In Defense of Favoritism

I stumbled upon this amazingly well written piece in my stream this morning, it’s basically a conversation about “fairness”. The author, Steve Asma, approaches the dialogue from a philosopher’s point of view, but brings to the table various accounts of scientific research to back up his argument.

The treatment of my generation as children was most likely, I hope, the height of confusion between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. My parent’s generation used the word fairness to describe this. When a student chewed gum in the classroom the teacher would ask him if he brought some for everyone because it wasn’t fair that he had some and they didn’t. There were no winners and losers in little league until the age of 10 or 11, everyone got a trophy.

But this way of thinking and lexicon has spilled over into our politics and other aspects of public life where we are wrongly equating equality of outcome with fairness. The author expands on why this is taking place, and why it’s harmful.

I fear that as a country we have turned toward this idea of fairness and equality of outcome out of fear that we will no longer be guaranteed the best outcome. In order to shield us from thisĀ inconvenientĀ truth, we attempt to tell ourselves that it isn’t about who’s best, that everyone should be equally rewarded. It’s a defense mechanism. This is what the parents of children who fail tell them, that no one is better than anyone else, that they are good at other things that other children are not.

We know that this is false, but we delude ourselves anyway because the reality is that there are smart kids and dumb kids, athletic kids and wimpy kids, it’s just hard to accept when yours ends up on the wrong side of the measure.

I prefer the honest approach, I prefer people to tell me when I suck at something, when I’ve come in last, and when I’ve mauled my competition.

Life is not fair, you don’t get what you deserve in life, you get what you can negotiate. We need to stop teaching our kids that their all deserve the same outcome, and begin teaching them to give each other the same opportunity.

In Defense of Favoritism (Stephen Asma)

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