I found myself in the midst of a conversation about fairness this week. Why do the other two schools have free dinner at their Back to School Night, and ours doesn’t? I’m sure that there are a million practical reasons for the difference… our school is under construction, our school is too small to house that many families for a buffet or carry-out style dinner, such an event requires a ton of volunteer work and money/ fund-raising, nobody has ever considered changing status quo because of its prior success, etc.
The thought, though, gave me pause. Fairness. What in the world is fairness? As a divorce attorney, I preach about avoiding the word “fair.” Kentucky’s dissolution statutes reference equity rather than equality, and I’ve never heard an attorney reasonably argue about fairness. It’s impossible to be “fair” in dividing parents’ time with their children and in dividing a marriage’s assets. Equitable? Sure. Fair? What do ya mean? Fair to you is far different than fair to me. I might like retirement income, and you might want cash now. I might like to do homework with children, and you might crave lazy weekend mornings with them. And because of my work schedule, I might need a certain weeknight “off,” but if you take that night, it might mean that you miss your weekly tennis clinic, poker night, or bowling league. Fair?
As a mom of a child with special education needs, I often find myself considering philosophical thoughts in light of my own child’s educational needs. Jack is on an individual education plan. Individual. Just for him. Just about him. To help him learn in ways that are tailored to him. The one and only Hurricane Jack Barlow. Sweet. Fair? He gets his very own teacher’s assistant, and the other students have to find their way alone. He has some cool supports, like wiggle seats and fidget toys, to help him stay grounded and focused, while his typical peers can only fidget with their tags and whatever they find in the classroom. Fair? He may get to chill in the resource room for a few minutes while the other children do crafts, have free time, or work on their academics. Fair?
On the flipside, how in the heck would you like having an adult with you all the time? And you know how you feel at a casino? That’s how Jack feels all the time. The wiggle seats and fidget toys help, but the kid is as distractable as they get. And going to the resource room means leaving your friends, curious about what they’re doing, every single day. Twice a day in Jack’s case. Fair? Who cares? Equitable? I suppose. More importantly, does it work for us? Absolutely! Does Jack’s school support Jack’s needs and the way that Jack learns and interacts with his peers and teachers? You betcha!
Fair doesn’t mean that we all get the same darn thing. Shouldn’t we get what works for us and what helps to make us successful? After all, we are all individuals. We learn differently, speak differently, feel differently, and love differently. If we expect everything to be the same, we miss the opportunity to respect differences and to celebrate them. If we expect everything to be the same, we miss variety, a concept from which there is so much to learn. At our house we choose to celebrate differences and sameness and just about anything else anybody brings to the table. As I heard someone tell Pete Wright, special education attorney and author, “Fair (fare) is what you pay to get on the bus!”