Tuesday, January 24, 2012

FAIR Doesn't Necessarily Mean EQUAL

I'm sure we've all heard it:  "Mom, it's not fair! So and so got something that I didn't..." or "so and so got to do something that I didn't..." or, better yet, "His piece is bigger than mine."
These words ring out in our house more often than I'd like to admit. "I'm sorry you feel that way, dear." Eyes are already starting to roll at this point because my kids know what's coming next, "Fair isn't always equal."

It's an interesting concept, this idea that fair and equal are not conjoined at the hip.Somehow our society has swayed in a direction that seems to promote the synonymy of these two very different words. And, while I'm not a sociologist, and economist, or a politician, I find an interesting link between the merging of these ideas.

Consider for a moment that fair really is equal and conversely that equal is fair. Imagine a room full of excited children as they take turns swinging at a candy-full pinata. Whack after excited whack, the pinata weakens, and at long last it burst open. Candy launches across the floor. Children scream with delight as they dive in to collect their treasures. Time flies forward as dozens of arms and legs work hard to secure their takings. - Now imagine a boy on the sidelines who, though perfectly able to have collected his own candy, chose to do nothing.
If fair is equal, the argument would be that all the other children - those who actually worked for their candy - should have to share with the one who chose to do nothing. And, if fair is equal, it wouldn't be just about sharing, an actual accounting and division would have to take place. The kids would all have to put their candy in the middle and divide it equal ways among all the children.
So, if fair is equal, is equal fair?  Is it fair to those who worked hard, got knees thrown to their ribs and elbows bumped into their faces, to have to split their loot with the ones who didn't put themselves on the line? In a nutshell, what does this teach them?

If there is no reward for hard, pain-staking effort, why do it? 

In an oversimplified nutshell, I think that scenario summarizes our current trend of ENTITLEMENT. I don't know who coined the term "Generation I Deserve" (aka Gen I.D.), but as a mom, a volunteer with youth, and a simple observer, I see it daily. And, it's not just limited to our children and our teens. Adults have started to adopt this attitude as well.

Sure, we are entitled to basic human rights. But, somewhere I think we've lost sight perhaps of what that means. Somewhere we've shifted from EMPOWERING people to do great things to ENABLING them to do nothing. We've all heard that "if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, you've fed him for a lifetime."

Last night I was in a crowded room full of young wresting boys.I didn't take time to count, but I'd guess there were about 50 little boys (aged 3 - 9) and only 4 coaches. The air was thick with the smell of rubber mats and little boy sweat. From my position along the wall, I observed two very young boys (3 or 4 at the oldest) sitting cross-legged on the mat, giggling while the coach hollered, "Referee Position." All the boys positioned themselves accordingly, ready to practice their take-down at the coaches command... all the boys, that is, except these two cute little guys. What I saw next made my jaw nearly hit the floor. Two fathers stood and made their way on to the mat. One of the dads took position on his knees beside his boy and began to show him what to do. The other, approached the coach and expressed, in a very disrespectful tone, that he expected the coach to take a one-on-one approach with his son (remember the ratio is at minimum 12:1 here!). He then turned to the dad of the other boy, accusing him not only of having a lazy kid, but degrading him for doing "the coaches job." He took his son by the hand and dragged him across the mat. After planting his son into the care of another coach (and taking attention from at least a dozen other boys in the process), he returned to his cross armed, barrel chested position along the wall.

My hat's off to the dad who got on his knees and took time to EMPOWER his son. He saw his responsibility to his child's success. He took the time to teach his son to fish.

So, I ask, are we EMPOWERING our children, our friends, our associates? Are we taking the time to teach them to fish? Are we giving them the tools to do for themselves and to be contributors? Or are we teaching them to be takers?

Fair doesn't mean equal and equal doesn't mean fair. Hard work and sacrifice lead to merit based opportunities. When we take away competition and learning opportunities, we ENABLE people to become users of society. When we promote an "everyone's a winner" environment, we are ENTITLING others to take away from those who really do work harder.

 (This is not a political statement or endorsement, I simply thought it was an appropriate synopsis to my point.)

1 comment:

  1. Great post. If we don't turn this mindset around, we're going to be in a lot of trouble. Thanks for posting.


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