Photo by Manu H
A quick, but challenging discussion topic for any age:
Is it always fair to make decisions based on a vote?
In my experience, kids think a vote is always fair. Majority rules, right?
Challenge them to think of a case when “majority rules” isn’t fair. They may need an evening to ponder.
If no one can think of a situation, use your class as an example (if your class is split evenly by gender, choose hair color or another objective, simple trait).
We’re going to take a vote to decide whether the ladies or gentlemen get extra recess. And we’ll vote every day, just to make sure it’s always a fair decision.
It shouldn’t take long for the “BUT BUT BUT!” to start as the minority gender realizes their predicament. Soothe their panic. We were just making a point!
Now here’s where the discussion gets fun: what do we do in situations like this, when it isn’t fair to simply go with a majority vote?
Let your class stew for a while. How could they improve the process? Give them an evening. Jot their ideas down as they think of them. Don’t rush too quickly to explaining existing solutions.
Later, you can explain how governments try to solve this. In the US, we have things like:
- The president or governor’s ability to veto laws
- The supreme court’s power to declare laws unconstitutional
- The Senate has two senators per state, regardless of population
This discussion introduces the following paradox: having an all-powerful ruler is unfair, but allowing purely democratic voting can also be unfair.
And now, can kids think of more situations in which a majority vote isn’t fair?
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