MPSHome Alumni Calendar Contact MyMPS

PDF Weekly WIL Directions   --  A handout explaining how to write a good Weekly WIL.

2.6 Equitability (& Harrison Bergeron)


(based on Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron, 1961)


Use it as your notebook page title. 

Before watching, you will answer 5 “Pre-Viewing Questions”.

Answer the BOLD question & pick one of the three follow-up questions.

We will analyze & discuss during a future class.


Pre-Viewing Questions


What is equality?

What do you think it means to be equal in all respects?


What did the American Founders mean by “All men are created equal…”?


Is it fair that some people are healthier, stronger, faster, more creative, more attractive, or more intelligent than others? What if these abilities are due to genetics or luck rather than to extra effort on their part?


Is excellence a good thing?

Have you ever been mocked for being good at something?


Have you ever seen someone apologize for being good at something? Have you seen reverse snobbery, i.e. people bragging about being unaccomplished in an area, pressuring others to look down upon achievement?


At some schools, advanced classes have been criticized or eliminated because they are considered elitist and undemocratic. What do you think about this?


Equality and Society

What did Aristotle mean when he said, “The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal”?


Karl Marx argued that society should be governed by this maxim: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” How well do you think this would work as the basis for society?


Thomas Jefferson said, “There is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents.” How is this natural aristocracy different from the traditional aristocracy? 



Post-Viewing Questions

If you were appointed Handicapper General (who did NOT have to be handicapped), would you accept the job?

Why or why not?

What would you do?

Can the conflict between freedom and equality be avoided?




The Trees”

by Rush


The rock band Rush wrote the song “The Trees” (Hemispheres, 1978) as a metaphor for forced human equality. Read the lyrics and discuss the metaphor as it exists in society today.


There is unrest in the forest

There is trouble with the trees

For the maples want more sunlight

And the oaks ignore their pleas.


The trouble with the maples

(And they're quite convinced they're right)

They say the oaks are just too lofty

And they grab up all the light.

But the oaks can't help their feelings

If they like the way they're made

And they wonder why the maples

Can't be happy in their shade.


There is trouble in the forest

And the creatures all have fled

As the maples scream "Oppression!"

And the oaks just shake their heads


So the maples formed a union

And demanded equal rights

"The oaks are just too greedy

We will make them give us light."

Now there's no more oak oppression

For they passed a noble law

And the trees are all kept equal

By hatchet, axe, and saw


Alexis de Tocqueville (author of Democracy in America, Vol. I 1835, Vol. II 1840) wrote,

One also encounters a depraved taste for equality in the human heart that brings the weak to want to draw the strong to their level and that reduces men to preferring equality in servitude to inequality in freedom.


How does this quote relate to the lyrics in “The Trees”?