When I was little, and I had to divide something with my sister, our mom would tell one of us to split up whatever we were sharing; the other would get to choose which half they wanted. The point was to teach us to be fair, and not to take advantage of the other party. If the cutter cheated by making one part bigger, and the chooser picked that bigger half, it was the cutter’s own fault for not making the pieces even. Basic life lesson, right?
The Harvard Negotiation Project has a famous situation involving an orange. Two teams have to negotiate over an orange; whichever team fulfils its objectives, as dictated by the instructor, wins (and both teams can win). However, one team is told that they need the whole pulp of the orange in order to make juice; the other is told that they need the entire rind of the orange to get the zest for a cake. When the teams go into the negotiation, though, they start out thinking that they need to get the whole orange because they don’t know what the other team wants, and they don’t know that each team can get 100% of their individual goals by working together. The point of the exercise: it pays to know what the other side is going after, since you might get more of your goal by being uneven in some areas.
If I ever have kids, and I have to teach them “one cuts, the other chooses,” I am going to teach them that they have to think about the other party and what he/she might want out of the situation. In some instances, maybe they have to divide an orange evenly…which is fine, I guess. But in others, maybe one kid gets the delicious, smooth icing and the other gets the dense, rich chocolate brownie; one gets the apple filling, the other gets the sugar-flecked crust; one gets the golden fried fish, the other gets the twice-cooked chips. Call it “Cut/Choose 2.0”. That’s the kind of life skill that rules the kindergarten playground.