What’s Going On: A lesson in ludicrousness

A high school friend of mine recently posted a picture of her high school classroom, featuring a Smart Board complemented with sticky notes.

Now, I’m too old and technologically impaired to fully explain what a Smart Board is and how it works. But I’m pretty sure based on the picture and my limited knowledge, it is a computer that generates an image projected onto a screen; kind of like a fancier overhead projector from when I was in school back in the previous century.

Anyway, apparently this Smart Board wasn’t fully functional, which is why the teacher had to attach sticky notes to the screen instead of being able to make the additions via the computer.

Each sticky note had a one-word answer on it, yes or no, and was attached to the appropriate question. What I found most amazing though was the aforementioned question: Is this fair?

The Smart Board displayed three scenarios in which students were apparently tasked with determining whether or not the described situation and outcome was … fair. One described a lunchroom table filled with football players who wouldn’t allow a non-football player to sit there. Another involved students selling tickets to a dance who limited the number of tickets sold to people who weren’t their friends. The third scenario involved workers at a job taking turns at taking out the trash.

According to the attached sticky notes, the first two scenarios were determined not to be fair while the third was.

Maybe I’m old fashioned, maybe I’m not progressive enough, or maybe I’m just intolerant, but teaching students (especially ones in high school) what is and isn’t fair seems … well, pointless. First, children are pretty good at recognizing what is and isn’t fair. I hear it all the time from my three kids, and they are 9, 6 and 4. That’s something that doesn’t need to be taught any more than candy tastes yummy.

And when I do hear that refrain from my children on a seemingly daily basis, my response is always the same, to the point they can largely recite and typically finish the sentence in unison with me: Life isn’t fair.

That seems like the real lesson that needs to be taught: not only is life not fair, nor will it ever be, but children and adults alike need to learn to live with it, adapt to it, and when possible, change it.

I don’t know if it’s an accurate judgment or not of the “millennial” generation, but there’s a stereotype and label applied to them that they feel “entitled” to certain rewards and benefits without having to earn them. Believing and expecting life to be “fair” at all times would certainly feed that stereotype.

Another important distinction I think needs to be made is the difference between “fair” and “equal.” Maybe I’m arguing semantics, but women deserve to be paid the same as men for performing the same job. That’s being treated as an equal and that is deserved and should be expected. But if the football team is sitting together at a table in the cafeteria and they don’t want to extend that opportunity to a non-team member because maybe they are involved in some team-building exercise, well, tough. That may not be fair … but you aren’t entitled (there’s that word again) to that benefit.

Again, I can confess to being less than progressive or on the cutting edge whether in regards to technology in the classroom or the lessons taught in it.

But in a world where students are shot in school, babies are born addicted to drugs because of their parents’ habits, and every single family has a story to tell of a loved one’s life ruined by cancer, there’s one lesson that always has and always will ring true: Life isn’t fair. Anybody who promises you otherwise is either lying or ignorant. And I don’t need a Smart Board to learn that.


Gregory Orear is the publisher of The Journal. His award-winning weekly column, “What’s Going On,” has been published in four newspapers in three states for more than 20 years. He can be contacted at gorear@nujournal.com.