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Where merit goes to die

A friend of mine sent me a message the other day letting me know that I needed to read something. I’m glad I followed up on it because it was a direct tie-in to a story that I had just been covering out of Virginia.

You may recall hearing about the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Mathematics in Fairfax County, Virginia. TJHS is one of the most renowned High Schools in the nation. The aforementioned story covered the fact that the administration at the school has established equitable grading guidelines that have allegedly resulted in the school withholding information from students who became National Merit Scholars.

Imagine what it would be like to know that your child, after long years and grueling hours of study, earned the right to be named as a National Merit Finalist or Semi-Finalist only to have the school deliberately refuse to make the fact known. A fact, by the way, that could have made all the difference in the competitive world of college admissions.

What we are learning now, and the school is attempting to explain away, is that the non-disclosure occurred because to do so would clash with the new Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Mathematics equitable grading standards. Basically, the pinheads in charge of TJHS were concerned that if one student excelled, other students would feel bad about themselves. So in their narrow and woke-minded view, they just chose to dumb everyone down instead of allowing excellence to rise to the top.

After hearing me discuss the TJHS grading issue, my friend texted me and said, “You’ve got to read ‘Harrison Bergeron’ by Kurt Vonnegut.” I was already familiar with Kurt Vonnegut, a famous American writer known for books like “Slaughterhouse-Five” among others, but I had never heard of his short story entitled “Harrison Bergeron.” Written in 1961 and covering close to six pages, it is one of those extremely prescient writings that seemed farfetched at the time it was authored but now appears to be right on point.

Harrison Bergeron opens with lines that could literally be peeled from today’s diversity, equity and inclusion headlines:

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.”

The story goes on to describe the deliberately average lives of George and Hazel Bergeron. Hazel was said to be of average intelligence but George was deemed to be extremely intelligent. So the Government Office of the Handicapper General made him wear a device that blasted erratic noises in his ears every few minutes to keep him from having clear and cogent thoughts that might exceed those of others and therefore keep George and others like him from “taking unfair advantage of their brains.”

George and Hazel sat watching a ballet on TV but each of the dancers, based upon their individual skills, were saddled with bags of birdshot to weigh them down so that no one could dance better than another. Each of the dancers also wore masks so that no one could be perceived as more beautiful than the other. The titular character, Harrison Bergeron, was the son of George and Hazel, but the Office of the Handicapper General had removed him from their home when he was 14 because he was too perfect, too attractive, too athletic, too smart, and no one should have a child that much better than someone else.

I won’t spoil it for you by recounting what happened next, but suffice it to say, I couldn’t help but think that my friend was spot on. The story of Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut sounds creepy and yet you can compare the same attitude to what we see in the ridiculous decisions made by the people in charge of the Thomas Jefferson School for Science and Mathematics and similar offices across the nation.

When those in charge become determined to suppress excellence in favor of equity then failure becomes the norm and success becomes a crime. DEI, known fully as “diversity, equity and inclusion”, is just the name brand for refusing to allow one person’s merit to be the guide to their ability to serve, or succeed.

The world is tired of hearing about “diversity, equity and inclusion.” Make no mistake, I’m not for discrimination or trying to keep someone down because of their race, sex, religion or pregnancy. But the race to DEI is not that.

One can merely look at the current state of public service and know that DEI has become a tool that is no different than making everyone wear bags of birdshot and masks and putting sounds in their ears to prevent clear thought. It is farcical to think for a second that good will ever come of giving someone a job, or a title, or a security clearance, or some power over others, merely because they checked a DEI box and not because they were the best candidate for the job.

Case in point, Samuel Brinton, the cross-dressing non-binary radical-kink fetish lecturer with a penchant for stealing women’s luggage should have never been given a top-secret clearance and access to sensitive government information. It was wrong, but it checked a box, and it failed.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, an extremely accomplished jurist with a sound legal mind, should never have been put in the position of having an asterisk by her appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States. She was a solid candidate but was weighed down by the pronouncement that what was more important than her legal acumen was that she was a black woman. President Biden tainted her appointment by announcing that DEI was his first motive thereby removing her nomination from the historically competitive realm that it should have remained in.

Republican George Anthony Santos should never have been elected to Congress from the State of New York. By his own admission, Santos habitually lied about his own resume in an effort to be something he is not. But Santos is a product of a society that believes that no one is OK the way God made them. People like Santos believe that a person must be “adjusted” to achieve an equitable outcome. There is no telling where else in life he has lied to get ahead but I suspect that we will be finding out in the not-so-distant future.

There was also the recent story of a school board in Pennsylvania where one of the members openly stated that she could not support one individual for the position of President of the Board. Her decision was based upon her expressed view that he was a “cis white male,” and even though she acknowledged he would likely do a good job, she thought that it would send the wrong message. She was compelled to resign days later.

DEI is where merit goes to die. When we allow ourselves to believe for a minute that no one is allowed to be the person that God intended them to be, or to exercise their own gifts, talents and personal disciplines in such a way as to actually earn a position, then we have become nothing more than a society filled with empty average characters like George and Hazel Bergeron, saddled with bags of birdshot and noisemakers so that no one person can rise to their personal best.

DEI is where merit goes to die, where failure becomes an acceptable norm, and success becomes a crime. We must return to being a merit-based society.

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