Monday, February 16, 2009

Equality

Let's imagine a scenario. Let’s say, in a school scenario, A is keeping B inside a room because B did something to displease A. B repeatedly asks to be let out, but A doesn't listen. Let's examine what heppens when we fill the roles with different people.

Let's say A is a teacher and B is a student.

  • Who is thought to be at fault here? The student.
  • Who is considered the victim here? The teacher.
  • Who is blamed for the disruption of adjacent classes? The student.

Now, if we reverse the roles (A is a student and B is a teacher), something interesting happens.

  • Who is thought to be at fault here? The student.
  • Who is considered the victim here? The teacher.
  • Who is blamed for the disruption of adjacent classes? The student.
Nothing happens. This is interesting; a reversal of roles should reverse the answers. The student is still blamed. But what should it be? To find out, let's put a student in both roles, or put a teacher in both roles.

Let's say A is a student and B is a student.

  • Who is thought to be at fault here? B.
  • Who is considered the victim here? A.
  • Who is blamed for the disruption of adjacent classes? B.

Let's say A is a teacher and B is a teacher.

  • Who is thought to be at fault here? B.
  • Who is considered the victim here? A.
  • Who is blamed for the disruption of adjacent classes? B.

Now, for fun, let's say A is keeping B in the room. If both are students...

  • Who is thought to be at fault here? A.
  • Who is considered the victim here? B.
  • Who is blamed for the disruption of adjacent classes? A.

If both are teachers...

  • Who is thought to be at fault here? A.
  • Who is considered the victim here? B.
  • Who is blamed for the disruption of adjacent classes? A.

The answer is clear.

  • Who is at fault? The one outside the room.
  • Who is the victim here? The one in the room.
  • Who is at fault for the disruption of adjacent classes? The one outside the room.

Of course, this post could not be used in defense of anyone, as that would invoke the Two Wrongs make a right fallacy.

...

Okay, I could see an argument from the fact that they were brought up in an inconsistant, hypocritical, and self-contradictory society, thus confusing the logic behind the scenario, but that goes into the ethics of intent, which is another topic.

4 comments:

Commenty McCommenterton said...

A situation in which A and B could be replaced with a teacher and student, and the teacher would be considered at fault would be if the student is legally an adult, as is the case at a college. I imagine that this is what you're getting at-- non-adults aren't treated in the same way as adults.

I propose that one reason why things are seen differently for non-adult students than for adults because there's a legal requirement for kids to attend school, at least up to a certain age. Most settings require some kind of rules to run smoothly. A student at a college is free to not follow whatever rules are set down, and can walk out of any given room, but generally will follow the rules the school and its staff lay down assuming they want to keep going to that school. It's a little different when the student is a kid though, which I assume is the situation you're describing. Maybe the student doesn't have to keep going to that particular school, but the law generally says that they have to go to *some* school, so the law gives the school some power to boss the kids around while they're there. In an ideal world there'd be more of a give and take, with students and teachers all listening to each other, students making their own decisions about what rooms to stay in and which to leave etc, and everyone discussing things until a mutually satisfactory consensus is reached, but this is generally considered to be an inefficient way to run a school, and for better and for worse, teachers are given a level of authority that doesn't exist in most situations where all the participants are adults. For what it's worth, if the school you're going to is generally a good one, it's probably worth going along with things for the same reason a college student might-- while unlike them you're not free to *not* go to school, and will end up going to some school regardless, that other school might, well, suck.

There are some situations where A and B are both adults, and B would be seen as being at fault, as in your teacher/student example, now that I think of it. One is if A is a drill instructor and B is a recruit. The military is based on the model of some people assuming responsibility for other people, and those people being obliged to do what they're told. Eventually the recruit's term of enlistment is over, and he has the choice to stay in the military and keep following orders, or leave and do what he wants; just as eventually the student reaches the legal age of adulthood and can make more decisions for himself. You could argue that the recruit agreed to join the military, while the kid never gave anyone his consent to be bossed around by teachers, parents, etc, but society is based on the idea that people don't have the full knowledge necessary to make all their own decisions before a certain age of consent is reached. I'll acknowledge that the age at which someone is practically able to make good decisions for themselves varies from person to person, but the law generally deals in absolutes, so society ended up picking an arbitrary age that seemed to make sense for most people and went with it.

Another situation I can think of where B doesn't get to leave the room is if A is a judge, and B has been selected for jury duty. If you haven't yet had the pleasure, much of jury duty involves sitting in a room being quiet and waiting for the judges and court clerks to decide if they're going to need you to sit on a jury. If you get sick of it and decide you'd rather go home or back to work or school, they get cranky, and can technically fine you or throw you in jail. It's pretty boring if you didn't bring a good book, and it can be annoying that these people get to keep you in a room when you didn't do anything wrong, but it's one of those situations where society has decided that it's necessary for someone (the judges and court clerks) to be able to boss someone around (you) in order to keep things moving smoothly (the criminal justice system).

I'll admit I've kind of been all over the place in this comment, but hopefully you'll find something useful in it. For what it's worth, I find your posts thought provoking, and hope you keep up the good work.

Nulono said...

I think that, because young people are forced to go to school, schools should be less lax, not more. This is one of the reasons I oppose the draft, though I oppose war all together.

I think I've covered the whole "society can be wrong" thing. If not, I'll be covering it today.

FYI, I don't entirely agree with forced jury duty any more than I agree with forced military service.

ockraz said...

For better or worse, the teacher has responsibilities that the student does not and this requires (s)he have freedoms that the student does not. This may not be fair or just, but it is necessary for a school to function.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_loco_parentis

Nulono said...

I never defended the extra responsibilities. You cited a legal precedent, and the law isn't exactly always right.