those who fight the system must be destroyed.