How is "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. related to today's society?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Visionary in the creation of his story "Harrison Bergeron," Kurt Vonnegut worried that the desensitizing, numbing, and thought-shifting of media such as television would damage individuals in the future. He symbolizes this numbing of intelligence and superior talents and abilities with the various "handicaps" that the citizens of the futuristic world are forced to wear.

While thought control is not effected with earphones, it is certainly influenced in modern society

  • The Media

The media influence thought because the sources of information only report mainly what coincides with conventional wisdom, the political policies of those who control the media. In addition, political correctness is certainly a means of limiting free expression by establishing what is the "right" way to think.

  • Educational policies

In the U.S. the No Child Left Behind law dictates that all children must be afforded the opportunity to learn, and even the slowest must master concepts. Since these slower learners are placed in heterogenous groups, the brighter students are held back while the slower ones "catch up."  This method of learning now is metaphorically like Harrison's having to wear earphones that prohibit his higher-level thought.

  • The workplace

Reports and magazine articles have been written about "failing upwards" in the working world where often the mediocre are promoted because they meet certain hiring stipulations and requirements, or because they present no threat to bosses, who are themselves mediocre.