unfair / not fair

Yesterday’s Zits, with Jeremy bemoaning the unfairness of things:

Two Fair World assumptions:

an egocentric version, which seems to be Jeremy’s: In a fair world, I would get what I want/need;

an evenhanded, or utopian, version: In a fair world, everyone would get what they want/need.

Kids, teenagers included, are much inclined to the egocentric understanding of fair: what inconveniences me is unfair.

An example from real life, in a NYT story on the 21st, ” ‘Hunger Games’ Brings Out Legions of Fans, and Inflatable Mattresses” by Melena Ryzik:

“Thankyouthankyouthankyou.” Quick pause for breath. “Ohmygodohmygodohmygod.”

Amanda Fraass, 18, of South Amboy, N.J., had just become one of the lucky ones: After a long, anxiety-filled wait, she had received a highly coveted wristband that would allow her access to an appearance by the stars of “The Hunger Games” at a Barnes & Noble in Union Square in Manhattan. Like hundreds of others, Ms. Fraass, a high school senior, had stood on the street for hours, in the hope of getting a glimpse of someone, anyone, associated with the film.

… Fans began lining up for the event, a strictly enforced “Hunger Games” book-signing (only two items apiece, and no personal objects, messages or photos, please), on Monday, some as early as 10 a.m., a full 24 hours before wristbands were given out. A few dozen camped out overnight, complete with tents and inflatable mattresses, on the sidewalk on 17th Street; by dawn Tuesday, the line stretched around the corner. Ultimately, it reached nearly three city blocks, but only the fans from the first two were granted bands, so hundreds of people were turned away, their day ruined. “I literally missed a two-hour math class to get here,” one girl cried. “This is not fair!”

She put in the time and energy, she deserved a band.

The sense of entitlement here is one that teachers will be familiar with, in the student who complains that it’s unfair that they didn’t get an A, when they worked very hard on the assignment.

A corollary of the evenhanded assumption: In a fair world, good/desirable things would be evenly distributed. That leads high school students to complain that it’s not fair that the smart kids get good grades, without a lot of work, and that the very hard-working kids (like the “model” Asian students) get good grades; good grades should be evenly distributed and come from a modicum of work. So in their estimation, school is inherently unfair.

Oh yes, and punishment is unfair unless everyone who merits punishment is in fact punished. So we get students complaining that it’s unfair that they were punished for cheating — because other kids cheated and got away with it.


One Response to “unfair / not fair”

  1. the ridger Says:

    As Jareth the Goblin King (in “Labyrinth”) said to Sara when she complained that something wasn’t fair: “You say that so often… I wonder what your basis for comparison is.”

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