Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson and "The Lady, or the Tiger"

My middle school students read the story, "The Lady, or the Tiger" by Frank Stockton, and we spent our last class of this semester talking about the narrator's suggestion, "Its perfect fairness is obvious."

We talked about how the king leaves the decision up to "chance" except for the fact that he decides who even goes into the arena, which is an act of judgment in itself.

We talked about what fairness means, specifically whether it would be fair for me to divide a meal and give each of my children (ages 10, 7 and 5) each 33.33% of it.  My students argued this would not be fair because the calorie requirements of my pre-teen are greater than the calorie requirements of the 5-year-old.

We then spent time comparing the king's system of justice with the US justice system (Miranda rights, judges and juries, etc).  We discussed which system is more "fair," and whether there are still unfair things that could be in the more "fair" system.

And so, today, in light of the Ferguson decision, the fallout from it, and the comments of FB as to the fallout, I am thinking about this story and wondering what is fair.  I have no answers; I rarely do.  I have questions, considerations.

I am thinking about how difficult it must be to be a police officer, to put yourself in potentially dangerous situations as part of your job, and not shoot to kill (in light of the human instinct for survival).

I am thinking about how difficult it must be to be an unarmed young black man who feels a constant threat and burden from law enforcement, and society at large, simply because he is black.

I am thinking about a community of law enforcement families who want their officers to survive each day.

I am thinking about a community of blacks who feel grief followed by a slight by the justice system.

I am thinking the Ferguson situation seems a lot more like the Frank Stockton story than I'd ever considered.

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