Learning to Give is the world’s leading developer of lessons and resources that teach giving and volunteerism, civic engagement, and character through service-learning.
Learning to Give:
- EDUCATES youth about philanthropy, the civil society sector, and the importance of giving their time, talent and treasure for the common good (knowledge),
- DEVELOPS philanthropic behavior and experience (skills), and,
- EMPOWERS youth to take voluntary citizen action for the common good in their classrooms, their lives and their communities (behavior).
The Learning to Give website offers over 1,600 K-12 lessons and educational resources free of charge for teachers, parents, youth workers, faith groups and community leaders.
There couldn't be a better time for teaching students about civic engagement. Learning activities in the 21st Century must prepare students for a world of innovation and creativity. Classroom projects that center around real-world issues teach students to ask questions, sift through facts, propose solutions, and take action to make the world a better place. Through philanthropy education, students learn that not only are they capable of making a difference, they have a responsibility to stay aware of current issues and participate in civic life. This is what it means to be part of a community.
Why Teach Philanthropy?
Each day leaders from emerging democracies come to the United States with a relatively surprising question. They want to know how they can create a civil society sector in their countries. They ask for guidance on teaching democratic and philanthropic principles to their children, and about systems for passing on the tradition of private citizens working for the common good. They come to the United States because they recognize that the civil society sector in America is fundamental to building and sustaining a secure democracy, supporting government, and to making our heterogeneous society function.
Their questions echo many of those posed by teachers and civic leaders in the United States: How do we engage children in civic life? How do we harness youthful idealism and combat growing cynicism? How do we teach caring about others, particularly those less fortunate? What is missing from our courses in government, history, economics, sociology, psychology, and philosophy that results in young adults without understanding or passion for the noble ideas of their society?
It is astonishing, but true: the United States has difficulty answering questions from emerging democratic nations because, until recently, the transmission of the philanthropic tradition from one generation to the next was informal, and so effective as to be transparent. There has never been a formal curriculum for teaching the facts or inculcating the values of the civil society sector.
Teaching About the Civil Society Sector in Schools
In this country, history is taught without serious attention to the role of volunteers in building the first black colleges or the role of private donors in funding the Salk vaccine for polio. Psychology and sociology, frequently focused on behaviors outside the healthy and normal, often do not explore the motivations and the relationships involved in setting aside self-interest for the benefit of the community.
When economics is taught, the curriculum frequently does not directly discuss the 13% of the economy represented in the activities of the civil society sector as it does the value of government and manufacturing. The teacher often does not address the 20 billion volunteer hours each year, which add value to the economy and promotes our common community interests. The role of the nonprofit corporation as a integral part of the civic fabric, a citizen, is not discussed.
Education in civics often does not elaborate on the civil society sector as the source of new ideas that lead to social policy changes, or the civil society sector as the place that develops the skills that are needed for public discourse and democratic compromise. The relationships between social activism, a healthy democracy, and active engagement of citizens in government are seldom discussed.
School-to-work programs often ignore the opportunities for employment in the civil society sector found by 12.5 million Americans, nearly one in 9.5 workers in the United States.
We have relied in the past on churches, families, friends and neighborhoods to teach children the value and significance of service and giving. We have assumed that our children know their heritage as citizens who do not need to be "empowered" by an outside agency, but who are born empowered as their inherent right of citizenship. It is sadly ironic that today, as emerging foreign democracies seek our assistance in establishing philanthropic traditions of their own, the traditional forces for teaching this ethic to children in the United States are eroding.
The very skills and community cohesion necessary to offset forces of social disintegration, especially in an increasingly diverse culture, are skills and experiences found in the civil society sector. Yet an understanding of this sector remains a mystery to many American children.
Developing Lessons and Materials about Philanthropy
The Council of Michigan Foundations and a Steering Committee of thirteen collaborating leaders in education, volunteerism, and nonprofit leadership have successfully completed a unique effort to write, field test, implement and disseminate high quality K-12 curriculum lessons, units and materials on philanthropy. Nurtured and piloted in Michigan, Learning to Give seeks to infuse this academic content into the core curriculum of national and international schools.
Learning to Give's lessons, units, and materials perpetuate a civil society through the education of children about the civil society sector, and to achieve their commitment to private citizen action for the common good. The lessons, units, and materials that are a part of the curriculum contain both academic content about philanthropy, and skill development activities which involve students in giving and serving their communities.
Comments from educators about philanthropy education and Learning to Give:
“We also see that this philanthropy philosophy helps us talk to students about behavior, respect, caring, and ‘doing the right thing’ across the school day and school year. It is a hook, a language we can use to ‘hang our hat on.’”
"For a child to feel a sense of worth, he or she must feel that he belongs and that his existence is meaningful. And just as family provides the framework from which thatsense of worth develops, the child's formal education should include an understanding of the rights and responsibilities of individuals to the greater whole of society."
"What greater purpose does a middle school have than to help a child in transition find himself. We have a responsibility to provide opportunities that allow students to feel needed in the larger community so they don't develop a sense of self in a vacuum."
"We're living in a society where money has more power than God; where human life is worth less than someone's jacket. We must teach our children about tolerance, unselfishness, and about giving. We need to teach them that sometimes we need to compromise or give up something that would be good for us as an individual so that what we're choosing instead is good for all."
For further information, please contact Betsy Flikkema, Dirctor.