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60 min

Guiding Questions:

  • What role does the government have in providing for the less fortunate?
  • How do governmental policies affect individual economic outcomes?
  • How can individuals contribute to the common good?


  • Define philanthropy
  • Identify philanthropic needs in one’s own community
  • Consider the role of individuals and the government in providing for the common good

  • Constitution
  • Founders
  • Great Depression
  • George Washington
  • virtue
  • checks and balances
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • republic

Have students read the essay, Philanthropy.

Have students define “common good” and “philanthropy.”

Have students discuss their definitions of “philanthropy” and “common good” as a class and then come up with a final class definition.

Have students share ways in which they and/or their family engages in philanthropy, based on the class definition. Have students create a list of famous philanthropists (from the past or current). Ask students what motivates them and what they think motivates others to engage in philanthropy.

Discuss with students who should be responsible for the common good – citizens, organizations, state/local/national government. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each group and the role of each in achieving the common good in society.

Have students create a list of programs offered by organizations and government that assist people in need.

Divide students into groups and have them brainstorm some philanthropic needs in their own neighborhoods, communities, towns, or states.

Distribute Handout A: What Is Being Done? Students should work with a group to determine what is currently being done about the need and what they could do to help fill the need.

After the groups have completed Handout A, ask them set goals for their philanthropy project on Handout B: Setting Short-Term and Long Term Goals.

Students should also consider what skills or resources (time, money, awareness) they could personally contribute to these causes.


  • How is philanthropy different from tax-supported social programs?
  • What are the benefits to you or to the people receiving help when you are philanthropic?
  • Why is it important to engage in philanthropy?

Have students read Pages 8-10 of Andrew Carnegie’s Gospel of Wealth located at Microsoft Word – The Gospel of Wealth.docx ( and answer the following questions

  1. What did Andrew Carnegie believe the duty was for wealthy people to behave like?
  2. What did Andrew Carnegie believe wealthy people should do with their excess funds? Why did he believe this?
  3. What was Andrew Carnegie’s views on “indiscriminate” charity? What did he believe would happen if people engaged in this type of charity? Why did Carnegie say people engaged in indiscriminate charity?
  4. What did Carnegie believe the main consideration of charity should be? Do you agree with him? Why or why not?
  5. Based on your knowledge of Andrew Carnegie, how did Carnegie act on his beliefs during his life? How have his actions inspired others?
  6. Why did Andrew Carnegie believe the rich needed to be a “trustee for the poor?”
  7. Carnegie concludes his essay by saying “The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.” Do you agree with him? Why or why not?

Have students contact local civic organizations or school or community groups to see if they could partner with those organizations and groups to address any of the issues the students have identified in class.

Student Handouts

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The Origins of Our Commercial Republic