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Fairness – Education

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cc11Trying to come up with a sequel part to ‘fairness’ I did a wee bit of research on the term and ran across some lesson plans for various academic grade levels. Their title for fairness is conjoined with the term justice. Justice in and of itself is a blog waiting to happen, so we’ll keep our focus solely on ‘fairness’.

Goodcharacter.com has a teaching guide covering ‘Fairness’ complete with video, questionnaires, and a teacher’s lesson plan.

For grade levels K-5 there is a simple list of ‘how to be fair’ titled How to be a Fair Person. It’s a rather basic list for young children to understand:

  • Treat people the way you want to be treated.
  • Take Turns.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Play by the rules.
  • Think about how your actions will affect others.
  • Listen to people with an open mind.
  • Don’t blame others for your mistakes.
  • Don’t take advantage of other people.
  • Don’t play favorites.

Now before viewing the video with this lesson in fairness, the children are asked to answer 2 (4) questions:

    1. Have you ever said, “that’s unfair”? How do you know when something is unfair?
    2. Has anybody ever tricked you or cheated you? How did you feel about it?

As the grade level progress, the video changes to better suit the older children. At the middle school and high school levels, the simple list of ‘how to be’ turns into a true / false questionnaire. Admittedly it offers the older students the opportunity to think for themselves, about themselves. We all know that most teenagers tend to tune people out that say this or say that about how things ought to be, so prescribing to their use of their own intellect is apropos. And to give the high school age children a leg up, the words are more mature, yet the true / false questions remain the same.

Middle School (apparently just for 6th grade):
Are You a Fair Person?
(Take this self-evaluation and decide for yourself.)

      True / False
  • – I treat people the way I want to be treated.
  • – I treat people impartially and without prejudice.
  • – I consider the feelings of all people who will be affected by my actions.
  • – I am open-minded and reasonable.
  • – I play by the rules.
  • – I never take advantage of others.
  • – I think I am/am not a fair person because: ___________________

High School (Grades 7-12):
Are You a Fair Person?
(Take this self-evaluation and decide for yourself.)

      True / False
  • – I treat other people the way I want to be treated.
  • – I treat people with equanimity and impartiality.
  • – I am open-minded and reasonable.
  • – I play by the rules.
  • – I don’t take advantage of people.
  • – I consider the feelings of all people who will be affected by my actions and decisions.
  • – I think I am/am not a fair person because: ___________________

“It is reasonable that every one who asks justice should do justice.” – Thomas Jefferson
You’ll also notice that the high schooler’s are given a quote from one our founding fathers, as a little bit more to think about. At this point, it has most likely become clear to them that fairness and justice are synonymous, or at least are taught they are.

The questions presented to the teenagers prior to their video viewing are as follows:

Middle School:

    1. What is “fairness?”
    2. How do you know when something is unfair?
    3. Does being fair mean you always treat people equally? Explain your answer.
    4. How many people here think the world is unfair and there’s nothing you can do about it?

High School:

    1. Agree or disagree: It’s an unfair world, and nothing I do is going to change that.
    2. How do you know when something is unfair?

The one question that remains constant from Kindergarten through to the 12th grade seems to be: “How do you know when something is unfair?” But the question that would make the older students think most, “Has anybody ever tricked you or cheated you? How did you feel about it?”, seems to have slipped out of sight, out of mind.

We have all felt cheated or tricked in our teenage lives, and that feeling does not end when we approach adulthood. Would it not be better to adequately remind our young teens, teens, and young adults, that going within and asking ourselves how something made us feel and that the first item on the K-5 list, “Treat people the way you want to be treated.”, is a very fair way to live our lives? Would it not be most ‘just’ to remind ourselves of the most basic of the golden rules? And sometimes we should make sure to remember to not only treat people the way we wish to be treated, but to remember to expect to be treated in kind as we treat them, especially when it comes to retaliation.

In a world currently out-of-control with injustice, impatience, avarice, greed, etc., it is no wonder we are hearing how life is unfair on a daily basis out of the mouths of adults. Some things are best left to be out of the mouths of babes, and saying “that’s not fair” just may be one of them.

Good Character Education

(originally written May 2010)

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