Thursday, February 7, 2013


In a recent course at the U of R we were discussing fairness in assessment and fairness in the classroom.  What is fairness and how is it different than equality?

Equality refers to everything being the same and equal, so everyone gets the same thing. Equality can be shown when teachers give out treats and every student gets one, to make sure it is "fair" for everyone.

Fairness is sometimes confused with equality, although fairness is different.  Fairness refers to people getting what they need.  So in the instance of a teacher handing out candy, the child with low blood sugar might get two, while the child who ate four pieces of candy at lunch may not get any.  Fairness refers to each person and child getting what they need, not what they want or what they think they need, but what they need at that point in time.

Here's a video from a TED talk about life and how "unfair" it can be at some points in time.

I appreciate the dialogue that can be created from this video.  When her friend says "It's not fair," that she has 12 different legs to choose from or that she can be "Any height she wants to". That statement about having multiple legs not being fair really struck me as odd.  For a moment I was jealous that I couldn't change my height or walk on wooden designer legs, yet at the same point in time I realized it is definitely fair for her to be able to choose her legs in the morning because she did not get to choose whether or not she would have her own legs permanently attached to her body to walk on.

Learning how to empathize with people as well as seeing the world from their point of view really puts everything into perspective.  It's videos like these that could be incorporated into a classroom to allow students to think of what it would be like to be Aimee Mullins and the different triumphs and struggles she has faced. It's empowering to see how people with disabilities no longer need to be viewed as disabled, but rather having great strengths and "glorious disabilities" that we can learn from.

CC image from
The blog titled "Teach From the Heart" provides a great lesson idea for teaching elementary aged students about fairness.  The band-aid activity shows the difference between equality and fairness by providing a lived experience for students to learn from and comprehend. Check it out!

The theme song from Malcolm in the Middle (a TV show from the 1990's) states "Life is unfair", but is it really unfair?  Consider your life from someone else's point of view and see how unfair life has really been to you.

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