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Is equality feasible and is it worth achieving? Subquestion: By your definitions, is equality synonymous with fairness?

This is an idea I recently fell upon while thinking about colleges and scholarships. I was wondering why I've been told (not actually witnessed) that minorities get a better chance of getting in college for being a minority. This was apparently an attempt to level the playing field and make things for equal for applicants. I realized that in their attempt to equalize the playing field, they made it unfair. What are your thoughts on this situation and any other equality situation? Do you think people should be going for fairness or equality, both, or are they essentially the same thing?

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    Jun 16 2013: Equal RIGHTS for all are of utmost importance; however, I believe in neither equal OPPORTUNITY nor a LEVEL PLAYING FIELD.

    We ALL have different opportunities presented to us at different times based on where we live, who we know, what we do. We ALL have different advantages which we can leverage. Rather than hope for different opportunities or envy other people's grass, we should embrace our unique situations and we should all have the RIGHT to pursue the opportunities we find.

    A world where everyone had the same DNA, got the same opportunities, got the same rewards, lived in the same houses, and were equal in all things would be as boring as a world without mountains, valleys, rain forests, and deserts. I appreciate the variety of life those environments support. Different opportunities and playing fields drive that variety.

    So bring on the different opportunities, but let's make sure we give equal RIGHTS to pursue those opportunities.
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      Jun 17 2013: Very well argued! I fully agree.
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      Jun 17 2013: Lets hypothesize here Drew, for point of discussion of the points YOU raised.....................

      'My name is Forrest Gump and I want to be a Rocket Scientist..................what equal RIGHTS can you give me to achieve my dream of becoming a Rocket Scientist?

      Or are you really telling us that the truth of the matter is that....................Some pigs are more equal than others?

      And what of the folk that are just 'plain stupid'..............what equal RIGHTS will you give them and at who's disadvantage and who pays the piper?

      Just asking.......................
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        Jun 17 2013: Leveraging your analogy, Forrest Gump arguably might not be a good rocket scientist, but he took advantage of his many opportunities to do many great things. He leveraged his unique skills with the opportunities that presented themselves to him.

        Let's suppose there was a great rocket science school in Houston, TX and there was another kid living 5 minutes from the facility who was able to be part of a rocket science program. "Equal opportunity" to the extreme would mean that Forrest Gump should also have a great rocket science school with a rocket science program 5 minutes from his house in South Carolina. In fact, to be equal for ALL kids, we would need a great rocket science school with a rocket science program 5 minutes from EVERY kid's house. THAT Is equal opportunity. Do think that is realistic?
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          Jun 18 2013: Well Drew ....starting at the bottom of your comment;

          Nope that is not realistic anymore than equal opportunity or equality is!

          And I further suggest my 'Forrest Gump' analogy like the movie (which like most movies are just unrealistic escapism entertainment) was just to highlight the unrealistic idea/concept of equal opportunity or equality especially as something that can be 'ordered' or legislated or even expected to be feasible with the diversity of the social, cultural and economic constraints on the planet.

          And would I be correct to assume my ...'And what of the folk that are just 'plain stupid'..............what equal RIGHTS will you give them and at who's disadvantage and who pays the piper?'........ was too 'politically incorrect/sensitive' to go there? :) :)

          Cheers........
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    Jun 4 2013: There’s a big difference between equality of opportunity and equality of outcomes. Too much focus on the latter has diluted worthy efforts to promote the former. It’s all a question of access. And yet with each generation the advantaged recognize injustices against the disadvantaged that their forbearers either ignored or were not cognizant of. Whether we like to admit it or not, we are capable of advancing as a people, as slowly moderating attitudes toward gender, race and sexual identity attest—statements about “how it’s always been” notwithstanding! Diversity and equality are not mutually exclusive terms—rather, they are linked and complementary indicators of a society’s health and wellbeing. We would do well to avoid the misconception of viewing equality as synonymous with homogeneity and as a threat.
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    May 19 2013: "Everyone is equal, but, some are more equal !!!"
    I think this should sum it up.... while everyone is equal as a human being yet some are a little more than equal. Could be on account of the body given to us by nature/God, the parental property inherited, the resources at our disposal, the relationships one enjoys, the education one gets, life's experiences or other such reasons.... I fail to understand WHY SHOULD ALL BE EQUAL.... If all are rich who would be poor, if all would be boss who would be the subordinate, if all would be powerful who would they exercise their power on ..... If all will be Tigers who would be the goat????????

    RESERVATION/ QUOTA for the minorities only makes them powerless... they become more dependent and assume their success as guaranteed ... The correct approach should be to increase the resources available for the society so that everyone has a fair chance of working on them... and yet all cannot be equal !!!!!
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      May 19 2013: I agree with you in totality!
    • May 21 2013: Very well said Vaneesh.But again the question arises is that everybody is clear about the very concept of equality or providing equal oppurtunities to the not so previleged society members,and i am sure people who are responsible or posses the power to decide what oppurtunities needs to be provided lack the power to bring the reality upfront for their own good.Powerful yet powerless.Quite an irony,but that has become a gospel now and people have become complacent with this flawed concept.
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    Jun 12 2013: Thank you for bringing up this topic. I think there is a very important distinction which would not have occurred to me otherwise.

    All men are NOT created equal. We are not even all men. Our social, economic, education, physical abilities, mental strengths, emotional abilities are extremely varied.

    We ARE equal in importance. (This answers the first question.. is it worth it.. well each person is important, therefore ensuring each gets the same opportunities as others is putting this credo into action, otherwise it's just another empty waste of words)

    Fairness levels the playing field. Fairness is when more money is spent on the disabled so that they are able to get the same end result such as mobility. Fairness is when minorities get preference in limited ways for limited amounts of time until they've caught up, then when the playing field has been leveled, the preference is no longer required. fairness is alotting more money to be spent on a dilapidated school to get fixed up rather than sending each the same amount of money to each where one spends it all on plaster and the other spends it on getting a second swimming pool.

    Feasibility to me isn't even a consideration. It's the right thing to do. It is feasible on a worldwide scale over time.
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    May 24 2013: I conceptualize fairness to mean "a state where outcomes are based upon a reasonable set of rules that are consistently applied across the population," whereas I conceptualize equality to mean "a state where outcomes are the same across the population". Given the varying abilities of individuals within a population, an equal outcome would almost certainly require an unfair system.

    Theoretically, I would be in favor of promoting a culture of fairness by eliminating institutionalized favoritism: no more college legacies and no more affirmative action. However, we will never be able to eliminate informal favoritism, such as nepotism and networking. This means that even under such a scenario where institutionalized favoritism is removed, wealth and power will still have the ability to beget wealth and power through informal means. This means the wealth and status of your parents will always have an unfair (by my definition of fairness) impact on where you end up in life. The only way to eliminate this effect would be if we all started off with the exact same resources (my definition of equality).

    Therefore, it would seem, a society cannot be fair unless it is equal and a society that is equal is almost certainly unfair.
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    May 19 2013: My life experience has shown me that some great scholars come from the worst possible economic and social conditions while some people who have the greatest access to economic and educational means end up as criminals. There is no single answer capable of fully resolving social ills which have grown out of de facto or de jure conditions established over time. The remnants of slavery have seemingly hamstrung the African-American population in the United States since their emancipation. We can also conclude that all women were subjugated to second class status until they received the right to vote, were given the ability to fully control their fertility, and policies were put in place to end discrimination in the labor force. In fact, laws were put in place to correct a historically unbalanced playing field for minorities and women. Unfortunately, some of these laws are viewed as a zero-sum solution wherein a class of people feel a potential loss of position and privilege rather than a belief that all parties will benefit universally.

    Time appears to play in the favor of resolving some social issues. For instance, women have become the majority in most American universities. As women filter throughout all majors (women of all skin colours) they should eventually break through all barriers in the labour force. It just takes TIME and patience. I don't have enough characters to provide a complete response, but to the heart of your question, fairness and equality operate on two different planes - equality is often achieved through a host of legislative or legal responses to a belief that there is a lack of fairness in any particular environment. Title IX was created to deal with the disparity between expenditures for male and female collegiate sports. It was considered unfair that women's sport was not equal to men's. Legal and legislative means leveled the playing field.

    Unfortunately it is a slow process mired in a presently destructive political environment.
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      May 19 2013: Thanks for the insightful comment! I have a question on the second paragraph. Do you think the reason women have become the majority in most American univesities was because of time (so it was kind of inevitable for that to happen), because of legislative means (an overcompensation for the disparity resulted in more women than men), a mix of both, or something else?
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      May 19 2013: I like your last line! I am writing a paper that touches on 'living by your own values' for English class. I agree with your point that forced equality is not really equality. I don't think we should compensate from the past however. I think we should just learn from it and move on. Also, agree with your point on the infinteness of discrimination (unless our free will taken and we become robots :)). It's just a part of our imperfect world as imperfect species (like that insurance commercial). We can, however, not let laws be prone to perception and discrimination, positive or negative.
  • Jun 17 2013: "Equality" is a myth. If, in this country, we are able to choose what we want to do with our time, treasure and talent, then there will be inequality because some have more time, some have more treasure, and some have more talent than others. It's how we plug that back into society to enrich the lives of others that makes the difference.

    "Fairness" is a myth. Why do sports figures make millions in a year and our teachers make so little. (It our complaints vs the explanation that illustrate the myth.) Why are we forced to pay taxes for things we don't' support? Why are some people more gifted with music, or art, or math...

    THe only place where "equality" and "fairness" become reality is when you and I are under headstones. We are both equally dead, and both fairly dead. It may be unfair in *how* you or I died, but *that* we die is equal and fair.
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      Jun 17 2013: Thanks for the comment! I don't like to think of equality as one term. I like to split it up in various sectors and levels, many of which have been brought up by commentors. We are equal in that we share this one planet, one body, and (depending on your religion) have one life/death.

      Fairness is much more difficult and relies much on the POV as much as anything else. One situation may seem fair to one person, but unfair to another (probably don't need an example here). I don't know if fairness is achievable because of its ambiguity and how it never seems to be universal.
  • Jun 14 2013: 'Equality' is a protean concept and takes on different meanings for different people (and peoples), in various environments and/or contexts. While the inclusion of the notion of equality is the majority of constitutions, and grand political declarations are a reflection that equality is something humankind holds in high regard, and something worth achieving; it is also evident that is not an immutable notion, that is, what it means to be equal evolves with society. So is equality feasible? The answer to that question is no, because equality is subjective to the society that demands it, and the same society clamouring for it is a living creature, constantly evolving, constantly struggling with it's own beliefs and idealogies.

    The pursuit of equality is not futile however, much in the same way that living is not an exercise in futility because death awaits us all. I don't know if this helps.
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    Jun 14 2013: Somehow, I feel this discussion is simply a collection of personal experiences of fairness and evaluations of them in the world around you. I suppose I’ll be dragged into joining it.
    Apart from the annoying exchanges regarding Allah, there is also the disappointing lack of analysis of the root of inequality and unfairness. I suspect many of you have felt prejudice and discrimination rise into your minds at some point in your lives, but what caused such emotions?
    As a government orphan after WWII, placed in a foster home that desperately needed the supplied subsidy for rearing me, I could see we had nothing in that poor home, and remained completely unaware of state support in my academic endeavours that led to my admission to a top school surrounded by children of the elite. Thus, I saw both ends of the prosperity scale, a mongrel among thoroughbreds.
    Despite my headmaster’s refusal to recommend me for a university because of my humble roots, there was ample encouragement from the rest of the teachers. I emerged unscarred and saw the world as fair and equal.
    Equality and fairness are intangible concepts, existing in a remote generalisation, usually at a governmental level. We need to find them within ourselves. The emotional rewards for personally applying these attitudes are incomparable. They are easier to offer than their opposites so why are social groups easily infected by the virus of discrimination?
    If Americans allow their dogs to bark at black people, they must teach it to desist; if Brits cast slurs at Muslims, they must be publicly chastised. Find your inner peace and tolerance, distribute them and we shall have no need of discussions like this.
  • Jun 12 2013: When it comes to equality, chances of it working are very slim in my opinion, especially with income and skill equality. This is because, equality in my opinion leads to unfairness, because as someone personally tries to better themselves (get a new skill, etc.) it would be unfair then if the playing field was levelled as then the individuals do not get a sense of satisfaction and with that, I feel that it could lead to negative effects, such as dumbing down because no-one cannot be bothered to increase their "ableness" in their abilities or learn new skills which then would build self-worth.
    Also, equality is not a concept we can give a certain scale to, therefore, we can ask ourselves, to what extent is equality, what does equality look like in action? If we cannot answer this question, then how can we achieve equality? We always have to design the product before we can take the necessary steps to manufacture it or make it into reality.
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      Jun 13 2013: Equality in action: Here is a simple and shallow answer. Giving equal opportunities to everyone -> genders in military (not that I agree with any form of military force), gender and race right to vote, civil rights movement. I can think of many more if needed. Equality for fathers!!! Discrimination free. You are no better than me and I am not better or above you overall. 2+2=3+1. We all have weak and strong points about ourselves. Finding those is another topic.
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    Jun 11 2013: Hi Kai,
    It appears by definition, that equality can be synonymous with fairness, and in my perception, it is good to see things from a fair and equal standpoint.

    That being said, the example you provide seems to suggest that in an effort to encourage and support equality, the "playing field" may have been tipped too far toward unfair. With many human endeavers, the pendulum swings, and perhaps it is an effort to find the balance.
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    Jun 11 2013: Hi everyone,

    I'm French and I never understood why (O why...) did we put "Equality" at the heart of our national ideals, since it is so far from facts...
    No, equality doesn't exist and hopefully never will.
    So, technically speaking, you should read "Equity" in its stead. Cause this is what we truly meant.

    The problem, as always, is ONLY semantics. ;)

    Scalino
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      Jun 11 2013: Hi Scalino,
      It has been awhile since you commented on TED......Welcome back!
  • Jun 10 2013: Dear B. R! Firstly I believe in Allah because the most truthful Prophet Muhammad, the true representative of Allah for the guidance of Humanity, told us as such. We believe in him. For you, this may be irrational, just wait for a while please. Second, my rational mind compels me to accept Allah as the Supreme Being who exists on His own, Who has not been created by some one or who does not give birth to some one. He is alone, All-Mighty, All-Wise. For you, this may again be irrational again. Third, I observe the things around me. In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alterations of the night and day; in the sailing of the ships through the oceans for the profit of mankind; in the rain which Allah sends down from the sky; and the life which He gives there with to an earth that was dead; in the living beings of all sorts that He scatters through the earth; in the change of winds and the clouds which trail like slaves between the sky and earth; there indeed are signs for a people that are wise.
    Allah cannot be Allah if He depends on somebody else for anything. He cannot be created, otherwise he will become creation of some one. He is alone all by Himself, exists on His own, has no personal needs. He has no partners whatsoever, He is controlling every thing all the time, He is free from any defects or needs. That is why He is Allah, otherwise he will then be creation of yet another Supreme Authority. We, in the form of souls in the heavens(before coming here) have clearly acknowledged Him to be our Master and Creator when He collected us there and asked this question" Am I not your Rabb?". We all' souls replied,'' Yes". That genetic urge to believe in one Supreme Being is manifested by the fact that every human being does believe in some sort of God, though distorted in most of the cases. Even the seculars and the Agnostics also , in the hearts of hearts, do believe in some sort of Supreme Power responsible for every thing. Let us think about it.
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      Jun 10 2013: Well muhammad..............

      Appears you have a Belief.

      A Belief does NOT = FACT!

      A Belief does NOT = PROOF!

      A Belief = Nothing more than believing in something.

      You also make many claims!

      A claim only = A claim unless you can provide proof thereto/of!

      You have made many claims and provided proof of none.

      Go and think about this..................

      "Second, my rational mind compels me to accept Allah as the Supreme Being who exists on His own, Who has not been created by some one or who does not give birth to some one. He is alone, All-Mighty, All-Wise."

      Kindly explain the rationale to that claim?

      AND.............................

      "Allah cannot be Allah if He depends on somebody else for anything. He cannot be created, otherwise he will become creation of some one. He is alone all by Himself, exists on His own, has no personal needs. He has no partners whatsoever, He is controlling every thing all the time, He is free from any defects or needs. That is why He is Allah, otherwise he will then be creation of yet another Supreme Authority."

      As per the aforementioned it appears you claim to know the infinite mind of your Allah and that is because??

      And as a final ponder muhammad.......... Can Allah create a rock so big and heavy that Allah can not lift it?

      Cheers............................
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    Jun 2 2013: No extreems are good. Equality is all about giving THE SAME rights to EVERYBODY, not promoting minorities. What these colleges do is not an attempt towards equality, it's an attempt towards giving privilege to specific social groups -just not the ones that usually have the privilege. Yes, equality is feasible. We are capable of it. But we have a long way to reach it.
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    Jun 2 2013: Hi Kai,

    Thanks for your debate.
    (1)
    Countries in Europe have various reactions and systems of inclusiveness to address the issue you're focusing on. Some have introduced quota-policies which basically means the following - you have to recruit so-so many percent of a given group (either nationality, gender or whatever that may be...) to be socially fair. It works well in some fields, giving the usually ignored/malfunctioning/discriminated groups a chance to have a life worth living and contribute to the society at large, but only if representatives of those groups are actually at a level of competence that is required. How to assess this level is a different issue, there is a lot of prejudice in the assessment process, especially in the private sector. The sociolinguistic, cognitive dynamics within this system create a lot of justified feelings of unfairness in all sectors (ask me for examples...) but the bottom-line is that what "seems" or "feels" unknown, new or strange is usually underestimated, criticised or discriminated against, in more or less gentle ways, codified or not. Another point, definitely more important in my bottom-line is that the codified or non-codified unfairness seems to be the rule-of-thumb for some people ("not like us? probably stupid and/or can be misused with no consequence for us, doesn't need the same opportunities, who cares...")

    The system mentioned above seems to create less confusion or discussion/protest in some fields, less in others. Maybe because of the simple reason which is the following - proportion of the inclusiveness mentioned above in education and work and requirements around both. Not everybody needs a college degree, everybody needs to live and be treated fairly.
  • Jun 1 2013: Equality is a notion that should be confined only to rights. Not only are people not created "equal", they are not created at all. We exist through a genetic compositing process (usually from less than ideally matched gene sources) and live our entire lives as "unique" members of the same species. The dynamic known as neuroplasticity, which was not known or understood for ages, allowed wrong and dysfunctional assumptions become culturized--even into the foundation of our education system where "creationism" is observed as fact even if it isn't taught. Kids are taught that they are either a boy or a girl and that's that, when in fact nature has many aberrations in which gender assignment is mixed or anything but precise. Because we a dogmatically taught to observe the falsehood that we're are one or the other, people with gender assignment issues and even sexual preference issues which may be related to hormonal conditions during gestation are never acknowledged. And therefore, mythology is perpetuated that often leads to cruelty and persecution rather than simple biological understanding. We couldn't be "equal" if we wanted to--the only thing we should try to be equal about is equal rights, equally fair treatment, fair access and other issues that have to do with order in society. It is a great desire of mine o live to see the day when uniqueness is embraced and the misnomer of being "created equal" struck from popular thinking. We all have unique potential that is determined by neuroplastic response to intellectual challenge. No one is damned by race or ethnicity or gender to a limited range of intelligence. The sooner we optimize our acceptance of that the more peaceful and cooperative the world will be.
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      Jun 13 2013: Thank you very much for your comment! I agree with many things you stated. Near the end, when you were "talking" about "no one is damned by race or gender to a limited range of intelligence," I currently agree with that statement, although don't know much from a neuro___ point of view. Some people say though, that since a particular race, let's say African Americans, did not have the option to do a particular thing, let's say go to school or college, for generations, that they have a disadvantage intellectually as their parents would not be educated and wouldn't teach their children and that would be passed down (not genetically, but nurturally (by nurture I mean). Do you think they should have some advantage in receiving education (I personally don't know)?
      • Jun 13 2013: Race is a sweeping generality applied to individuals--all of whom have the capacity to grow more capacity. It shouldn't matter if one's family had slaves in it versus tribal nobility. The nature is still the same. It is a world of unique individuals all of whom can overcome (unless they are prevented by defect, disease or disabling event). What we need to do is fundamentally change the social dynamics of education to deal with social defaults such as mob loyalty and misinterpretation of authority. It can't be the work of one teacher versus another. Any crusader on that level is bound to be crucified. It has to come about that there is something big happening which holds new value to those whom avail themselves of it. This may involve some societal growing pains.
  • Jun 1 2013: I think the answer to your question is resoundingly yes. Equality is very feasible. And yes it is synonymous with fairness. However, I also think it is important to clarify a few things. Humans are all human, we all posses the same brain and almost identical DNA. But more philosophically, we are all in the same predicament. That being, none of chose to exist, it is simply what happened to us. None of us chose what family to be born in, or what environment to experience. So whether you argue nature or nurture (and you should be arguing both simultaneously), you cannot argue equality, because equality exists intrinsically in the universe. Balance is the nature of reality, be it from the perspective of Taoism or super symmetry. That said, what you should be asking is: "is inequality feasible? And if so is inequality synonymous with unfairness?" Because the truth is, humans created inequality around the time they created judgement, and judgement is nothing more than an indication of profound ignorance.
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      Jun 13 2013: We may have similar brains, but they can work quite differently. I really don't know much about DNA, but I know the chemicals and proteins (nucleotides whatever) are similar but the arrangement isn't the same (right?). I think humans are fairly diverse, because of the complexity of our brains. Inequality is inherent in nature at small scales. The Universe as a whole most likely has an equal distribution of mass, but within a smaller sector (our galaxy, solar system, planet), mass is distributed very unevenly. Humans as a whole may be fairly similar, but one country's pop. compared to another or one person compared to another, it seems we are very different. Thanks for your comment and I hope you reply with some more ideas and philosophies from your POV!
  • Jun 1 2013: I agree with what Valerie was saying on the equality question, it has really been defined well by the world's basic human rights, or the opportunity of work to full potential to obtain the rewards from it.
    I would, however, define the fairness in a slightly different way. Fairness could be defined by morality. Some religion or people within a particular culture would define that different classes or different heritages as destined to be a ruler, a land owner or a servant based on a person's heritage or caste classes. This kind of "fairness" is not practiced in majority of the countries.
    The prevalent consideration nowadays is the needs among a group of people. For example, if a ship is stuck by a small uninhabited island, or in the middle of the sea. There would certainly be rescue transport of relief within days. So, if a bunch bread loaves are to be distributed as temporary foods, it is probably fairer to give each of the men a full loaf, a 2/3 of a loaf to the woman and 1/3 a loaf for a young child. This is due to the emergency, otherwise, even the young child would usually given a full loaf. Analogously, in a welfare system in normal times, the welfare beneficiaries are given what they need, which may not be equal to possession of the rich taxpayers. Certain times, morality comes in, say, on a sunken ship. The captain will maintain the orderly evacuation by putting the children and women on the life boats first, preceding the menfolks. This is considered fair.
    Finally the question of "fairness" in the tax systems in various countries of the world is really a knotty problem. Of course, the equality principle does not apply here. But what about fairness? This is really a very complicated question. However, a reasonable solution would be 'what kind of tax system will result in the optimal economic growth that will eventually improve the wealth (living standards) of all the citizens in the country?' Unfortunately, no universally accepted formula has been found.
    • Jun 11 2013: Please see the solution I have proposed above to this "knotty problem".
      • Jun 11 2013: There are already such taxes on the land and structures on it; called property taxes, by the municipality and other authorities. For some locations the rate could be as high as 3% per year. As to the fairness of this tax, I don't want to comment on it because of its complexity. The tax is, of course, justified by the fact that the local governments are responsible for the infrastructure and securities of the location where the land is located.
        • Jun 12 2013: Property tax is not the same as land value tax. The property on the built-up land, namely the buildings is the largest investment compared to the value in the land. So when property is taxed there is a force that disinclines the site owner to invest and build. This trend actually encourages speculation in the land value.

          With a tax on land values alone the situation is entirely different. It is the land that is being held unused for purposes of speculation where this tax is likely to have the greatest effect. The land speculator or monopolist including the banks supporting him/her, will then find it not worthwhile to continue to hold the land unused. This will allow more land to become available and the competitive price of it will fall. This will result in the cost of goods produced on this land to be less, with the result of greater demand, employment and less poverty. Thus land value speculation leads to poverty.TAX LAND NOT PEOPLE; TAX TAKINGS NOT MAKINGS!
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    May 31 2013: Equality to me means that we all, EVERY human, has the equal right to work, unobstructed, to achieve goals and work toward improving our lives and hopefully in turn the lives of others doing the same. Provided the work is an asset to our existence and not strictly for personal achievement at the expense of others.
    Fairness to me means that we all, If we put forth effort and do our part to the best of our capabilities, will, unobstructed, be rewarded for our efforts. I also believe that fairness involves helping those struggling if possible to get on the right track. I do not however believe it is fair to demand those who work hard pay for those who won't work at all.
    in fairness and equality concerning work, there are plenty of jobs a less capable person is capable of.
    As long as we live in a society of people who do not want to try at all and people who refuse to contribute to the common good we will not have congruency in our world. Everyone feels victimized.
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      Jun 13 2013: You said "Fairness to me means that we all, If we put forth effort and do our part to the best of our capabilities, will, unobstructed, be rewarded for our efforts."
      Who will do the 'rewarding' and how will the determination of the amount of reward be made?
      When I was a young teacher, we actually thought that every capable student should have the chance to finish college. That still seems like a good goal to me. But the key word is capable. That core idea changed to 'every student should have the chance to finish college.' This caused people to support the students who were not capable, and of course, the overall average of college graduates declined. This led to the idea that high school students should have better preparation. All of them, as if they were all college bound, and capable of college level work. Of course more high school students went to college. Then the colleges instituted classes which had the purpose of preparing the incapable students to do college work. Of course these classes helped a lot of students. And the average achievement level of university graduates fell again. This idea, whether it is called 'fair' or equitable' doesn't matter. What matters is that the institution of education is pushing many students beyond their capabilities and wasting untold millions of dollars creating graduates that are not capable of doing work indicated by their degree. This lowers the perceived value of all college degrees. Well! This can't go on, and we have to find out why. Ah ha! It must be the teacher's fault. Let's make the teachers more responsible for improving the scores of students. Let's increase the number of standardized tests and link them to teachers who fail to bring up scores. Then we can fire bad teachers! What? Fire teachers based on standardized tests? Let me look at that test... OK! No problem! I can teach to the test as well as they do in any other state. And "suddenly" the goal of excellence is abandoned in favor of responsibility.
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        Jun 13 2013: My mom was an educator and shares many of the same ideas as you. She thinks (and I agree with her) that college shouldn't be the ultimate goal for every student. We need people for many other things that can be learned on the job without prior education. There was another post on if college should be a measure of success, and I think it doesn't have to be, especially those who are not academically gifted.
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          Jun 14 2013: My Mom said as well that our society is taking the dignity out of common labor.
          Ironically if our country were to collapse as we know it there would be a major turn. The labor force would no doubt fare better than the book learned.
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        Jun 13 2013: Actually, "putting forth the effort" is just as key as being capable. There are many highly capable people that do not put forth the effort of many less capable folks.
        It seems the education system is in it self a victim because of the diversity in the human race. There is no way any person, place or thing can cater to the specific needs of every individual, even though every individual expects it. Then the finger pointing starts.
        True equality and fairness are impossible without every individual taking ultimate responsibility for ones self and having compassion toward others.
        And I guess to answer Kal's question, for me, in my opinion, from my perception, yes equality is worth striving for and no they are not synonymous.
        Let's say two students have the equal opportunity to attend a class. Both get a's, one studies all of the time, has a tutor and never takes a break, while the other parties, hardly studies and does not need a tutor because the subject come easy to them. Fairness is they both get the A. The one that has to work harder at a subject should not feel as if they deserve the A more than the other, but feel proud that they made the A. If a teacher on the other hand see the effort of the one student and uses them as a shining example how a person can achieve a goal then fantastic. But the students would do well to just be glad they live in a place where they have opportunity!
        Human nature is far too subjective I guess to have definitive answers.
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          Jun 14 2013: Hi Valerie
          You said "Human nature is far too subjective I guess to have definitive answers."
          It depends on where you put your point of view. Walking a mile in somebodies shoes may work in many cases, but it can not change the absolute value of his capability and effort and I would add, his morality. Morality has many roots and can easily become a source of angry dissension and violent behavior. I understand that. That does not mean we give up the search for moral foundations. Human nature is subjective only if the light of morality is removed. Then its every man for himself, and the devil take the hind most. But we can use morality to judge, to determine fairness and equality in our own behaviors and in judging the behaviors efforts and capabilities of others. Perhaps one of the causes of the current downward trend in society is the failure of cultural institutions to support morality. The separation of church and state is a viable political decision. But somehow, morality must be insisted upon from within the society, somehow. We are suffering the consequences of not allowing or supporting our teachers when they attempt to insist on moral behavior in their classes. Thieves, liars and bullies are allowed to remain in classes because those in authority fear the political fallout if they are 'too strict' or 'racist' or 'conservative.' Teachers are ordered to treat everyone as if they were capable, as if they were moral, as if they were all 'equal.' In reality, many students come from environments in which capability depends on caliber, and might makes right. Teachers who can continue to function in these environments have my deepest thanks and admiration. The political society only wants to make these teachers give more tests so the bad teachers can be weeded out. Don't blame the diversity of the human race. Blame the failure of our society to base opinions on moral values.
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    May 28 2013: Equality sounds like a great thing at first, but I'd like to look at the working of the Universe to illustrate a point.

    The Big Bang, according to the theory, led to an expansion of the universe, a giant gas ball of sorts. Now at this instant in time, if equality prevailed, each unit or matter would be arranged in perfect symmetry. If symmetry exists, there would be no differences in the forces at any point.

    If this was the case, there would be no stars, no planets, no life.

    The root of all life we know it was the result of tiny imperfection in the spread of matter at the birth of the universe.

    Beauty only has a place in a universe where its opposite is present.
    Knowledge has place only if ignorance exists.
    Progress will have meaning only if things were not already perfect.

    So as for equality, we can strive to achieve universal health care, free education and such. Although, in absolute terms, we would never be able to achieve a total sense of equality as it would be against how nature itself functions. Predator needs prey for life to go around.
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    May 24 2013: Personally I view that everybody should be given equal opportunity under most circumstances (may be wrong).
    However nature is a cruel master...
    Who is to say? Maybe nature will never give us the gift of "true equality" (considering events out of our control).
    Not to say we shouldn't try to get rid of unwanted social mechanics (which are in our control) to form a more equal society for all, free of prejudice and discrimination.
    "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character." - Martin Luther King.
    After pondering this a bit more. I would like you to consider :
    Equality and fairness for whom?
    Considering that equality may not be fair...
    Success often isn't fair (and is definitely not equal).
    Depends too much on your perspective.
    I would say it is better to be one (equal or fair), than neither.

    EDIT : A big question "could" be :
    Which is more important "Happiness (subjective well-being) vs Equality + Fairness"?
    Aren't we assuming that to be fair and encourage equality will increase happiness?
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      May 24 2013: Curious here Bernard White..........re your ' Personally I view that everybody should be given equal opportunity.'

      Would that equate to your plumber being allowed to perform a Trepanning procedure on you or designing the next Mars explorer under your program of equal opportunity?

      Or does your program of 'equal opportunity' perchance have similar rationale limitations to those already in place?

      Just asking.
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        May 24 2013: My system would have education more personalised to the individual to try and maximise (his or her) potential. However I admit it would be expensive. Which is a problem which would have to be dealt with.
        For instance you are assuming the plumber doesn't (or didn't) have the potential to do a "Trepanning procedure".
        Considering this is a "set view of intelligence", for you are not anticipating the fact humans can change. There may be "late bloomers". Like Einstein, or Darwin.
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          May 25 2013: Well Bernard.......Suggest you ponder this for 30 secs...........

          But let me firstly digress..............I'm only a new kid on the block here and what I've noticed (in my opinion) is that this forum is populated with a majority of (probably well meaning/intentioned folk) with ideas on how all the worlds assumed ills can and should be dealt with/solved. But appear (to me) to encapsulate a lot of 'pie in the sky' without considering the history of the planet and whats already in place and what some of changes proposed require as to their implementation.

          Moving back onto topic............

          My point is that we have a system in place that incorporates a whole spread of social strata or caste system which perform certain required tasks to keep the wheels of our society turning.

          Now if we educate everybody to their full potential how disruptive or beneficial is that going to be to society?

          How many rocket scientists do we need compared to toilet cleaners?

          But then again Time Traveler so kindly reminded us in one of his posts as I recall ....... 50% of the population are below average intelligence, so I am guessing we won't be running out of toilet cleaners anytime soon even though some folk herein feel everybody should be going home with the same size pay packet. :)

          cheers......
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        May 25 2013: You raise some interesting points!
        I admit I may be being a bit too idealist...
        I do agree that my idea would be very expensive. So I do agree they may not be practical.

        Thinking about it more, some changes you can do without money. (For instance encouraging the work ethic of admitting mistakes, accepting introversion, and more relying on intrinsic motivators rather than external motivators.)

        "50% of the population are below average intelligence"
        How do you define "intelligence"?
        Personally I find this a complicated question so I split it into 5 parts :
        - Emotional intelligence. (Or Charisma?)
        - Memory.
        - Intelligence. (Analytical + Practical )
        - Wisdom.
        - Creativity.

        Also you require the "willpower + motivation" to see your goals through. Bearing in mind you may view some "intelligences" more valuable than others. (Supply and demand).
        All I would want to do is give people the "opportunity" to find their passion (and thus enter a state of "flow" more easily). This is achievable without using more resources.

        Bearing in mind "stereotype" threat (with regards to IQ tests) : Where what society "expects" of you can become a "self-fulfilling" prophecy. And you are assuming the way we measure intelligence is (indeed) valid.
        And then come the question : "Is intelligence over-rated anyway?"
        I hope you take all of these points into consideration.

        I personally would recommend these threereads to you :

        - "The Talent Myth" (Are smart people overrated?)
        http://www.gladwell.com/2002/2002_07_22_a_talent.htm

        - "Late Bloomers" (Why do we equate genius with precocity?)
        http://www.gladwell.com/2008/2008_10_20_a_latebloomers.html

        - "None of the Above" (What I.Q. doesn't tell you about race.)
        http://www.gladwell.com/2007/2007_12_17_c_iq.html

        Kind regards,
        Bernard.
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      May 28 2013: Pls see post above. "Power to the People!" And best wishes from the far side of the Atlantic.
  • May 24 2013: (Please note I use Blacks because my studies involve heavily in race and politics) In regards to what you were told about minorities, I know that in my courses pertaining to Black studies and history, it is not that it is made easier, but in a nutshell trying to make the playing field even rapidly. After 200 years of enslavement, with additional years of oppression and repression through the Black Codes, policies, terrorist groups, and violence Blacks were really far behind from everyone else. Things like affirmative action and the many minority based scholarships is to allow us to catch up from a 300+ delayed start. It is a process that was made to be fair, and make it to its destination of equality.

    But I will contend that the original intent has been greatly distorted from its original basis, and may sometimes in fact perpetuate racism, by creating racial quotas. This meaning that since Blacks constitute for approximately 17% of the US pop. then they should be 17% in all professions, but is that really fair? It is not fair to Whites and Blacks alike. Based on articles by Edward Greenberg, Mack Jones, and Dr. Diclerico, I think there needs to be further look into policies intended to help minorities, because the ones currently do not address the bigger issue of minority oppression (blacks, women, Hispanics, etc.) But I think until then it is the fairest thing on the books at this moment.

    And as far as achieving equality in the US is impossible with a capitalist system, which basis is that many are on the bottom and few are on the top.
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      May 29 2013: As to your last line, I agree! Boy Howdy! Do I agree!

      I am curious as to what the "official educational view' is on the Barak Obama Presidency. He gets to live in the WHITE house. And that house was originally built/rebuilt by slave labor. There is a lot of justice in seeing a Black American living in the White House. I like that!

      I grew up in the segregated South of the U.S.A. And if you were BLACK, NOTHING was fair and NOTHING was equal. If things were fair and/or equal, THAT was because it was WHITES ONLY. Black people had to make do with whatever the White people didn't want or threw away. And for Black Americans, that had to suck! There was nothing fair or equal in that!
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    May 24 2013: Why should Saturn be jealous of Jupiter?
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      May 29 2013: Why should Saturn be jealous of Jupiter? Why not Jupiter be jealous of Saturn?

      Because Saturn has a Hoola Hoop and gets to dance!
    • May 24 2013: Hardly. He sounds like an idiot to me, speaking of eugenics, race and the holocaust.

      Lol, he blames progressives for the holocaust. There was nothing progressive about the holocaust. The Jews were allowed to prosper mightily in Germany, partly due to working together, until they tried to dominate and use the german people, to do their bidding. Then the Germans kicked all the Jews out of office. Then the Jews declared war on the Germans first, because the Germans kicked them all out of office.

      If the above is wrong, please explain how the Jews prospered so well in Germany for so long and why all of a sudden, did the Germans hate the German Jews so much.

      Look for all the things that are not spoken of or you will never be a good debater.
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        May 24 2013: Are you out of your cage why they are cleaning it?

        Care to back any of that up?

        You sound like an idiot to me.
        • May 24 2013: Name your poison. I spoke of several things. Knowing how you are afraid to debate me in the sciences, you figure you have a lock on Thomas Sowell claims.

          You could have responded to what I wrote about him above, but it must be you don't understand or you would have already written your objections. Gosh, are ya gonna call me names! Wow, what a debater you must be,

          Why don't you email Ted or call them or whatever y'all do when you can't get past your first copy and paste, so Ted can censor me before hand. Lol
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        May 24 2013: Your regurgitating crap is your opinion. Can you do anything above contradiction?
        • May 25 2013: Debate me on gravitational lensing, answering my questions and assertions and I'll answer y'all's. you can use all 5 of you against me. Put up or run away
        • May 25 2013: If you accept, the first thing I'll do is prove science purposely and knowingly, lies.
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        May 25 2013: WTF does that have to do with the equality meme?
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        May 25 2013: You connect that to equality how?
        • May 25 2013: Everything is connected. If there is no equality and fairness in society, sooner or later there will come a bloody revolt. America claims to be about truth and justice, but that's not the case and even science is being used to enslave most of the people, through ignorance.

          From the freedom of information act,--- former CIA Director, William Casey, “We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.”
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        May 25 2013: Life isn't fair.

        You can spend the rest of your life blaming the "rich"

        or you can live your life.

        By the way the rich are just a statistical category, very few stay in that or any other category. The rich is a straw man created by those who benefit by you wasting your energy blaming them.
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        May 29 2013: Mr. Ryan, you are entitled to your opinion as a matter of LAW! You are not, however, entitled to your own facts here -- which are WRONG.

        Maybe we are treating you Un-Equally? Maybe we are being UnFAir? Welcome to my Concentration Camp because YOU are very much in the minority here. Few, if any, who are vitally invested in TED agree with you on any of the issues you offer. And the Holocaust was the worst possible human nightmare. What is your opinion on the ovens used for burning bodies to ash or the gas chambers used to accomplish genocide?

        And what are you going to do if they come for YOU. Is that fair? Is that Equality?
      • Jun 11 2013: Ryan, your facts are horribly wrong. It wasn't simply Germany but most of Nazi occupied Europe where the Jews were collected for the death camps. This was racialism of the worst kind not simply because the Jews were taking over Germany (which was demonstratively untrue). The opposition to Hitler in 1933 by a solitary Jewish lawyer (who put Hitler on trial and proved him to be a lier) resulted in that lawyer being jailed, tortured and eventually in his suicide.
  • May 21 2013: My two cents worth:

    "Fair" should be limited to children's fairy tales.

    Equality can have different meanings, so debates about equality are subject to misunderstanding.

    Discussions about equality require a specific definition and context.

    No two people are actually equal. Equality should not be achieved by imposing equality when one person is better than another (in a specific way and context).

    Deal with individuals as individuals, not as members of a group.

    Rather than pursuing abstract ideas like equality and fairness, it would be better to try to minimize harm.
  • May 20 2013: Humanity being what it is, concepts like "fair" or "equal" will always be a topic for debate. However, I think the best ethical advice comes from Kant, who says that the principles of our actions should be universalizable. In theory, this should make things as 'fair' as they can possibly be. For example, if a member of society is considered to be disadvantaged in some way, we may tip the scales in their favor. And while this may appear to be unfair to someone who does not have this particular disadvantage, the principle of the action is based on the idea that our good will should extend to everyone equally. I would give a starving man food...even if it were Donald Trump.
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    May 20 2013: If I am pondering the guest list for my gala dinner party I am not socially or morally obligated to observe any rules of parity, equality, or fairness. I can choose who I want and exclude who I want without offering an explanation to anyone. However, if I am composing the invitation list for my local chapter of the Primal Drum Lodgefellows Society I am bound by the bylaws of the organization. A private college answers to no one regarding their policy because they receive no support from the government. A public institution is absolutely bound by the laws of the land in forming and enforcing their policies. No person should be given advantage over any other person for reasons of gender, race, creed, economic status, athletic or academic ability, or color. All legally qualified citizens have an equal right to participate in the benefits of publically funded enterprises. Social equality in the public arena is feasable and violations of said principles are punishable by law.
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      May 20 2013: There are two schools of note which could NOT get around government regulations when it came to their policies about inter-racial dating - Bobby Jones College and Grove City College. In your own home you can be as inclusive or exclusive as is your want, but I doubt you could ever consider a public organization being able to exclude anyone. If not legal then social actions would ensue as they did for the golf course in Georgia.
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        May 20 2013: I did not say a private enterprise would enjoy continued success if they chose to enforce certain policies. What I said was social equality is feasable. It might result in loss of business, but BJU and GCC are free to insist upon their moral stance regarding dating. It is not illegal for a private school to prohibit any, or all, dating on campus. Those who prefer, and insist upon, certain on-campus dating privileges can re-enroll elsewhere. Private enterprises exercising preferred moral regulations which do not conflict with the established legal rights of every citizen is not an example of inequality. It is an example of freedom. The result of exercising such freedom might well be a substatial loss of enrollment, but it is NOT an example of violating constitutional, or civil, rights.
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          May 21 2013: BJU and GCC are not allowed to have discriminatory practices even if based in religion and and they do not receive any funding from the USG.

          In a different way a private enterprise cannot enter into discriminatory practices such as building into their charter that jews, blacks and women are not permitted because exclusionary practices based on those conditions are illegal and the Justice Department could sue, as they have in other cases.

          My point was actually more in agreement with your statement not contrarian. I believe that laws, when enacted "correctly", can serve the best interests of equality.
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        May 21 2013: RE: "BJU and GCC are not. . . " Understood Glenn. I do not think Uncle Sam has gotten so intrusive that he dictates dating rules for private schools. Anyway, if genders are considered totally equal then there should be no gender specific enterprises. Bubba should be allowed to join the Women's Club and Mary Sue should be allowed to join the Boy Scouts. Equality is feasable, but not always advisable. Vive la differance!
  • May 20 2013: the premise of fairness is flawed due to the randomness that advantages pay themselves out in. in order to create true fairness we must all be given the same choices/opportunities and decide the same way as well. however equality can be achieved through a universal acceptance of all cultures and people that do not directly harm another. for once a universal acceptance is reached there will be no need for discrimination or its reversal.
  • May 20 2013: you can achieve equality only if you take away rights and happiness away from everyone