Power Ups and Equal Opportunity

December 15, 2011

Political Theory


A very wise philosopher known as John Rawls touched on the subject of fairness and equal opportunity. In his mind, freedom and equality require fairness. In order to achieve fairness, everyone must have the same opportunity and availability to be successful in society. Rawls says that our opportunities in life are strongly influenced by the position into which we are born through no choice of our own. For example, the economic, political, and social structures we are born into in our society.

 Thinking about Rawls and his ideas have led me to examine our class. I am not quite sure if writing about the dynamic of this class on the blog is the best idea, but this topic is one that I have seen to be a little controversial throughout the semester. As every student in this class knows, or should know, the class is set up in, in a sense, under the model of a video game. Each student must do certain things to be eligible to continue participating and reaching the next level of the class. Not everything is required, and we can decide which part of the class we would like to be a part of our final grade. We can also determine how much of our grade we would like to portion all of the activities. In the bigger picture, this class is purely self-determined and every student has the ability to achieve the best grade possible. Because of the different options, we can decide which activities we might be able to succeed the most in. For example, if students don’t enjoy writing papers or don’t think that they are very good at them, they can choose to participate in the blogging portion of the class and also do a group project for their grade and Vice Versa. I think that John Rawls would say the dynamic of this class allows for fairness and equal opportunity for every student to be successful.

 However, I think that there is another aspect of the class that Rawls would not agree is allowing every student equal opportunity. Along with the ability to determine our grading, we also have the opportunity to receive “power-ups” throughout the semester. At the end of the semester, we can decide how to use these power ups. The more you have, the more of a benefit they will have on your grade. They can be used to raise a paper, blogging, group project, quiz grade, or just the over all grade in the class. Every student starts with 3 power ups, and there is no guarantee that we will be given anymore. We are not told how to get these, but more awarded with them. Throughout the semester, many students have been given power ups for presenting during lecture. The majority of the discussion sections were given the opportunity to present, and if they chose to do so, they were rewarded with power ups. I would say that this is a fair way to give power ups. However, not every section was given the opportunity to do this. Personally, my section was never given the opportunity to present in front of lecture. Sure presenting in front of a giant lecture hall can be nerve racking, but I would have jumped at the opportunity to gain another power up.

 Do you think it is fair that only certain sections were offered this option? Would John Rawls say this was unfair, depriving each student from the equal opportunity to present in lecture and gain power ups? I understand that these power ups are extra credit and we do not all get them, but was it fair to offer this opportunity to some sections and not others? 

 

Source: https://ctools.umich.edu/access/content/group/36906f1a-78bf-444e-bd94-61b4ed057c86/Readings/November%2017/Nagel%20on%20Rawls.pdf 

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3 Comments on “Power Ups and Equal Opportunity”

  1. ldahbour Says:

    I was not aware of the fact that not all sections were given the opportunity to present. It was also unclear why certain sections were given the opportunity. I was given the opportunity to present and took advantage of that opportunity. But I do not think there is any dispute over the fact that there was no fair equality of opportunity in this case. Unless, the sections that did not present were given an opportunity of equal or lesser value, then Rawls would not agree with the power-up system as it exists today.

  2. golortegui Says:

    Having been in a section that received a power up for presenting in lecture, the feeling isn’t one of gratification earned from capitalizing on an opportunity. We were simply lucky enough to have been selected. Rawls would certainly argue that the allocation of the extra power up would not be fair in this situation given the fact that some sections were allowed to present and others weren’t.

  3. mcdonmeg Says:

    Yes, I think that John Rawls would agree that this class has not given people the equal oppurtunity to recieve additional power ups. I was in one of those sections that randomly got chosen, and I didn’t have to do anything but 30 minutes of brainstorming to earn an additional power up. I think that John Rawls would agree that every section should have gotten a chance at receiving power ups, instead of it just being chosen randomly. It is also very unfair because an additional power up gives you four, which is the amount a student needs to raise his or her grade up. Therefore, by people not being randomly chosen they do not have the oppurtunity to possibly raise their grade.

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