Justice, Fairness, and Equality - When They Apply to Parenting

There’s a lot of buzz about justice these days. Social media has exploded our access to every story out there, and the mantra of “It’s not fair” seems to permeate our culture. A quick look around our world’s political and civil unrest shows me that I’m not the only one that could use a refresher course on what it means to truly live justly.

As homeschool parents of 3 ‘fairness experts,’ we have the wonderful and weighty privilege to guide our children toward the virtue of justice everyday. While leading by example is ideal, I often find myself needing to re-learn things right in the middle of teaching my kids.

One of the complications is that there are so many skewed definitions of the concept of justice. Is your idea right, is mine right? And if we disagree, who's right? (I feel like a Dr. Seuss book.) The problem is that justice is often confused with fairness or equality. In reality, these are three separate ideas that can sometimes blend. How’s that for ‘clear as mud’?

Let’s try to unpack it a little. Fairness means that each person is treated according to their needs/wants/abilities. An example of fairness is that the toddler and the teenager don’t have the same bedtime or eat the same foods. Whereas, equality means that things are a 1:1 exactly equal ratio. An example of equality is that each kid gets $20 for their birthday from Grandma each year. And justice? Well, justice means rendering each person their due. And there is more than one correct way to achieve that. So now what? How do I teach that?

To start with, this month our family will be reviewing libertarian, utilitarian, and egalitarian viewpoints of justice. We’ll talk about examples on the home-front and the world scope. We’ll introspectively evaluate how balanced we are with our understanding of the virtue and see if there’s need for adjustment. Luckily, we don’t have to have it all figured out before we can implement it or grow in it, and there is real value in our whole household learning together. I believe it provides an example of the lifelong pursuit of knowledge, growth, and the bettering of ourselves. In turn, this can affect and encourage all those we come in contact with to do the same. In today’s day and age, that platform can be worldwide!

So, if you have the drive to succeed, you will find the resources you need. In a way, you are rendering yourself the success due from hard work and initiative. And that is justice! 

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