The Scales Of Justice

Statue of Justice in Hong Kong. The scales of justice are to weigh the evidence

Tony Attwood developed an activity for children designed to help children (particularly children on the autism spectrum), make better attributions of responsibility in conflict situations. This activity is called the “Scales of Justice” activity.

The Scales of Justice

If there are only two people involved in the conflict, then an actual pair of scales can be used. If there are more than two people involved, then there is a sheet of paper for each person involved. The supervising adult has a set of wooden blocks of equal size. As the child describes what happened, a violation of agreed-upon rules of conduct usually arises. The child is asked to evaluate the severity of the violation using a number of wooden blocks.  More blocks signify a more severe violation.

Tony Attwood did this activity with an 11-year-old boy named Eric, who felt he was suspended unjustly from school. There were three people involved: Eric, another child, Steven, and a substitute teacher.

Steven started the conflict by called Eric a “w***er” (an obscene expression in Australia). Eric proposed and Tony agreed that this should be worth two blocks for Steven. Eric did not respond to Steven’s provocation. The teacher’s failure to rebuke Steven was agreed upon as one block for the teacher. Steven then called Eric a “f***ing w***er,” which was agreed on as worth four blocks. The teacher didn’t hear that one. Eric’s lack of reporting the more serious provocation received one block. Eric then called Steven the same thing, which received four blocks without controversy, as the weight of those words had already been agreed upon. Steven then came up to Eric’s desk and scribbled on his class work. This was agreed upon as worth two blocks. Eric’s not reporting this to the teacher was assigned one block as before. This was when Eric hit Steven in the nose with his fist. After a good bit of discussion, the punch in the nose was evaluated at 12 blocks. At this point, Eric had 18 blocks, Steven had 8, and the substitute teacher had one. Eric had felt his suspension to be unjust because Steven had not been suspended. The disparity in the piles of blocks was used to help Eric understand.

Why am I sharing this with you? I am sharing this with you because the warring tribes of humanity have long-standing enmities with each other. Everyone has their own story where someone is the hero and someone else is the villain. Other things being equal, people tend to emphasize the errors of others and minimize their own. I feel an need to be my own inner grownup, someone who can do the Scales of Justice activity with my own inner child. My country (and your country) needs someone, needs a number of people who can do the Scales of Justice activity with it. My world needs someone, needs a number of people who can do the Scales of Justice activity between two or more nations.

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