Partner School Stories

Fairness: What it Means to Me

By Joey Pagano

In my articles, opinions, and actions, I have consistently been attached to the concept that society works best when we think with our hearts instead of our brains. Contained in my belief system is the vision of a society that values the character strength of fairness and the Other People Matter Mindset.

But what makes a situation “fair”? Although this question often revolves around political views, it doesn’t have to. Fairness goes beyond what we do or don’t have — and contains the notion that we should honestly ask ourselves if we treat others fairly on a daily basis.

However, fairness is complex and personal. The Positivity Project (P2) highlights how we can look at fairness from one of two perspectives: the justice-reasoning approach, which uses logic and determines right from wrong through ethics, or the care-reasoning approach, which is based around empathy and the willingness to understand the needs, interests, and well-being of others.

With the justice-reasoning approach, there’s a rulebook to follow and we find ourselves asking how outside situations apply to our internal mindset instead of how our mindsets fit the situations. I believe that in this justice-reasoning approach we too often fail to remember it’s not best to treat every situation in a uniform manner.

That said, I believe that the justice-reasoning approach does have utility. For example, it is useful when we are in the middle of an argument but aren’t actually involved. In this case, it’s important to place our values ahead of our emotions because conflicts typically revolve around competing perspectives. As a third party, it’s important to leverage open-mindedness and honestly decide what is fair or unfair through ethical principles instead of through emotions.

Keeping in mind that there are times when the justice-reasoning approach is most appropriate, I think prioritizing the care-reasoning approach is the best way to go. That’s because the world, in my opinion, is a better place when people use their emotional side.

When we pretend each instance is identical to the one before, we ignore the fact that, with humans, it’s impossible for anything to be completely universal because we are unique in our needs, wants, and perspectives.

The care-reasoning approach decides what’s fair based on the things that make us human, including our ability to relate to one another. This goes back to the idea of thinking with your heart, because that’s when you’ll ask, “What if that happened to me?”

As for my own life, I don’t expect everything to be fair, but I do expect myself to make the world as fair as possible for everyone else.

Accomplishing this can be difficult, but I keep working at it. That’s why I write. Writing allows me to create awareness and start the process towards a society of fairness. The inevitable truth is that it’s impossible to create a society that is completely fair to people with disabilities. But I want to make the world as accessible and as equal as possible — and I work to make that a reality by raising awareness through the articles I write.

My biggest motivation has always been the less fortunate. Since falling in love with writing, I have learned it’s an avenue for me to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. I want those who struggle with communication to have a voice and know that I experience some — not all — of the same struggles they do. So, I see it as my responsibility to use my voice to give them a fair voice. That, to me, is what fairness is all about.

Joey Pagano
Student, Syracuse University

Building the Other People Mindset and remembering and emphasizing its importance is what I aim for day after day. As I continue to pursue a career in journalism and attend the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, I aim to show people that buying into The Positivity Project doesn’t mean you have to be happy and positive all the time, but instead means we have to work together more and build positive relationships. You can also find Joey on Twitter @WheelchairQB_ and at his blog