I'm finally beginning to tackle the playroom in our home. For years, it's been a large space for toys, toys and more toys. Once or twice a year, when toys threaten to take over, the purging begins. The quantity of toys builds again, and the cycle continues.
This time, I'm taking it a bit further. My goal is to transform my children's playroom from a pit where toys are thrown and children play to a space that is aesthetically pleasing and welcoming to all.
The large wall that has been left untouched for years is now the designated children's art gallery. As I sort through all the available art, I will pick an equal number of display pieces from each child.
It will be "fair."
Fairness is easy to accomplish in an art gallery featuring two children's work, but is not easy, nor desirable, in all situations.
Our oldest child, two years ahead in school, has more homework than her younger brother. While the question or fairness is often raised, I explain that different grades require different levels of homework and study. Additionally, people have different interests and aptitudes. So math might be easy for one child and hard for the other. Should we try to require each to study the same amount of time in an attempt to promote "fairness"?
Of course not.
In kindergarten and grammar school, fairness is important. Getting the same number of M&M's, taking the same number of turns, defines what it means to be treated fairly. Outcomes are expected to be equal.
At some point during development, most of us begin to realize that life is not fair. If we have siblings, this happens earlier. We notice that the other child is better at math, or baseball, or whatever. We learn life is not fair, and we move on.
Talking to my children recently, I explained that we all have equal value in God's eyes, but different gifts and abilities. It is up to each person how they use those gifts and abilities.
The notion of fairness made headlines this week as President Barack Obama pitched his latest economic plan on Monday at a speech in the White House Rose Garden in which he used the words fair and unfair a total of 11 times: "pay their fair share" ... "way that is fair" ... "everyone to pay their fair share" ... "a plan that asks the most fortunate among us to pay their fair share" ... "make it fairer" ... "they should have to defend that unfairness" ... "pledged to keep that kind of unfairness in place" ... "pay our fair share in taxes" ... "we ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share in taxes" ... "and I will veto any bill ... does not raise serious revenues by asking the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to pay their fair share" ... "it's also about fairness."
So if "it's really about fairness," what is fairness?
According to Arthur Brooks, the argument is about creating income equality. "They have concealed the central pillar of their ideology -- income inequality," wrote Brooks in a July 13 Washington Examiner opinion editorial, "under a misleading definition of fairness."
Is American supposed to be fair? Is equality of outcomes -- the same number of art projects on the wall, as it were -- the goal for all of our citizens? Let's look at the principles of our nation's founding.
The Declaration of Independence never uses the word fair, but uses the word equal twice: "When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them," begins the Declaration of Independence.
And again, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Our Founders understood that our Creator created us equal, but not exactly the same. God didn't guarantee fairness, yet we all have the equal right to pursue happiness as we define it. President Obama should know by now that fairness isn't achievable in life. Parents have seen this game before among our children. Unfortunately, stirring up resentment is unfair to us all, and can lead to less freedom for us all.