Egalitarianism Vs Personal Excellence in Stories and in Education
The Incredibles makes a strong case for the personal and social good that can come of allowing individual talents the space to develop and thrive.
In Harrison Bergeron, the year is 2081 and due to Constitutional Amendments, everyone must now act as if they are exact equals. No one can be smarter, stronger, or prettier than the next person. Those who are born with special skills must bear handicaps, such as wearing weights to sap one's strength or wearing a mask to hide beauty. A fourteen-year-old athlete and genius young man, a type of societal ˘superhero,÷ seeks to overthrow governmental authority by throwing off his handicapping devices and declaring himself ˘Emperor.÷ For a brief moment he succeeds in elevating those around him to their highest achievement, but he is soon gunned down by authorities. The sad picture of healthy people being artificially handicapped in the name of fostering egalitarianism underscores the tragedy of hiding unique individual talents.
In our schools we are faced with the challenge of celebrating and encouraging students' personal gifts while at the same time encouraging all to feel powerful even though one person may not measure up to another in a particular field. As The Incredibles exemplifies, this can be achieved by allowing different avenues for gifts of various types to be expressed. Egalitarianism can be achieved by reminding students that each person is exceptionally gifted, but in a unique way. We won't all excel at everything, but everyone excels at something. If educational institutions help students discover and foster their gifts, we can make headway towards being a society where the ˘superhero÷ in each of us is accepted and celebrated, instead of being weighed down with handicaps that thwart
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