Seeing the Other Side

6, 7, 8

This lesson explores how there are two sides to most fairness issues. Students compare and contrast both sides of two fairness issues--one global and one personal. They reflect on when fairness is a matter of perspective and when fairness is a matter to advocate for through citizen action.

PrintOne 20-minute lesson

The learner will:

  • respond verbally to a list of unfair practices.
  • brainstorm a list of unfair practices.
  • state that we don't always agree about what is fair; what is unfair to one group or person may benefit another.
  • discuss the difference between feeling something is unfair and knowing something is unfair.


  1. Anticipatory Set

    Tell the students that you are going to read them a series of statements, and you want them to respond with how they feel about each one in just a couple words (which will be in most cases--not fair!). Reading all of these statements and getting quick responses should only take about three or four minutes:

    1. Tomorrow there is an essay due that is worth one-fourth of your grade. Boys must write ten pages, but girls only need to write one page.
    2. Students wearing running shoes today get out of class five minutes early.
    3. If you have blond hair, you may sit down today. There are no desks for the rest of the class.
    4. You are allowed to use the computer only if your last name begins with S.
    5. Many girls in Pakistan cannot go to school because they must help their mothers, but boys may attend the local school.
    6. Often the U.S. schools with the poorest students have the fewest learning resources.
    7. Many children in our own state go to sleep hungry, and some do not have a bed to sleep in.
    8. In the US in 1776, only white men with property had the right to vote. In 1870, the 15th Amendment granted men of color the right to vote, but many were still kept from voting. In 1920, the 19th Amendment guaranteed women the right to vote.
    9. There are an estimated 27 million slaves in the world today, many of them are children who are in forced labor, and we may be using some of the products they make.
  2. Ask the students what all of these statements have in common (they describe unfair practices). Ask them if all the issues [a matter in dispute] would be viewed as clearly unfair in anyone's perspective. Then ask the students why -- if the scenarios are clearly unfair --do some of them exist in our world today. Help the students recognize that the unfair practices must benefit someone.

  3. Brainstorm with the learners a list of things they believe are not fair today. This "Not Fair" list may include ideas from personal issues to world issues. This may raise some emotions as students will likely have opposite ideas on some issues; remind them that a brainstorm does not include judgment [an opinion]. Continue to take down all their topics, but don't engage in discussion. They will recognize that not everyone has the same ideas of what is fair. Allow five minutes.

  4. Ask the learners to write (in a journal) the top three to five issues from the "Not Fair" brainstorm that they feel most strongly about. They do not have to share this list.

  5. Tell the learners you want them to choose one of these issues to analyze from the opposite perspective [point of view]. For example, if they feel it isn't fair that they have a 9:00 bedtime, they compare and contrast the perspectives of their parents and themselves. Or if they think women are treated unfairly in Afghanistan, they can list the reasons that isn't fair and the existing barriers that prevent equal rights. In their journals, they make a chart that shows both sides of their selected issue(s). Encourage them to reflect on one personal issue and one global [involving the entire world] issue (if possible in the given time).

  6. After students write and reflect for about five minutes, bring the group back together as a whole.If there is time, ask the students what they noticed about their thinking when they tried to see the other side. Lead the students to recognize that even on an issue that seems so clearly unfair, there is an opposite point of view that prevents the easy resolution of the issue. Discuss the difference between feeling something is unfair and knowing something is unfair. Ask the students whether there is anything they can do when they think something is unfair. Discuss action they can take when they KNOW something is unfair.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how individuals have helped others.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Give examples of needs not met by the government, business, or family sectors.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Describe the importance of hearing all voices in a community and respecting their right to be heard.
      2. Benchmark MS.5 Discuss examples of groups denied their rights in history.