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Desegregation Plan: Eliminate All Gifted Programs in New York (nytimes.com)
58 points by colanderman 53 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 71 comments

This is a classic example of banning the symptom in lieu of curing the cold.

I volunteer in New York's K-5 public schools as a 1-on-1 tutor for children a bit behind their grade level on reading. These are smart kids in crowded classrooms with insufficient resources addressing their needs. Needs like mild hyperactivity, hunger, needing someone to talk to about the financial stress they know their parents are under, lacking a home internet connection, et cetera. These kids are also concentrated around black and Hispanic communities.

These are solvable problems. Classrooms could be made less crowded. Funding could be increased. The small number of bad teachers could finally be held accountable. School lunch expanded. Mental health resources provided to students. Subsidies for households with young children at home.

But instead we get treated to a fight on racial battle lines from a mayor who thinks he's running for President.

> These are solvable problems. ... Funding could be increased. ... School lunch expanded.

On the subject of school lunches, it's not really a matter of increased funding. It is deciding to tackle the problem.

Chicago Public Schools serves free breakfast and lunch [1] to all students (not just low-income) using the exact same funding sources that NYC and all other school districts use. They are completely open about how they did it [2]. They completely eliminated the practice of heating up frozen meals, renovated school kitchens and started cooking from scratch and buying directly from farmers.

If only they put this much effort into the rest of the school operations...

[1] https://cps.edu/About_CPS/Departments/Pages/MealRates.aspx [2] https://drive.google.com/file/d/1I_IRmST0zFCtdok10VnSBMMJ6Rv...

> They completely eliminated the practice of heating up frozen meals

This is a thing in US schools?

FFS. This puts conversations I have on here about cooking in context, if children are pretty much forced to eat that stuff.

Lunch is free in NYC schools as well. Not sure about breakfast.

One thing that is interesting, is that people of Asian origin are increasingly being lumped in with white people. Whenever, you hear about lack of minorities in a certain field, people of Asian origins are inevitably excluded from the analysis by being put in the category of "whites and Asians".

Right now people of Asian origin, are by and large liberal and support Democrats over Republicans. But if Democrats, keep pursuing policies that disadvantage their children, do not be surprised, if in the near future, you see Republicans making large in-roads with people of Asian origin.

The word "minority" has the connotation of "underpriviliged". While there are poor Asians, the median Asian American income is $20k higher than the median US income ($80k vs $60k).

Also, historically Asian Americans actually have voted more conservative (over 2/3 voted Republican as late as the 80s). The shift towards democrats was more recent, and is considered to be a product of anti-immigrant Republican policy and tensions with China (large segment of Asian Americans are Chinese).

Because in a lot of cases, when you split whites and Asians apart, it turns out whites are under-represented (e.g. at Google, at Harvard, at Yale..)

That would raise too many questions.

Ultimately so much of success comes down to culture and values and this is why you see groups such as Asians, Jews and Mormons succeed. No amount of programs to try and achieve equitable outcomes will overcome what can be achieved due to culture and values.

I'm perplexed thinking why you were downvoted. Do your downvoters think that our genetics determine most of the outcomes?

Also, b4 anyone claims it, wealth does play a role, but looking at how lottery winners fare, I would stick with culture and values having a more fundamental, causal impact.

My guess is that the existence of groups that have an excellent track record or producing highly successful individuals creates bursts the privilege narrative and causes cognitive dissonance and downvoting.

Jews were slaughtered by the millions in Europe and had most of their possessions and capital stolen from them and yet after their ordeal was over, they recovered and many built all that they had lost again from the ground up, many of them many times over. Plus, look at the number of noble prize winners, 20% of whom have been Jewish.

The Chinese came over to the West coast in the US and were the very definition of a marginalized community, yet they've done remarkably well. Those that have time to apply the strong values around work and building up intergenerational wealth in a country that respects property rights have absolutely flourished. These days, many of those that aren't well off are typically those that are recent immigrants that fled a countries where they did not have the opportunity to build wealth so they are starting again from the bottom.

Mormons were persecuted and moved westward trying to find a place where they'd be left alone and they've done remarkably well for themselves in and around Utah.

It goes beyond those groups. The Quakers in New England did well. Many of the Italian and Irish immigrants that came to the US and settled in the Northeast United States have done quite well for themselves despite being second class citizens in the US upon their arrival. One of the best examples showing that culture and values matter is that black immigrants out-earn US-born blacks.

Culture and values matter. It's what leads parents to have books in the house, what leads them to get their kids reading books, what leads them to be involved in their children's schooling, what leads them to join the PTA, what leads them to teach their kids about money and savings, what leads them to maintain a nuclear family instead of splitting up into single-parent households, what leads them to teach pro-social pro-cooperation values like not coveting what others have, forgiveness and hard work, and lastly what leads them to eventually have families of their own and pass along all the culture and values to their kids that their parents taught them. Rome was not built in a day.

Yes, wealth plays a role, but something lead to that wealth creation in the first place and lead to that wealth persisting across generations instead of it all being gone by the third generation that inherited it. Plus, most of the wealth held by individuals in the groups above weren't earned all by one massively successful individual. Most of it was build upon incrementally by each generation that passed along not only wealth, but the culture and values that built that wealth and that will allow that wealth to be built into an even larger pot for the next generation.

I saw a news spot on Eddie Huang last week. Guy described himself as a 'short, fat Chinese guy'. Turns out he is actually a lawyer, best-selling author, clothing designer and successful restaurant owner.

They interviewed his parents, too. They seemed like the super-strict type, understandably very proud of their son.

I told my kids: "See? That guy is unstoppable. He believes he can work hard and do anything. And he can." It made me proud to be an American.

Note that Asians skewed quite strongly republican as recently as 1996, and some Asian groups still do (Vietnamese Americans overwhelmingly approve of Trump). That said, Trump got just 18% of the Asian vote, far less than the 32% he got of the Hispanic vote. Although the nativist tendencies of the Republican Party as of late have been directed at Hispanics, Asians have somehow reacted even even more strongly to that tone.

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> Mainstream media says "Republicans bad,"

You mean apart from the highest-rated cable channel, the largest TV station operator[2], and the second-largest daily newspaper, in the US?[3][4]

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fox_News#Ratings_and_reception

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinclair_Broadcast_Group#2018_...

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_newspapers_in_the_Unit...

4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wall_Street_Journal#Politi...

Sure, Fox new may be the highest rated cable channel. But it's pretty much the only mainstream conservative cable network. Also, categorizing the Wall Street Journal as conservative is rather dubious. They lean liberal on most social issues, people mostly just assume they're conservative because they have a centrist understanding of market principles (e.g. that rent control won't lower the cost of housing in the long run).

The percentage of journalists that identify as Republicans is in the single digits: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2014/05/06/ju...

Also, the 100 largest newspapers overwhelmingly endorsed Clinton, even though Trump carried 46% of the popular vote: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspaper_endorsements_in_th....

> Among the United States' 100 largest newspapers by paid circulation, 57 endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, while only two, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Florida Times-Union, endorsed Trump. Four (the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit News, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and the Charleston (South Carolina) Post and Courier) endorsed Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, while three other newspapers (USA Today, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) specifically discouraged their readers from voting for Trump.

To put that into perspective: even though reporters are 83% white—they are 1/5 as likely as whites in general to identify as republican. Asian, Hispanic, Muslim, and LGBT people are all twice as likely or more to identify as republican than journalists.

> even though reporters are 83% white

Really? Would love to have a citation for this. This is a fact that could come in handy.

Did the math wrong—87% of newspaper journalists.

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Sounds like you live in a bubble

Yeah it's definitely that and not the President putting out absolutely deranged statements on a daily basis on twitter and elsewhere.

Outrageous, yes. Deranged, no.

I'll make a prediction. Next Tuesday, Trump will dominate the news cycle. And next Thursday. And the one after that. And every day in between.

What does this do?

- Keeps everybody talking about Trump. All the time. - Every outrageous statement has some grain of truth in it. It makes people talk, and give him a slice of benefit of doubt. - Absolutely takes every ounce of air out of the room for his political opponents. Nobody is going to hear much about their ideas.

It's the new-style of politics. And it worked through the Republican primary, then the general election. Against long odds and a monetary deficit in each. Better get used to it. The media falls for it, Every. Single. Time.

You say that like this is a conscious strategy on Trump's part to win and accomplish his agenda.

In reality, attention is his only agenda. Narcissism in it's purest form.

Also, I disagree that there is always a grain of truth in his tweets. He's an unintelligent bigot slowly losing his mind to old age and disuse.

Any grains of truth are purely happenstance.

I was in the G&T program as a child. (It was called AT for "Academically Talented" at the time.) As the program was run then (in California), I would spend one afternoon per week studying Greek mythology or similar useless subjects, but it was a welcome diversion. I ended up testing out of high school 2-1/2 years early due to boredom. Both of my kids were also in the program, but it is even more useless today than it was in the past. What I observed is that the schools (in California) do not seem to like the "segregation", so they do not fund the program. They put a whole lot more money into the "mainstreaming" programs to bring academically disadvantaged people into the regular classrooms.

As a parent, I feel regret for not getting my kids into a private school so they could reach their potential. My older son also tested out of High School. My younger son simply dropped out. Both of them have a tainted view of higher education because of their experience in public schools.

Surely the solution couldn't be lifting up impoverished students instead of pulling those who succeed down?

As an Asian, this pisses me off. If you work hard and get high test scores, you should be rewarded.

Crabs in the bucket culture.

The goal is admirable, but the means de Blasio has chosen is unfortunate. I went to a gifted talented school in Virginia. On one hand, it was odd to miss out on being with “normal” kids. On the other hand, it was nice to not be with the “normal” kids. My friends and I did a robotic float for homecoming our junior year and an art/drama geek was elected homecoming queen. Getting into MIT or Caltech got you far more attention and profile than being on the football team. It was a completely unique experience that was really fantastic for a lot of people.

The entire purpose of primary education should be to identify, support, and challenge gifted youth. With the boundaries of human knowledge reaching the limits of human understanding, more than ever before we need the "outliers". Easily 90% of kids in any given school (including my own kid, unfortunately) couldn't care any less about getting proper education. Those that do care are truly precious, and they are currently badly screwed by the public school system even _with_ the "gifted" programs in place. And among those who care, there's a small percentage of truly, staggeringly gifted kids. Those must receive disproportionate attention and support. We cannot afford them getting disillusioned and throwing in the towel.

A lot of negative reactions here. There's gifted and there's gifted. Should Hunter College Elementary School which requires off the chart scores being eliminated? No. Do somewhere between 10 and 20% of students need to be pulled out into separate programs? Also no.

The cutoff for district G&T programs in NYC is currently 90 percentile. For reference 90th percentile on the SAT in a nationally representative sample is 1290 / 1600.

Sorry, but I don't think at that point we are looking at special needs that come with extreme precociousness.

That 90th percentile doesn't guarantee a slot in a G&T program. It's kind of an elaborate system, but depending on what district your child is in or what school you're considering, the effective cutoff can be much higher. For example, my son's program only admitted children with either a 98 or 99 when he got into it 4 years ago. In a district like ours (District 3, which is basically the Upper West Side), a score of 90 won't get you a spot anywhere, unless...

...you have a child with a 90 with a sibling already in a program. If one child tests into a program, then later siblings are given preference over children without a sibling in the school, as long as they have a score over 90.

> but depending on what district your child is in

Which just goes to show another way that the system in NYC is totally screwed up. We all live in the same city, under the same law, and pay the same tax rates, so why is the city carved up into tiny little zones that have such a big influence on which schools kids go to? We aren't talking about hour long bus rides here, but mere blocks.

Let's combine the catchment districts of 199 and 191 and send students to each randomly. Why not?

>...I don't think at that point we are looking at special needs...

What is the societal loss incurred because of, say, the worst 1% of your hypothetical top 10% (i.e. just the 90th quantile) getting bored/discouraged/checking out before middle school? Are those kids precocious? No. Are we disproportionately better off if the 90th quantile thrives? Yes.

Maybe I am missing something but this sounds like a way to reduce inequality by pulling down the people who are doing well?

Any policy that feeds on jealously and resentment - powerful and volatile human emotions - is unlikely to produce actual results imo (which is the point presumably).

I can't see this possibly working. It would really just fuel even more segregation by having those students go to private school.

As long that it’s done with all deliberate speed [1], white parents will be fine. /s

More seriously and with less snark, as long as our schools are separate, we can’t have true social justice. That was at the heart of the Brown v. Board decision. It’s sad that even after more than 60 years our schools haven’t lived up to the spirit of that decision.

[1]: https://americanhistory.si.edu/brown/history/6-legacy/delibe...

They already are.... 75% of the current public system is minorities.....

The whites and asians (which for some weird reason, are not considered 'minorities') have already left the system altogether...

I predict the next step is going to be to forbid private schooling altogether, or require minority quotas in private schools....

Probably at that point the parents who can are going to send their kids to private boarding schools internationally. Depending on where you live currently and what country you send them to boarding school is price competitive with local (good) private schools...

Maybe they are price competitive, but they have the disadvantage of separating the kids from their parents. Most parents I know are pretty attached to their kids. I know I’m attached to mine.

I wonder if this is unconstitutional: some private schools are religious.

Can you give me a source on that? Is that for NYC specifically?

I’m pretty sure the holding of Brown v. Board was not that you can’t segregate schools based on test scores.

> true social justice

What is "true social justice"? If you ask ten people, you'll probably get ten different answers.

Seems like a pretty weak threat--"if you don't do what I want I'm going to stop taking your free services!" Okay great.

The threat is indirect. When people use the free services, they care about their quality, so there is a pressure to keep the quality high. The more people stop using the services, the more people don't care if their quality goes down.

This change can actually be irreversible, because as long as the quality is okay, people can leave and return on a whim, but when the quality goes down, they will be unlikely to return.

That's an empty threat if you have segregated schools. Because they don't care about those other schools anyway. So there's no change--either they care about only the schools in "good neighborhoods" or they care only about private schools. At least in the latter case we aren't adding insult to injury by making everyone contribute to effectively private schools.

Private school costs money?

I’m amazed to read that the mayor has the power to enact something like this. Where I live we have school boards who have nothing to do with city government. I thought all of America was that way. Why would people expect that they mayor knows anything about education?

It's a special New York State law that allows for mayoral control of the schools. It has only been in place since 2002. In the local context it makes sense because the mayor is the only municipal position that is prominent enough to sometimes escape control by the still powerful political machines.

That’s interesting. I’ve never lived anywhere big enough for machine politics. Around here the school board is populated by moms who are interested in their kids’ education. Maybe too specific to _their_ kids, but at least they aren’t using the school system to further ambitions for higher office.

> The panel wrote that “high-achievement students deserve to be challenged,” but in different ways.

One could argue that bad public schools with bad teachers and less capable colleagues are a challenge of sorts.

My takeaway for stories like this is that "progressive" ideas continue to inch closer and closer to the dystopia of Harrison Bergeron.

It's a shame that this line ended up at the very end of the article (which most people won't reach):

> Still, the report said, a system that relies heavily on sorting students according to academic ability “is not equitable, even if it is effective for some.”

Handicapping people for the sake of equity. What could possibly go wrong...

Great, make the "gifted" kids even more likely to be bored and disengage.

From what I understand, the trend in gifted education nationally has, for some years, been away from segregated schools and programs in favor of modified curriculum in mainstream classrooms, which often involves applying the individual curriculum adaptations often used in gifted classrooms to the whole student population.

If this is what eliminating New Yorker existing segregated gifted programs means, that may not be a bad thing.

How could anyone possibly support this policy?

There's a lot of dissatisfaction with the race-blind test-based admissions that result in disparities in admissions between ethnic groups [1]. A significant portion of people want equality of outcome. Especially how the article writes:

> The city should also redesign its competitive high school admissions process to ensure that high schools reflect the racial and economic make up of their boroughs, the panel found.

It does sound an awful lot like racial quotas (or, "outcome base goals" is I think the more contemporary term). But that's the view of equality that many people have.

Ultimately, I'm not sure if this will result in real desegregation. Even in schools that are desegregated on paper, students are internally segregated by academic capability. A Seattle HS principal explains his perspective here [2]. Students studying AP calc aren't studying with the ones doing geometry. Same with AP ____ classes. But that's a harder problem to solve, and politicians feel pressured to deliver something to their constituents.

1. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/18/nyregion/black-students-n... Stuyvesant isn't impacted by this proposal, but this article offers a good portrayal of what I'm referring to.

2. https://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/microcosm-of-the-...

There is some interesting research on the effectiveness of race-blind vs quotas: Parag Pathak has written about this specifically (some are on NBER). Joshua Angrist also has a few good papers on education.

From what I have read, race-blind is less effective than quotas in terms of achieving stated aims of policy...but I am not sure what this actually means given that: the exact goals of policies are often not clear, it isn't clear why race-blind doesn't work as well (given that it is often focused on socioeconomic disadvantage), etc.

Definitely an interesting topic though as it is so amenable to research. My common-sense instinct, as a non-American with nothing at stake, is that this is playing with fire.

Context: wealthy white parent of a public school student living in NYC. I do not subscribe to the "equality of outcome" goal that some other folks in the thread have imputed on the supporters of this move. I haven't had time to make up my mind on this. However, I can definitely understand the motivation, and I can picture being in support.

So here's the background, as I understand it: one really important question is whether the G&T program actually provides any better education to the kids that are in it. Many people feel it doesn't. It doesn't have its own curriculum, except the citywide program, where they just tackle material a year earlier than usual. The district-wide G&T programs -- which comprise the vast majority of the system -- just leave a little more up to teacher discretion than mainstream classrooms.

So the question then becomes, what is the actual value of the G&T programs (other than the citywide one)? People do not believe that white and asian people are intentionally segregating themselves from black and hispanic people for no other benefit. However, that is the most obvious effect. And as we all know, the purpose of a system is what it does.

From the perspective of that systems engineering-style thinking, unless a positive case can be made for the G&T program, there's a strong argument to be made that it should be scrapped. The school district has no compelling interest in providing a system whose sole benefit is socioeconomic and racial sorting. In fact, the main beneficiaries of this move would be the very folks who work so hard to get their kids into G&T programs. Because that stressor -- getting kids into the program -- would be removed, while giving no worse outcomes than what they could have expected before.

That is the gist of the argument in support of getting rid of the program.

My son did not test in to G&T. He has some various social and linguistic delays, but, more importantly, I did not do any of the test prep I'm led to believe many of my colleagues gave their kids. I will probably have my son retested this year after doing some professional test prep. Even though I think it's possible the G&T programs offer no benefit, it's hard to wager his future on that bet, and he wasn't that far from testing in. A lot will depend on how his first year of classes go.

> It doesn't have its own curriculum, except the citywide program, where they just tackle material a year earlier than usual.

What's wrong with just being a full-year ahead? If the core curriculum is essential, something like a reasonable claim, then not skipping any of it would follow. Either additional lessons would be needed at extra cost or it could be sped up. They chose sped up. Very common for students outside NY who excel at, say, math.

> And as we all know, the purpose of a system is what it does.

Have a citation for my exploring this line of thought?

> What's wrong with just being a full-year ahead?

Nothing. That's why I called it out as an exception to my overall suggestion that G&T might not be useful.

> Have a citation for my exploring this line of thought?

Sure! I find it a really fascinating perspective. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_purpose_of_a_system_is_wha...

There are quite a lot of people these days on a quixotic quest where diversity is their one and only holy grail, and it is to be achieved at all costs, all other considerations be damned.

There are also quite a lot of people these days on an unholy quest to condemn the “sjws” they think are out to ruin ‘murica.

My (white) kids are in GT and it is a godsend for them. So I pretty much hate everything about this article and am glad I don’t live in NYC.

At the same time, I would love more diversity in their school. My high school was 95+% white. We are a seriously segregated country, and it’s a real problem.

I went to a public high school in southern Maryland in the 90s. I took all honors and gifted classes. There was 1 black kid in any of my classes — in a school that was something like 60% black. And let me tell you, a lot of the white kids in my ‘gifted classes’ were idiots. It was just a way to segregate white kids from black kids within the school. If you were white and your parents had money, you were on the college track. Everyone else was going to votech.

"how could anyone support communism..." yet it happened. In many countries (including mine), the communist were the minority, but they won by sheer force of being the loudest/most extreme group in the field.... and some USSR backing.

In this case you have a group that is loud enough, to demand changes, which will probably/might help some on the segregation side, but sink all smart students that actually want to learn more than the lower common denominator...

The article mentions that currently 75% of the students in NY public schools are from minority groups, and a large portion of white and asian students have already left the system altogether...

this is akin in third world countries, where people vote with their feet and flee their countries to escape the corruption and bad conditions and become immigrants somewhere else....

The NY public system is like the Venezuela of education....

I feel I must adapt a saying of Milton Friedman in response to this:

"When you aim for equality over excellence, you will achieve neither equality nor excellence."

This is so wrongheaded one almost doesn't know where to begin. There are so many fronts of error and public policy gone wrong to the tune of populism (ironically).

First of all, you ask what the goal is, for these equality advocates. Is it equality of performance across all students, and none of them shall ever be allowed to have a gifted talented program in the future?

Because if they miraculously are successful, someday all students will be minimally achieving across all demographics, and then what about the gifted ones? Will they reinstitute gifted programs then? Or only if it again samples the racial groups equally?

Or worse (and I hope they think this self-aware), only if the "right" minorities are sampled? Because sometimes I wonder if only certain favored minorities get advocated for in this way.

Anyway, as many have said before, the problems of underachieving students extend far beyond the help of the classroom, and are the product of homes, parents, environment, that no banning of otherwise race-blind programs will do any more to achieve. This move will not somehow make NYC's schools better or in-classroom instruction more effective, you'd better believe that -- and isn't that the point?

2nd point:

NYC will be gutting no small fraction of the people who make its future bright, in the name of trying to remediate the general population (ineffectively I may say).

Why? Because unpopular as it is to say, a city's (or country's) future isn't propelled by the average person. It's driven by outstanding people, rockstars, high performers. The kinds of people who get into (and are educated at) places that get called "elite".

You can see this in your daily life. Most people who do a job are just barely doing it competently. It takes the people with imagination, drive, ideas, talent, who are a cut above the rest to make significant differences and change.

People don't flock to NYC because it's average. They flock there because there's exceptional people, places, companies, and infrastructure to do the things they want to do. NYC would be cutting its exceptionality off at the knees to make the average person only slightly better. That's a mistake.

Finally, a closing thought:

"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. "

This article is a little confusing. It implies that most white and asian kids are going to gifted schools. Can that really be the case? Kids that are actually gifted probably benefit from more challenging material but they don't need that all day long in a separate school. Think of them as handicapped kids that need a little extra attention but attend the same school as every one else.

I'm constantly surprised, confused, and appalled when moves, however imperfect, toward a more meritocratic system are thwarted by, possibly well meaning, progressives who have the most to benefit. So let's ditch a fantastic program based on objective measures so we can meet some racist quotas...

I have a son in G&T program in Queens so this has some relevance for me. This is a purely political move by De Blasio, which I think will face strong objection and, I hope, will fail miserably.

Now there are people who think that black kids will magically become better students because they sit next to high achievers. But as a former NYC student I would tell them that it is, sadly, not the case.

Black kids need additional help, why not set up schools where kids, black, white, yellow, brown, get the extra discipline and help that they need. No, that is no joke and it will only work if these school have the same high expectation and concomitant resources.

The problem in the end is that there is not enough resources and political will to help these kids. Naturally, the parents who are resourceful will find way to help their own kids succeed. The issue is how to do it for every kid.

A flawless, proven solution to eliminate inequality is to seize everything of value from everyone. Then we are all equal.

It's the premise of Harrison Bergeron. Put everyone at the lowest common denominator to make society truly equal.

Please don't post unsubstantive comments here.

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