For many years I have scheduled a charity exercise in my Introduction to Ethics class. I modify the “Giving Game” (instructions for which you can find here). I first ask the students to keep track of their expenses for 48 hours. After which I ask them to highlight the expenses Peter Singer (a famous Utilitarian ethicist) would say are not “morally significant.” For example, I might highlight going to get drinks with friends. While friendship might be morally significant, I need not spend $80 at a club to maintain friendships (especially when I could, according to Singer, donate that money to prevent starvation, lack of medical care, and/or houselessness). We then total up the “extra” money for the entire class. While at FIU, the “extra” spending for a class of 32 students over the course of 48 hours is usually around $2,000-$6,000 (this, for the record, is much higher than the other Universities I’ve taught at).
I ask my students to make passion pleas for their favorite charity the aim of which is to get their fellow students to vote for their presentation. The winning presentation gets a real-life donation from me. I know many professors who do such an exercise in their classes. I think it works extremely well and this semester I’ve been especially thrilled with the results. Since we’re doing our classes virtual due to COVID, many of these pleas were in the form of short videos. I wanted to share with you two of the videos. Two great videos and two really great charities below:
(Song had to be changed for copyright – the original song for this video was Andra Day – Rise Up)
It isn’t a surprise that both of these charities focus on issues outside the United States. Part of Effective Altruism is thinking about the maximum impact a dollar could have. Our dollar goes a lot further in countries with less purchasing power.