Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Lie--"Fair Treatment" is "Same Treatment"

Having been a teacher and now a dad, I hear all the time about how "that's not fair. Billy Bob got __________ and you gave me ________." It is my opinion that the concept of "fairness" has been muddled with "sameness".  Many people think that the only way for some decision to be fair is for it to be the same decision you gave someone else. This takes away the opportunity to look at circumstances and to make a decision based on the entire body of information. This viewpoint means that I must pay equal amounts of attention to each kid, each day. So, if I am teaching a difficult concept to a class of 20 and 15 truly understand the concept and need no further instruction it would be fair to reteach the concept to everyone just so the 5 can get it.

This is the point where I disagree. Not every person, in every circumstance needs to be treated fairly. In the above illustration, it may not be "fair" to keep my attention from the 15 but it is the right thing to do. I should challenge those 15 with some other concept while trying to reteach the 5, even though that is not "fair".

Another illustration, If fairness is sameness and a kid has a heart attack, do I need to make sure to perform CPR on each kid? Of course, that is absurd but look at the illustration. In many parts of society, especially education, we feel that whatever on person gets, the other should as well. This completely eliminates the concept of specific needs, different learning styles, ability, maturity, life circumstances, etc. It also eliminates the need for the adminstrator to pass judgement. There in lies the motivation. If I can just administer the same treatment to all of my charges all the time, it is fair and it removes the possibility of someone calling "favoritism". Boy aren't we afraid of being accused of playing favorites!! 

When you look up the term "Fair" you get this definition--"Free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice". Nowhere in that definition is the concept of equality. Free from bias means that you don't have any leanings toward one or the other party. Dishonesty means just that, you are honest in your attempts and injustice means you didn't "do anyone wrong". If we were to utilize this concept of fairness in our daily lives, what would change? One, we would be encouraged to remove the jealousy bug that creeps in because it isn't "fair". In other words, the Occupiers would look at the situation they are protesting and determine how much of what they are protesting is "sameness" and how much is "fairness". In other words, are they jealous that they don't have the same wealth or is there actually some "bias, dishonesty or injustice?" I think there probably is some of that but not as much as they want us to believe. I think the majority of what the occupiers protest is jealousy that there is not enough sameness. I think it is time for the occupiers to get a little more specific about the injustices they are protesting. If they cannot get specific, then they are just upset about the lack of sameness (aka jealousy). Its sort of like they are saying, " I know you cheated to get there, I just can't prove it." How do they "know"? Because they have not achieved the same level and that is not fair. See the absurdity here too?

What else would change if we as a society rejected the concept that "Fair" is "Same"? We could cut a tremendous amount of money out of social welfare programs. People would be served only what they truly needed, not what they can get because it is fair. Just think about that for a second. I know that there is a benefit to most social programs and none should just plain go away. There is a legit need for many of them. I also know there is a ton of abuse that people get away with because the administrators are afraid of being unfair. What if the administrators were able to look at each specific circumstance and provide the service that is truly needed? Many people clamor for people being drug tested before given welfare. This is a backlash to abuses of the system. What if instead, people are drug tested and instead of being denied welfare, they are enrolled in a treatment facility. In other words, they are given what they actually need. Its the same concept as the kid having the heart attack in your class. He needs CPR, the other kids do not.

Why won't this work? People are addicted to sameness and jealousy. If I see that person get a certain treatment, I feel slighted if I don't get the same (even if I don't need, or even really want, that treatment). Can it change? Sure. People have to be honest with themselves and have to (ultimately) find contentment in their circumstances. Contentment does not mean they don't strive for more, it just means that they aren't eaten up with jealousy when a peer has more. I challenge you to work on this. Before you utter the words "thats not fair", think about it. Has that person worked harder than you? Has that person earned it? Has there really been an injustice, bias or dishonesty? If not, then you are just jealous. Thoughts?

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