Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Virtue Ethics: An Ethical Development Program for High School Youth

Activity 1: Up Side, Down Side

Part of Virtue Ethics

Activity time: 10 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers, and tape

Preparation for Activity

  • Post two sheets of newsprint, one labeled "Fairness: Up Side," the other labeled "Fairness: Down Side."
  • Post a third sheet, headed "Does fairness mean... " and write: "Treat everyone the same?" "Proper under the rules?" and "Free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice?"

Description of Activity

Participants identify positive and negative aspects of the virtue of fairness.

Affirm that the group will explore fairness. Invite youth to sit for a moment and think about "fairness" as a virtue. Indicate the possible definitions you have posted on newsprint. Lead a discussion; these prompts may be useful:

  • What have you been told about fairness, or being fair: What it means, when to use it, when not to use it?
  • How would you define "fair?"
  • Who defines what is fair and what is not? Does it mean different things to different people? How do you know if you have treated someone fairly?
  • Is there anyone you admire who regularly uses fairness?
  • Do you have friends and/or family members who consistently act unfair? How do you feel when you are around these people?
  • What does "play fair" mean? Have you ever been told to play fair? Have you ever played with someone who does not play fair? Do you always play fair? Why or why not?
  • Sometimes people say, "The world is not fair." Do you agree? Whether you agree or not, do you think belief in this statement might influence one's actions? In other words, might thinking the world is unfair make one more or less likely to act fair?
  • What are the advantages of trying to be fair always? What disadvantages?
  • What other questions come to mind when you think about fairness?

Encourage participants to discuss these and other questions about fairness while writing comments on the newsprint. The "Up Side" is for positive remarks about fairness; the "Down Side", for negative. Review the comments on the newsprint.

Conclude with the following:

We know we should try to be fair in our day-to-day lives. Fairness is commonly listed as a virtue. However, some lists of virtues, for example Plato's Four Classic Virtues, list justice, but not fairness. How do you define justice? Do you think there is a difference between justice and fairness? Is there a relationship?

Remind participants you are not looking for right or wrong answers, but want to encourage youth to ask the question and think about answers that make sense to them.