Marion Brothers

Marion Brothers

Friday, June 8, 2007

Nothing is Unfair

My students and understudies are forbidden from using the phrase: “This is unfair.” Wherever did they arrive at this expectation that something is supposed to be “fair”? What is "supposed to be"… "supposed to be", they lament, as if their supposition is a right… what if it’s not?

I ask them what do they mean by “fair”. And all they can relate is an expectation to “equal treatment”.

That, my dear students, is an unrealistic expectation… you’ve been reading too many fairy tales and living in Disneyland.

As a teacher, I make no pretenses of being fair. For me, I don’t have to worry about being made to feel guilty when some student accuses me of being unfair or having favorites. However, some teachers become defensive and try to rationalize their “unequal” treatment among students. But do not expect fairness from me, I tell them. This is not one hoop I’m going to jump through, simply because some student has this fairy tale notion.

What should be is not always so. What ought to be, may not ever happen. And, yes, I do have my favorite students. Anybody who follows my instructions, that’s my favorite student. Somehow, I must get this idealized notion out of the head of my students, especially African-American kids.

There are no two equal things in nature. Expectations of equal treatment are based upon a myth they teach children in the "other" school system. Under Old School teaching in the segregated system, we were taught that the odds were always stacked against us. We had to be over-qualified in order just to qualify. More was expected of us. We had to climb the highest mountain to realize the impossible dream. With this realization, there are no free passports through my class. In fact, a student cannot even cross the threshhold of my classroom with a phatom expectation. This is tuff turf.

One a typical day, I may start with something like this: Today is Teacher’s Day. Guess what tomorrow is? You got it. Tomorrow is Teacher’s Day also. There is no such thing as Student’s Day in my class. The objective of Teacher’s Day is to make the teacher happy. And, guess what? That is nearly impossible to do unless you are Top Gun stuff.

How many times have I heard, “Mr. Griffin, you are so unfair?” So what? If you are looking for fairness, go to the next classroom where some silly teacher will stroke your ego for mediocrity. Do not come to my classroom thinking that you are in Disney World.

My own children had to learn this lesson in my house. They would come home complaining about how “unfair” some teacher was at school. To rudely remove the rose colored glasses, I teach them that things in our society must be unfair, by necessity, because my children have an "unfair advantage". And that advantage is this: Greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world.


  1. I found you through Villager! I'm a believer also and find your approach to teaching life lessons to your students and children refreshing. I'm a compassionate person so I may think differently if my daughter was in your class, but I suppose that scripture would bring it into focus. You're teaching lessons in perseverance and success no matter the circumstances that life presents.

    Reading your bloghead, it’s obvious that you've learned these lessons firsthand. You’re a messenger to the young folk that life is not fair and they better pick up their big girl panties or boxers and deal with it!

    Your blog and some of your posts will be featured in an upcoming shout out.

  2. Thank you Rosemarie. You are right. I learned a lot of things in prison, such as how to overcome impossible odds. The scenario is simple: Over-shoot your objective. And this can only be done by faith. I hope this helps you to keep your kids motivated and reaching for the top.

  3. Shouldn't we be proud that a black man can go on the Tonight Show and say anything he wants, and exercise Freedom of Speech. Are we really trying to take away this man's freedoms....

    Does anyone agree?

  4. That is quite an advantage, in fact it doesn't get any better than that.

    I found you through Rosemarie, and I'm very grateful to have done so.