There is a comic I think about whenever I hear the word “fair”. In the first panel, three children are reaching for apples in a tree: a tall child, a child of average height and a short child. All three of them are given a same-sized box to stand on. The tall child is obviously able to reach the apples, but the other two cannot.
In the second panel, each child is given the amount of boxes they need to reach the apple: the tall child is given one box; the middle child is given two boxes; and the third, the shortest, is given three. They can now all reach the apples. The first panel is obviously equality: all three children get the same box. The second panel is justice, or equity: all three of the children get the number of boxes that will help them succeed.
This one is slightly less confusing than the same comic where the children are looking at a baseball game, so that one literalist doesn’t say ‘They should have paid for the game!’ (That is the very definition of missing the point.) I think about this comic whenever I decide how to best teach a lesson in class: I have 28 students in one of my classes, and I am sure there are 28 different ways to learn. How can I make their learning more equitable instead of just more equal?
Thinking beyond the scope of the classroom: how can we make our justice system more just, and not just fair and blind? Because we know justice is not blind. Every case has its circumstances, and whilst I obviously believe the law should be applied as fairly as possible, there is no “one size fits all” punishment for every crime. That is why I think laws like the “three strikes” or “mandatory minimums” are not helpful. They may be equal, but they are certainly not just.
If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s A to Z challenge, check them out here.
Photo by Edward Lich