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"That's just unfair," Springoff the First said as he saw the Four of Clubs.

It wasn't the first time I'd heard one of my kids claim something was unfair.  We've all heard it.  We've all said it.  Here on DKos, hardly a day passes without someone writing about fairness, whether explicitly or implicitly.  We say it when life hasn't given us or someone else what we think they deserve, for good or ill.  It happens often enough that you'd think the universe is fundamentally unfair.  But is it?

More below the fold....

Fair, Not Fair, or Unfair?

This week we've explored Homo narratus, humans as a storytelling species.  We not only like to tell stories; it's fair to say use stories to organize stimuli into experience.  And sometimes the stories we use cause us problems.

We began by exploring two common forms of human storytelling.  Wednesday we looked at age-and-change narratives, those "When I was your age" stories we endured as children and now make our children and grandchildren endure.  Thursday we had fun with geographic hardiness narratives, where regions compete for who endures the worst of Mother Nature's offerings.  Yesterday we looked at pessimistic "the story of my life" narratives, and how they can lead us into self-fulfilling prophecies.  Today we look at fairness narratives.

"The summer of poker."

Casa Crissie got swept up in the poker craze along with the rest of the country a few years back.  The summer of 2004 was more than a bit crazy here in South Blogistan anyway; that's the year we got hit by hurricane after hurricane, and Ivan looped around and hit us twice.  The year the phrase "generator envy" entered the South Blogistani patois.

Here at Casa Crissie, we tried to distract ourselves by playing home poker tournaments.  It was either that or graph our rising anxiety as we watched the Cone of Uncertainty narrow to the Arrow of Doom time and time again.  The eyes of two hurricanes passed directly over our home, though both were weak enough that we had no real damage.  But we did have a lot of time to kill.  It was Springoff the First who christened it "the summer of poker."  Better than "the summer of sardines," which would express both our diet when we lost electricity and how we felt being cooped up inside against the wind and rain.

Springoff the First and I were heads up at the end of one of many such tournaments.  I peeked down at a pair of red Fours, and put in a small raise.  He looked at his cards and doubled my raise, the minimum raise allowed by the rules.  I put him on an Ace and another big card, a very strong hand heads-up.  A small pair against two higher cards is called a "coin flip" or a "race" for a reason: the small pair, while a pair, is only a slim favorite to win the pot once all the cards are dealt.  As I didn't want to put the outcome on a coin flip, I just called his raise.

We were playing Texas Hold'Em, where each player gets two pocket cards face down, and five community cards are dealt face-up on the table.  Players try to make the best five-card hand from their two pocket cards and the five community cards.  Players bet after they see their pocket cards, then again after the first three community cards (the Flop) are placed on the table, then again after the fourth community card (the Turn), and again after the fifth community card (the River).  We were playing no-limit, meaning we could if we wished bet all of our chips at any time.

So I was happy to see the Four of Spades on the Flop, alongside the Ace and Jack of Diamonds.  If Springoff the First had a big Ace, as I guessed he did, he'd made a pair of Aces.  But I'd made three-of-a-kind with my pocket Fours plus the Four of Spades.  I checked, hoping he'd bet so I could put him all-in.  He checked back.

Hrmm.  He wouldn't check a pair of Aces in a heads-up pot, not with the Ace and Jack of Diamonds out there.  There were too many possible drawing hands that he wouldn't want to give a free card.  But he might check two pair, hoping I'd missed the Flop and would catch something at the Turn.  I refined my initial read and put him on Ace-Jack.

The Turn card was the Six of Hearts, a "blank" in that it didn't match anything from the Flop.  I put in a healthy bet, and sure enough he came back with a big raise.  Yup.  He must have Ace-Jack.  "All-in," I said.

"Call," he replied, before I finished the word "in."

He turned up two Aces.  I thought I'd been luring him into betting, and it turned out he'd been luring me into betting.  Oops.

Then came that Four of Clubs on the River, giving me four-of-a-kind.  And then I heard the words every poker player - indeed every one of us - has heard and said so often: "That's just unfair."

It wasn't "fair."

He'd had the best hand all along.  He'd made all the right decisions, and got me to put all of my chips in as a 43:1 underdog.  There were 44 cards remaining unseen, and exactly one card - the lone remaining Four - that I could catch to win.  And I caught that one card.  I didn't win by making better decisions, although given what I knew I played the hand as well as I could.  But poker is a game of limited information, and what I didn't know was that I was way behind from the start, and even farther behind when all the chips went in.  I got lucky.  Plain and simple.

So if by "fair" he meant that he deserved to win because he'd played a better hand correctly, then he was right.  It wasn't a "fair" outcome.  

But it wasn't "unfair" either.  I hadn't cheated.  We have an automatic card shuffler here at Casa Crissie, not to stop cheating but because it's easier on Herself's arthritic fingers and it doesn't wear out the cards as quickly, and Springoff the Fourth was dealing.  The machine had given a fair shuffle, and Springoff the Fourth had dealt the cards correctly by the rules.  Texas Hold'Em is a seven-card game, after all.

It was "not fair."

So it wasn't "fair," and it wasn't "unfair."  It was "not fair."  The deck and dealer were not "fair" in that neither was intent on rewarding the best play.  But neither were they "unfair" in the sense of favoring either of us arbitrarily.  The deck was randomly shuffled, and the deal was by the rules.  The process was "fair," but the outcome was "not fair."

And I've found that's often the case with our fairness narratives.  We think the universe should reward good choices and punish bad ones.  That fits the common Judeo-Christian narrative of a universe governed by an ominiscient and omnipotent God who gives each of us what we deserve.  But that narrative is a selective reading of the Bible.  It ignores the keen observation in Ecclesiastes 9:11 that:

I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.

For all that conservative Christians rail against the randomness of evolution, arguing God would not allow a random universe, their own text says that's exactly what happens.  The wisest and most discerning among us are often poor, and those with the greatest ability do not always gain the greatest favor.  Sometimes we just get lucky, or unlucky.  "Time and chance overtake them all."

Fairness is not an arbitrary desire.

Our impulse to fairness is not arbitrary.  Human children, long hypothesized to be egocentric and inherently selfish, show signs of understanding fairness very early in life.  Indeed we may be born with it.  Studies have shown a fairness impulse in dogs, and we see it in other primates:

So we didn't invent the notion of fairness out of thin air.  And that makes sense, as we're a social species with genetic diversity over a wide range of cognitive and physical skills.  The fairness impulse would offer an evolutionary advantage: we're more willing to cooperate, and delegate specialized tasks to those best able to do them.  So while we've not yet proven that we're born with a fairness impulse, we shouldn't be surprised if that turned out to be true.

But the universe is "not fair."

The universe won't drop fairness in our laps, even if we're hardwired to expect it.  In the film, the nuts were not divided equally by an act of fate.  Vulcan offered the tool, and showed Virgil how to use it when Virgil got confused.  Virgil got to the nuts, and shared them after Vulcan asked by reaching through the screen.  It was a process of communication and cooperation.  They worked it out.

And that's what we humans have to do if we want fair outcomes.  We have to work it out, communicating and cooperating.  We still won't always get fair outcomes, but we give ourselves the best opportunity for fairness.

That's why I offered to cook what Springoff the First requested for dinner.  That's usually the prize in poker tournaments at Casa Crissie: first one eliminated does the dishes and the winner picks the dinner menu.  The cards were not fair, but he and I still could be.

Of course, Mother Nature still held a veto.  Good thing he asked for peanut butter sandwiches.  I was tired of sardines.


Happy Saturday!

Originally posted to NCrissieB on Sat May 23, 2009 at 04:16 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for working toward fairness. :) (37+ / 0-)

    Because it doesn't happen by accident.

    As always, ::smoooooooooooochies:: to Kula, wherever she is, and ::huggggggggggggs:: to the Kula Krew!

  •  anyone with kids hears "that's not fair" (19+ / 0-)

    multiple times a day.  I (along with most parents, I suspect) am perfectly willing to make things fair for K1, which means a considerable loss of privleges and stuff -- being older, she gets more than her sister.  And if we broaden the category to 10-yr-olds around the world, I tell her that she's going to need to hook a rug or something before she's allowed to play a round of golf.  That usually gets her.  

    Oddly, it seems that the adult version of "it's not fair" tends to come from the wealthy and privleged and those with the least among us tend to be more grateful for what they have...  I guess it's true that the more you have, the more you want.

    Good Morning Crissie! Hugggggs!
    And good morning to the rest of the Krew!

    "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

    by theKgirls on Sat May 23, 2009 at 04:33:09 AM PDT

  •  It's not fair that the mornkrew were dealt NcB (12+ / 0-)

    After all, we met here by accident. Kula rose to the rec' list so we noticed her by algorithmic logic that while logical is beyond our control so seems unfairly favorable to some.
    Krissie took over while Kula moved, it was a

    Krisis, but with alakrity, NkrissieB rose to the okkasion, and with Kindness [n.b. the naturally occuring K word] kept the Kommunity going or should I say Kareenig forward. (Truth be told, we moving forward until she and the Janitor got on the Kareen tracK if a Kareen tracK can be called a tracK.

    and that  she knew how to play the Kards, too.

    Time for a history of BPI. when the website up.  

  •  Once, when I was babysitting, a boy said (17+ / 0-)

    something or other wasn't 'fair'.

    I told him "J., if life ever got to 'fair' you'd be so far behind where you are now that I don't want to hear about it.  You've got two parents who love you, a bed to sleep in, a warm apartment, and plenty of food, and so, you're way ahead on fairness".

    He never used that again!

    Life isn't fair, and, for nearly everyone in the USA, it's better than fair..... while we joke, here, about "blogistan", we could have been born in a country that does end in -stan, and in nearly all of them, life is not so good as it is here.

    •  That's one my children have heard also. (13+ / 0-)

      Our fairness narratives often ignore the ways "time and chance overtake them all," starting at the moment of conception.  As I noted above, and another reader noted yesterday, it's what Warren Buffet calls "the Ovarian Lottery."  We should work to make fairer outcomes more possible, but we should also recognize and be grateful for the many blessings we were given, not because we deserved them but through accident of birth, or because we happened to be in the right place at the right time with some skill or idea that someone else wanted or needed.

      Good morning! ::hugggggggggggs::

    •  I take from J. Michael Stracinsky (13+ / 0-)

      in B5 reference.
      I used to think life wasn't fair. And then I thought, "What is life was fair, and all the things that happened to us was exactly what we deserved?" Now, I take great comfort in the unfairness of life.

      So the terrorists of Gitmo are stronger, faster, and better than the USDOJ? The Senate thinks so. My. How "American".

      by RElland on Sat May 23, 2009 at 05:02:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That is a fantastic line. I'm going to use it on (11+ / 0-)

      my own kids. It's hard to argue with truth like that.

      We talk to them from time to time about what we saw in the rural Middle East: how the bawab's children lived in the garage under the building with no home to call their own, and the like.

      Fair is a relative thing, and as you say, nearly everyone in the US is way ahead on fairness.

      Morning hugs, Peter!

      •  lord knows (13+ / 0-)

        i really hope this country never gets what's "fair".  Lordy knows that would be a frakkin' disaster starting with the "fair" that would need to be meted out to compensate for what happened to the native americans and then the other "fair" for using people's labor for two centuries.

        no....i pray GOD we never see fair in America.

        •  Is compensation fair? (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DBunn, winterbanyan, Shuruq, NCrissieB, kktlaw

          I realize that we've seen some arguments that being fair from here on out is fundamentally unfair, since this can simply validate an unfair status quo, but would it really be so bad if we simply started being fair from here on out in our relationships with the rest of the world?

          I think paying the going rate for resources we need from other countries, rather than marching in and taking them (and we've been doing that ever since the British taught us how) might increase the price of some of our customary privileges, but would that be a bad thing?

          Cars, for example. If we had been fair, and petroleum based fuels were priced based on fair exchange rather than theft, perhaps we would not have a car culture with all it's alienation and global disaster from CO2 emissions. Or, perhaps, we would have had to develop more manufacturing to trade for oil, thus improving our standard of living as well as that of our trading partners.

          At this point, it looks like we are going to be forced to give up cars, eventually, at least for mass transport, and rebuild our transportation system, and then everything that depends on it: factory agriculture, the size and layout of our cities, buildings that make the most of the climate where they are built, and on and on.

          Which means everyone has solid, productive work for the foreseeable future. I don't see this as a disaster, at all. In fact, we might be a whole lot happier producing solar ovens for the Saudis to trade for petroleum as a manufacturing feed stock than we are now.

          Good morning! and ::huggggggggggs:: to the Kula Krew! :)

          "You can't get something for nothing...It's time to stop being stupid." Bob Herbert

          by Orinoco on Sat May 23, 2009 at 06:56:16 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Free trade vs. Fair trade (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Orinoco, DBunn, winterbanyan, Shuruq, kktlaw

            There's an entire body of work out there on free trade vs. fair trade.  Much of what has passed for "free trade" is only "free" in the sense that Great Powers have been "free" to get what they wanted at a price they liked ... regardless of how that worked out for those whose resources were being "traded."

            In a "fair trade" system, Americans would have to pay a whole lot more for a lot of things, to the point that many of us would probably decide we could live without those things, or make do with what we could develop locally.  Some argue that would be bad for the resource-selling nations, as without the income from those sales they'd have even less.  Ironically, you never hear that argument from the resource-selling nations themselves, though.  It's always the resource-buying nations who make that argument "for them."

            And yes, the antecedent of "them" at the end of that sentence is intentionally ambiguous.

            Good morning! ::huggggggggggs::

      •  Hugs back to you! (9+ / 0-)

        I try to wake up every morning and think:

        1. I don't have to worry about paying for food
        1. I don't have to worry about sleeping on the streets
        1. I've got a family that's mostly good :-)

        so, life is good.

        •  I remember one thing our bawab's older son (8+ / 0-)

          once asked, which for some reason really sticks with me. He, eyes shining and voice hushed in awe, asked, "Is it true that America is so rich that... that... there's a McDonald's in every village????"

          •  About breaks your heart, doesn't it? I watched a (7+ / 0-)

            documentary last week on illegal immigration- in Europe, (luvs me the Documentary Channel). One of the Africans who had managed to sneak over and stay a while before being caught and deported said that he was going to keep trying to come back because Europe was so safe that he could walk down the streets and see no one fighting anywhere. Talk about perspective. He cadged the equivalent of a couple of hundred bucks from the agency that deported him and it had been stolen, (in exchange for not beating the crap out of him), within 24 hours of his getting home. Not fair, indeed.

            Good morning! :::Huuugggsss:::

            Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

            by FarWestGirl on Sat May 23, 2009 at 06:42:06 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Brilliant! (9+ / 0-)

      Rogues are preferable to imbeciles because they sometimes take a rest. - Alexandre Dumas

      by elropsych on Sat May 23, 2009 at 05:24:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Slightly off topic, but there is a series of (12+ / 0-)

    novels that involve professional poker players and cheaters.  The main character is a, what else, retired policeman who is very skillful at spotting cheaters in casinos so makes his living working for casinos.  One older man who is a pro-gambler is one of the zanier characters in one of the books, who makes outrageous bets with non-professional gamblers.  One example:  the old man challenged a thoroughbred to a 100 yard race, and the betting was on!  The day of the race, the thoroughbred and his jockey pranced restlessly at the starting line, while the old man, clad in white shorts and a t shirt, limbered up by doing creaky knee bends...  Then the old man, with the retired policeman at his side walked fifty yards on the path of the race, and put the cone down on that spot.

    The gun went off, the horse and rider blazed across the starting line, and the old man ran steadily to the fifty yard mark, spun around and started running back.  Meanwhile, the horse and its rider were unable to make a quick turn around, so the old man was in the lead and nipped the horse by a nose to win.  

    Besides being side-splitting funny in the book, I guess the moral is that sometimes what we think may be unfair actually is fair.

  •  Since when has life ever been fair? (14+ / 0-)

    Life is a random series of accidents waiting to happen.  Go to a neonatal intensive care unit and determine what is fair.  Go to the funeral of a child and determine if life was fair to that child.  

  •  hey yall! Its not fair that i only (12+ / 0-)

    have limited time in the mornings anymore. I do get to read the diaries but only long after the interactive part is over :(

    thanks Crissie, again, for doing these.  It still feels good with my coffee even if its 11 am before I read most mornings.

    BTW (off topic) the project is going OK. I'm in the process of securing possible distribution partnerships online. That's just a fancy way of saying "finding out who might want to plug our video/chat programming module into their website or blog once a week".  I need audience to be able to pay for the production, obviously so having a wide distribution network is a must before I go any further.  If anyone here knows a blogger have them email me for an invitation to the viewing and feedback event I'll be airing probably in late August.

    Now, on topic, i think the judeo-christian view has been distorted as you say. Over and over in the bible it shows examples of bad things happening to good people and good things happening to bad people. Not only in the old testament but also i the new. Jesus was supposedly the ultimate good guy and look what happened to him!  I think its unfortunate that our very human desire to make order in a chaotic universe has allowed the real spiritual aspects of christianity (in particular) to be so reduced to that nonsense when in actuality, true christianity is no different than, say, taoism.  In christian-speak, you're supposed to trust that God is all knowing and all powerful and that whatever happens to you is his will, whether you understand it, agree with it or not.  Christ was the ultimate example of that up to his literal dying breath and yet people still don't "get it".  Faith and Trusting the Lord are hard to do when you're trying to control his universe.  We taoists call it Wu Wei.  

  •  Meta MF (8+ / 0-)

    I am on for June 2, with "The p-value and what it isn't".

    I'll work on other diaries for later Tuesdays.  Planned are:

    Better ways of voting: Why plurality voting is stupid

    Why you hate math.

    I'll also take requests.

  •  Fair is not equal. (16+ / 0-)

    Fair is everyone getting what he/she needs.  

    I heard that at a teacher's conference several years ago and it became my classroom motto.  Kids can understand it with only a little explanation.  You have explained it in a different way.  

    I may not think it's fair that I must struggle to keep my head above water while others have more than they need, yet I do have enough - just.  I don't need to dislike or disparage those with more.  It doesn't get any more for me, and certainly doesn't hurt them.  What it does do, though, is distract me from living my life well, and THAT'S not fair to me.

    Thanks for making me think so early on a Saturday morning...

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Sat May 23, 2009 at 05:10:31 AM PDT

  •  Gotta go Krew. Careen away. Be kind. Be fair nt (7+ / 0-)
  •  I love the video (10+ / 0-)

    I'll send it to  a friend that teaches game theory.

    It's like a famous game. There is one hundred dollars to be shared between two people, (A) and (B).

    (A) proposes how to share the money.

    (B) accepts or rejects.

    If (B) accepts they share the money according to the sharing proposed by (A)

    If (B) rejects they both get nothing.

    What is the likely outcome?

    Well game theory tells us to expect that (A) will offers  that (A)  gets the whole one hundred dollars (B) gets nothing, and that (B) accepts that and all proposals by (A).

    The argument is that (B) accepts any proposal that gives her any positive amount of money.
    This in turn induces (A) to make a zero offer. And some hand waving tells us that (B) accepts that.

    In experiments this  with real human subjects we don't see that happening but we see (A) offering say $30 and getting $70 and (B) accepts.

    "As president I will recognize the Armenian genocide." Barack Obama

    by palestinian professor on Sat May 23, 2009 at 05:14:08 AM PDT

    •  Who made (A) the initial proposer (7+ / 0-)

      to divide the money?  (B) never counter proposes, but simply reacts to (A)'s propositions.  That's not fair, as the argument suggests it was (A)'s money to mete out to/with (B.)

    •  The game theory explanation ... (8+ / 0-)

      ... is that B is no worse off if A "offers" to keep all of the money than if B rejects whatever offer A makes.  Knowing that, the theory says, A should offer B nothing.

      But you're right in noting that analysis is too simplistic.  It assumes the event occurs, or should be judged, in a social vacuum.  But we don't live in that theoretical social vacuum, and that shows up in our decision-making.

      The {A70}/{B30} split is not unreasonable.  By offering B a non-trivial share, A is acting on the anticipation that he might need to cooperate with B at some point in the future.  A is fair, hoping that B will reciprocate with fairness later, should the need arise.  But because A isn't certain that need will arise, he discounts that probability (and B's share) somewhat.  Among strangers, the shares tend to be something around 70/30.

      Among family, friends, or coworkers, the shares tend to be nearer 50/50, as those As know they're much more likely to need to cooperate with those Bs again in the future.

      In short, we're not as stupid as we're sometimes judged to be by "experts" whose "correct" answers are based on theoretical universes that we don't inhabit.

      Good morning! ::hugggggggggs::

      •  It offers an explanation as to the different (8+ / 0-)

        cultural norms in big cities and small cities.

        In small cities you are likely to interact frequently and repeatedly with the same people.
        So you are nice and share.

        I large cities you are likely to meet people you will never see again.

        Also, game theory makes a lot of sense when the money is really big.  Let's say you were A
        and the money was $10,000,000 instead of $100.

        Does it make sense for A to offer $3,000,000 and take $7,000,000

        It is more likely that (A) would offer $1,000,000. Because (B) would be crazy to reject it.

        Now lets say it's $1,000,000,000 what would (A) likely offer? Around $10,000,000?

        Notice that the share that we think is reasonable is decreasing as the pie gets bigger. Eventually (B) gets very little of the total pie. Trickle down at its best as predicted by game theory.

        "As president I will recognize the Armenian genocide." Barack Obama

        by palestinian professor on Sat May 23, 2009 at 05:47:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  How come, when people say "it's not fair" (8+ / 0-)

    they NEVER mean "I got the better part of the deal?"


  •  Morning hugs to one and all! Mornings just aren't (12+ / 0-)

    the same without all of you, but I've had to get to work very early these days, and can't access Kos from there. pout

    Crissie, dear, you are your usual insightful self today, and you always pick just the right anecdotes to illustrate your point.

    Kids get "fair," as you say, if not the random chance that messes with it. Eldergirl had her own run-in with "fair" and "unfair" yesterday.

    About three hours before the end of the school year (sigh), Eldergirl finally had her meltdown at school. Let me say at the start of the story that when her principal called me at the end, Eldergirl was in no trouble and had been proven innocent, but that she was so upset I needed to come get her anyway. So what happened?

    Eldergirl's (intolerant and unkind) 1st grade teacher had stepped out of the classroom, and Eldergirl's nemesis, who has been trained by their teacher to report on the others, announced that Eldergirl had stolen something from the "treasure box." Eldergirl, with ever-increasing volume, yelled that she had done no such thing. Their teacher came back into the room, and learned about the accusation from her informant. She announced that she believed the informant and confronted the other children in class to see if they'd back her up. All of them but Eldergirl's two best friends did, and one of the two friends was too upset to say anything. Their teacher ignored Eldergirl's pleas of innocence and started to march her to the office for discipline, as a thief. Eldergirl flipped out. She, apparently, screamed repeatedly, "I know you hate me, and I hate you, too!" Sigh. Then she fled and hid under the water fountain, and refused to come out. The disciplinarian principal had to spend nearly ten minutes coaxing her out. She investigated, and found that Eldergirl had indeed taken nothing. But she asked me to come get her, saying that no good could come from putting her back in the classroom.

    Her main complaint, sobbed for the next hour until I could get there, was the unfairness of it all.  I tried to point out that there was a bit of luck involved, too, as the disciplinarian principal adores her, but Eldergirl saw through the utter lameness of that statement. Still, the principal really did work toward fairness in this instance, which is, in the end, all we humans can really do.

    •  "Mixers" get labeled (8+ / 0-)

      One of my granddaughters was labeled a "mixer" and from age one learned the art of manipulation.  She too was falsely accused in the first or second grade and that label followed her from year to year.  She was taken from the classroom by her teacher to the principal's office and joined by the school counselor.  She, however, totally clammed up which made the three 'adults' even more angry.  My daughter was called to take her home and then the story came out.  The adults would not let her explain so she just shut up.  A couple of days later, the principal called and apologized.  Lesson taught to the adults by my daughter:  My child will never under any cirsumstances be questioned again by anyone if I am not present.  

      •  What's a mixer? I'm not familiar with the term. (5+ / 0-)
        •  "Mixers" (5+ / 0-)

          Oh Gosh!  A Mixer might be a child or even an adult that is usually caught standing next to trouble; or the child who someone else tattles to the teacher; or even the tattler her/himself.  Or, probably more precisely, stirring up a misunderstanding then standing back and watching what happens.  

          All these little events go on teacher's records and follow the child from grade to grade.

          •  Oh, dear. Of course, a reasonable teacher takes (8+ / 0-)

            that sort of thing with a grain of...nay, an entire salt-shaker. Teacherhubby had a group of girls that he was warned about coming in this past year, and he was dreading their snottiness. But he found them sharp, clever little things and ended up the year declaring that he would miss them terribly. The same for a boy who was being returned to the main school system from alternative school, and who was expected to drop out the instant he turned 16--if he didn't end up pounding someone into paste and going to juvi first. But Teacherhubby took him under his wing, and he ended up on the A-B honor roll all year and is, if not a model student, now a perfectly "good" kid.

            Here's hoping Eldergirl's next teacher will give her a fair chance.

    •  Good morning, Shuruq (8+ / 0-)

      I've been missing you so much.  And I'm so sorry Eldergirl had this unhappy experience.  Please give her a huge hug from me.  

      When things like this happen, even I start screaming unfairness, until I calm down, so I can certainly understand her feelings.  There's nothing like a perceived "injustice" to make me cry foul.  The rest of "unfairness" barely ripples the surface of my inner pond, but injustice... watch out.

      Huuugggs and I hope today is a much better day for you and Eldergirl.

      The austerity you see around you covers the richness of life like a veil -- Anonymous

      by winterbanyan on Sat May 23, 2009 at 05:56:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks, lady. You know, I'm really hoping this (9+ / 0-)

        year will be a learning experience for Eldergirl. She really had an awful time. Her teacher decided early on that she was unmotivated and dimwitted, despite topnotch academics. Her teacher even wrote a letter to keep her out of the gifted program for next year. However, she tested in the 99.9th percentile in three of the four areas of the gifted testing, so she was overruled. I guess the lesson would be that people aren't always fair. And that even hard work and good intentions won't always make things right, but they are the only things that stand a chance of doing so--and sometimes they work.

        I suppose it's good that Eldergirl has always been keenly aware of the need to work to make things fair. In her kindergarten year, she asked us to take the money we would have spent on her Christmas presents and donate it to charity to help people who didn't have what they need. We let her do the research to see what the best use of her money was, and she wanted to build a deep-water well in a rural village in Africa. We couldn't afford that, so her second choice was a nanny goat through Heifer International. Her twin brother's concern was simple: would he still get Legos?

        •  Eldergirl is a splendid human being! (7+ / 0-)

          What a wonderful child you have :)  She's going to light up the world!


          The austerity you see around you covers the richness of life like a veil -- Anonymous

          by winterbanyan on Sat May 23, 2009 at 06:25:00 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Sorry to hear what happened to Eldergirl! (6+ / 0-)

          I think it's awful for a kid to get "labeled" at such a young age! K1 was thought to be somewhat of a troublemaker early in her elementary school career. She got sent to the principal's office a couple of times for fighting.  I pointed out to him that in EVERY instance, she was standing up for some kid who was getting beaten up or harassed, so can we drop the "troublemaker" attitude you're giving me? She may not be handling things in the best possible way, but can we at least acknowledge the underlying reason she's "fighting"!?!? Oddly enough, he admitted the truth of that and she has lost that horrid label.

          I have no doubt that when Eldergirl is away from that teacher and has a more challenging class next year, the tide will turn for her as well.  

          Hugggs for Eldergirl! At a minimum, I suspect that her awful first year will make her appreciate 2nd grade all the more!

          "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

          by theKgirls on Sat May 23, 2009 at 06:45:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  It seems the teacher is threatened by (5+ / 0-)

          Eldergirl's high intelligence, her sense of true justice, or, probably both. Please give Eldergirl some well-deserved huuuuuuugs!!

          •  Nah. Eldergirl just got under her skin at the (6+ / 0-)

            beginning of the year by trying to educate her that evolution existed and that the universe was not, indeed, 6,000 years old. I had to confiscate books on planet formation and the like from her backpack, and I didn't catch 'em all.

            And my little heathen let slip that we don't go to church, because I don't like the lessons the churches around here teach. Thanks, we'll pass on the hate.

            •  Flying Spaghetti Monster forbid ... (5+ / 0-)

              ... that we should introduce facts in a first grade classroom.  Much better to tell the kiddies that God created everything in six days, 6000 years ago.  That will better prepare them for ...

              ... a life of ignorance.

              •  May you be touched by his noodly goodness (5+ / 0-)


                Seriously, I talk to the kids about faith and all, but some of the stuff that gets said in these GA churches appalls me. Whatever happened to love and tolerance and caring for one another, which were the lessons I took from St. Andrews as a kid? Here, all I've heard is all the different ways you can be damned, and how horrible everyone who doesn't believe like you is going to burn, burn, burn.

                •  Their god and mine ... (4+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  winterbanyan, Shuruq, theKgirls, kktlaw

                  ... have very little in common.  I imagine god as being at least as good a mom as me, and in fact a whole lot better.  I wouldn't throw my kids away, no matter what they did.  How could I believe in a god that would?

                  But then again, my parents believe in their kind of god ... and they disowned me when I came out.  So I guess they created a god in their own image....

                  •  Oh, my dear. Have a hug, though it's (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    winterbanyan, NCrissieB, theKgirls

                    doubtless far past the time when you need it, and Herself surely gave you all the hugs you need. My god would have held you close, if that matters. And I agree--God's got to be a better parent than either Teacherhubby and I, and we wouldn't go tossing the kids away no matter what.

                    Even if the Littlest did his upon pooping on the floor as a way to get back at Eldergirl for imagined big-sister slights... Really, any similarity between her role in our house during that time and the Republicans role in the country right now is just coincidence.

                    •  I apply the April Apples lesson. (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      winterbanyan, Shuruq

                      If you look at an apple in April, it's tiny and green and bitter and hard, and nothing like what we think of when we imagine an "apple."  Leave it on the tree until August, though, and it will grow big and red and sweet and ripe.  It's not that it was "wrong" in April.  It was fine ... for an April apple.

                      We're all "April apples."  We're not ripe yet.  Maybe we never will be in this lifetime.  But we can try to keep growing and maturing, as best we can.

                      So that has to include my parents too.  They're "April apples."  A loving god wouldn't hate them for that.  So I can't hate them either.  I miss them, and I've learned not to put myself in a position where they can hurt me again.  But I don't hate them.  I'm sure my "April-ness" is just as glaring for someone else as theirs is for me.

                  •  I have often used similar analogies (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Shuruq, NCrissieB, theKgirls

                    with my kids.  "Would I do that to you?"  "No."  "Then why would anyone believe God would do that?"

                    Because my God is infinitely loving, and my love but a pale reflection of Hers.


                    The austerity you see around you covers the richness of life like a veil -- Anonymous

                    by winterbanyan on Sat May 23, 2009 at 07:51:10 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

    •  Hugs from all of us to Eldergirl. :) (7+ / 0-)

      If she wants them, that is.  Being wrongly accused is one of the most traumatic experiences life offers, especially if others' jump in on the accusation and you've no ready means to prove your innocence.  And at some point, we all face that.  I'm grateful that Eldergirl had a sympathetic principal willing to hear her out.  As for her former teacher, it's better if I don't share my thoughts on that ... as they are most profoundly unkind.

      Good morning! ::hugggggggggggs::

    •  Oh, poor Eldergirl. This teacher of (7+ / 0-)

      hers seems to be a disaster. Well, at least the year is almost over, and if life is "fair" to Eldergirl, she'll get a wonderful, kind, nurturing teacher next fall. Good morning Shuruq and Huuuuugs! Any wingnut office stories this past week???

      •  Let's see. The Obama punching bag is still there. (7+ / 0-)

        The floor-to-ceiling mural of W's smirking face is still there. I learned this week (rather clumsily, I might add) that the Obama sign in one of the bosses' areas is a joke. It is not, as I formerly believed, an indication that he's more reasonable than he seemed. Nancy Pelosi is, I've heard, the most loathsome woman every spawned in the US. Obama is despicable for speaking on torture at the Naval Academy graduation.

        It's been just more of the same, really. Just mean-spirited sniping, with nothing particularly shocking or insightful...

        •  Oh Noeeeesss! (5+ / 0-)

          I hadn't heard any backlash to the President's speech at the Naval Academy. I did kind of smirk though, when John McCain was sitting in the audience while President Obama shook his son's hand walking across the stage. I wonder when they'll ever take W's picture down? Do they also have one of the heroic Ronald Reagan? HA!

          •  W's going nowhere. He's wall art. With spot (6+ / 0-)

            lighting, no less. It still irks me, but at least I don't have to walk by it daily. No, no Reagan pics, but I haven't seen any Obama portraits, either. (Obviously not counting the punching bag with his face on it, which still offends the snot out of me.)

            Yes, the idiots at work thought he was accusing the Naval Academy graduates of being potential torturers, which is unfair. Or, alternatively, that he was doing some political grandstanding during their graduation, which was selfish. Sigh. You'll be unsurprised to know that the one take they didn't have was that it was a solemn speech extolling the values they learned at the Academy.

      •  My son had a teacher that (8+ / 0-)

        really undermined his confendence.  My son has a learning disability- he has trouble writing physically- he can barely write his name with a pencil, but he's really  bright and tested very high for GnT.  His teacher could not get through her head that a LD child could also be Gifted and Talented.  She thought he was just being lazy and even said she didn't think he would go far in life unless he gave up his "Bad habits"

        That was six years ago.  I later pulled son out of public school to homeschool- partly because of his disorder, partly because he had health issues, and some other reasons.

        Last week I ran into the former teacher at a social function and she asked how he was doing with a kind of sneeriness that indicated she thought he was probably flipping burgers somewhere.

        It felt sooooo good to say, "Oh, he's attending college in the fall- on a full scholarship"

  •  2 comments are especially piquant for me here: (12+ / 0-)

    I guess the moral is that sometimes what we think may be unfair actually is fair. -JFinNe


    Fair is everyone getting what he/she needs.  

    I heard that at a teacher's conference several years ago and it became my classroom motto. -luckylizard

    I was dept. chair of a program for talented and gifted students in Alpharetta, GA for 5 years. In that time, I had to deal on a daily basis with other teachers and parents who wanted to argue with me about how unfair it was that our program's students "got extra resources" or "special treatment" or some other euphemism for "unfair."

    This always bothered me. Their assumption was that some other child was not getting something they needed, or was not "special" as a result. This is flawed thinking.

    An analogy:
    If there are people in my community who have AIDS, or even Swine Flu, and a treatment (different from a vaccine) for the disease is discovered and developed, what is the most fair distribution? To split the limited stock of this treatment, and give a little to everyone in the community, or keep it concentrated, save some for those who may be discovered to have the disease later, and give what is available to those who actually need it to improve their situation?

    Also, I would ask:
    In this "fairness doctrine," schools should not provide any services for learning and emotional/behavioral disability-identified students, because some other "average" student is not getting some kind of special treatment and is therefore operating at a disadvantage.

    So, I did some research on our population and found that 13% of our students were failing at least one class, but that in other schools that did not have our kind of program, the failure rate among students who would have qualified for our program was significantly higher. This indicated to me that our program actually did help (I know, this is causation by correlation, hence "indicated," not "proved") keep our highly capable and advanced-pace learners in school, interested in school, and passing more classes than they would have been otherwise. They get more bored more quickly than others and check out as a result.

    Which explodes another mythic assumption of the young gifted student: they'll be fine, they're the ones we don't need to worry about or pay attention to because it is obvious that by virtue of their "gifts" they can take care of themselves.


    Maybe I should put out a diary on these thoughts, this here comment is getting long-in-the-text!

    Thanks Crissie for a thought provoking piece this morning.

    Rogues are preferable to imbeciles because they sometimes take a rest. - Alexandre Dumas

    by elropsych on Sat May 23, 2009 at 05:42:29 AM PDT

  •  This diary also deals indirectly/directly with (7+ / 0-)

    something called the just world hypothesis. Worth looking up for anyone really interested in ideas of fairnessand how they directly influence our related ideas of worth, value, and success.

    Rogues are preferable to imbeciles because they sometimes take a rest. - Alexandre Dumas

    by elropsych on Sat May 23, 2009 at 05:46:25 AM PDT

    •  It very much does. :) (8+ / 0-)

      As Lerner and others have shown, the Just World Hypothesis - where everything that happens must have a moral reason, good events happen to people because they are more worthy, bad events happen to people because they are less worthy - actually inhibits our working for justice.  If something bad happened to you, you must have deserved it somehow.

      The thing is, you can always "prove" that hypothesis by picking apart someone's life.  Sooner or later, if you dig deep enough, you'll find something they've done wrong, or at least not as well as you judge they could have.  Thus, they deserved whatever bad things happened to them.

      The irony is that those of us who believe "time and chance overtake them all" - who don't believe every event is part of God's Divine Plan™ - are more likely to work for justice, because we recognize justice does not happen on its own.

      And maybe that's why conservatives disapprove of poker and similar games, to the point that I've heard many times that cards and dice are "tools of the Devil."  Games of chance teach us lessons that conservatives don't want learned....

      Good morning! ::huggggggggggs::

  •  fairness is such hard work (7+ / 0-)

    Its the art of negotiation, trying to leave the table with both sides believing they won.

    "Real children don't go hoppity-skip unless they are on drugs."-- Susan [-4.88. -6.97]

    by LaFeminista on Sat May 23, 2009 at 05:57:41 AM PDT

    •  Or at least "not lost." (7+ / 0-)

      You can't always leave the negotiating table with both sides feeling they've "won."  Indeed sometimes it's better not to negotiate from a perspective of "winning."  We often get better results when we negotiate from a perspective of "sharing."  Both may walk away feeling they've "not lost," even if neither feels he/she "won."  They divided whatever was to be divided in the most equitable way they could agree upon.  Not necessarily equally, but equitably.

      Good morning! ::hugggggggggggs::

  •  OT BPI site (6+ / 0-)

    We now have a site on which to build the mythos of Blogistan Polytechnic Institute.  If any here can work with Wordpress, please let me know at winterbanyan at if you would be willing to help get us rolling.

    FWG has already offered to help as much as she can, but we're going to need more help, especially since I seem to be at sea here.


    The austerity you see around you covers the richness of life like a veil -- Anonymous

    by winterbanyan on Sat May 23, 2009 at 06:54:47 AM PDT

  •  Ok, so this is off-topic, as I am with sad (7+ / 0-)

    frequency, but I just wanted to thank the Morning Feature crew for, well, existing. During these past few weeks of frantic early morning work, I've realized how wonderful you all are. Coming here and seeing the warm and reason of this community is a beautiful thing, and it's an honor to know you all through this constructive venue. Happy Saturday, all.

  •  Lakoff on fairness (5+ / 0-)

    As so often is the case, George Lakoff has something to contribute to our understanding of the concept of fairness. From Moral Politics:

    There are many models of fairness:

    • Equality of distribution (one child, one cookie)
    • Equality of opportunity (one person, one raffle ticket)
    • Procedural distribution (playing by the rules determines what you get)
    • Rights-based fairness (you get what you have a right to)
    • Need-based fairness (the more you need, the more you have a right to)
    • Scalar distribution (the more you work, the more you get)
    • Contractual distribution (you get what you agree to)
    • Equal distribution of responsibility (we share the burden equally)
    • Scalar distribution of responsibility (the greater your abilities, the greater your responsibilities)
    • Equal distribution of power (one person, one vote)

    Shorter version-- everyone can agree that fairness should be our guiding principle, without at all agreeing on what is fair.

    •  That's a very good point. I lean toward (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Orinoco, DBunn, winterbanyan, NCrissieB

      "need-based" and "scalar distribution of responsibility " fairness, and I suspect many others here do, too. But from the right-wing talk at work, I think they lean toward "rights-based," "contractual," and "scalar distribution" fairness.  You're right that we all agree on the need for fairness, but that that agreement is much more shallow than we might suppose. I'll do a little poll at work on Monday, just to see what they think.

      Which of the fairness models do you guys hold to?

      •  Needs based fairness (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DBunn, winterbanyan, Shuruq, NCrissieB

        tough call. Is health care a right or a need? I would say if someone is sick or injured, it is fair to provide care to cure the sickness or heal the injury. But is this needs based fairness or rights based fairness?

        Housing, for example. I think everyone has a right to housing, shelter from the elements. But does needs based mean some people get larger houses than others because they "need" a bigger house?

        The Federal government has documents which set standards: a clerical office can have 90 square feet per clerk. Private offices start at, I believe, 110 square feet and increase in size based on the pay grade of the person occupying the office. Now, these are building design criteria, no one goes around with a tape measure marking out territories for actual clerks.

        Military families are allocated housing based on the number, age and gender of the children. But -- three bedroom two bath senior officer housing is larger than three bedroom two bath enlisted housing.  Senior officer quarters are usually detached single family houses, junior officer's families live in duplexes, while enlisted housing is usually four-plex or six-plex townhouses. Do higher ranking military families "need" larger detached housing, or is there some "right" to the fancier digs?

        "You can't get something for nothing...It's time to stop being stupid." Bob Herbert

        by Orinoco on Sat May 23, 2009 at 08:24:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The U.S. military is a class-based system. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Orinoco, DBunn

          There's a reason we have the phrase "an officer and a gentleman."  It's an archaic idea, taken from British practice, that officers and enlisted ranks come from different classes and their treatment should reflect that class distinction, lest the enlisted ranks not "respect" their "superiors."

          You can see that most plainly in the mess halls.  The food is not always different - though it often is - but the officers' mess will have linen tablecloths and other amenities.  Is that because officers can't eat without those amenities?  No.  It's because they are of the superior class.

    •  one child, one cookie argument... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DBunn, winterbanyan, Shuruq, NCrissieB

      The other day, a group of kids were playing musical chairs and the youngest among them kept dragging over another chair and his mom kept dragging it away.  After the 3rd time he said "Mom! There's five kids, we need five chairs!" She patiently explained the game and he said "but what's the fun in that!?!? Someone gets left out!" I giggled to myself.  Either he's going to be incredibly compassionate or that mom is really going to struggle with keeping things fair!

      "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

      by theKgirls on Sat May 23, 2009 at 08:31:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And a child shall lead us (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NCrissieB, theKgirls

        What a great story! I love the way that kid thinks: this game is a lot of fun without anyone having to "lose". The music, the marching, the giggling and shrieking and bumping into other kids and jumping for a chair. Why turn all that goodness into a winner-take-all competition?

    •  In law we distinguish "equal" from "equitable." (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DBunn, winterbanyan, Shuruq

      The former is "sameness."  The latter is what I think of as "fairness."  It tends to be more collective and needs-based in its outlook, and acknowledges that strict equality (sameness) is not as fair as we tend to guesstimate it would be.

      Lakoff's definitions elaborate on that idea well, and they're very useful.  Anything that makes us think about our fairness narratives - to examine them and where they lead us - is worthwhile.

      As always, DBunn, thanks for a great comment, and good morning! ::huggggggggggs::

      •  Blended model of fairness (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        (Sorry I had to run out for a while there, missing a great discussion. It's not fair, having meetings scheduled for 9:00am on a Saturday!)

        The ultimate test of fairness in a given situation is to switch the positions of the various parties, and see if they still agree that the deal is fair. This is something that conservatives do NOT do up front, if they sense they have an advantage, but boy they sure do it you betcha if somehow the positions get switched once the game is on. Gummint handouts always create moral hazard, until their house is flattened in a hurricane, or their investment bank needs a trillion dollar bail out.

        To test the fairness of a system, you have to avoid making assumptions about where you personally, or people you identify with, fit into it.

        The best designed systems will combine the various models of fairness, with boundaries and triggers built in. For example, distribution is needs-based up to a certain point, going to scalar beyond that, and responsibility is equal to a certain point (everyone pays at least some taxes) and scalar after that (higher marginal tax rates).

        People intuitively accept the principle of boundaries between fairness models, but still argue about where the boundary should be. Contractual fairness is limited by law (you can't agree to sell yourself into slavery) but not limited enough (conditions of immigrant agricultural contract laborers are too much like slavery).

        Amusing thought: what if every Monday morning, there were a blind lottery to see what role we get in the system that week? There are a thousand slots for contract laborer, for example, and one for corporate CEO. How many current CEOs would become more sympathetic to the contract laborers' view of fairness?

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