What Is Justice?
Students compare the meaning of justice with fairness, and distinguish the meanings of fair, just, and equitable. They write a definition for each term and display it on the wall for the duration of the unit.
The learner will:
- articulate the meanings of justice.
- compare and contrast the terms just, fair, equal, and equitable.
PBS Crash Course video: “What Is Justice?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0CTHVCkm90
Say the Pledge of Allegiance as a class. At the end, ask the students,"What were the last four words?" (And justice for all). Daniel Webster, an American statesman who lived between 1782 and 1852, said that “justice is the great interest of man on earth.” Discuss the meaning of justice and whether it means the same as fairness.
Read the following paragraph aloud and tell them to be ready to discuss and write definitions of fair, just, equal, and equitable.
“On a public blog, a nine-year-old girl stated that justice means equal treatment for all—no matter what. She was asked, “does that mean if ten people want to share a cake, they should all get an equal size slice, even if some are two years old and some are five and some are forty?” She said, “That’s right. Justice means they all get the same. If they want to share their piece, they may.” The responses to her blog came from students and adults all over the world. Professors, lawyers, and other people praised and argued against her statement. Do you agree that justice is the same as equal treatment? Are there times when equal treatment is not fair?”
Move the students into groups of three to five learners. Assign one term (fair, equitable, and just) to each group. They look up and discuss the definitions of fair, just, equal, and equitable.
- Equal means the same. You can divide a cake in equal parts; have two glasses with equal amounts in them; and treat two different people equally, the same.
- Equitable is more about similar treatment. If you have a hungry 16 year old and a hungry baby, it would be equitable to give them the amount of food they each need, but it probably won't be an equal amount. It is equal but not equitable to give people of different heights the same size stool.
- Fair is the the deserved treatment or action. Something unfair is something not deserved, like a tornade knocking down a house.
- Justice is a moral choice from an externally held source.
Tell the groups to write a definition of their term and a sentence to make the meaning clear. Have the team write their definition on a large sheet of paper to display on the wall.
This character education mini-lesson is not intended to be a service learning lesson or to meet the K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice. The character education units will be most effective when taught in conjunction with a student-designed service project that provides a real world setting in which students can develop and practice good character and leadership skills. For ideas and suggestions for organizing service events go to generationon.org.
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