This story FUCKED ME UP as a kid. I don't remember what grade I was in, but they had us "gifted kids" read and discuss it some time around 8th or 9th grade. My introduction to Vonnegut, and I couldn't ask for a better one. That's when I really started thinking about the difference between equality of opportunity and forced equality of experience.
I think about the different methods used to handicap people all the time. The loud noises played in your ear to keep you from concentrating - is a glass being smashed by a ball peen hammer really all that different from keeping your phone attached to your head the whole time you're awake? (Also, note: you people with those ear piece things look like dork-ass cyborgs.)
And in the end, of course, the state wins. Beauty and grace and intelligence are literally shot down, because they do not support the system in power. That was a warning I took to heart. Not that you must hide your light, never stick out, never rise above - but watch your damn ass, and don't go dancing with pretty women while they're still out to get you!
final thought: It was then that Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor.