The Rewards of Caring

6, 7, 8

Learners relate enlightened self-interest to caring by discussing a quote from Alexis de Tocqueville about the American tradition of democracy.

PrintOne 20-minute class period

The learner will:

  • define enlightened self-interest.
  • discuss a quotation byAlexis de Tocqueville in relationship to enlightened self-interest and caring.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Give examples of people doing good things for others that also benefit themselves. Examples: Emily ran for student council president because she wanted to make her school a better place, and she wanted to try to change a school rule that didn't allow her to buy soda at school. As another example, Chase volunteered to handout T-shirts at the 5K race in town, and he got a free T-shirt. Derrick cleaned up the science supplies after the dissection, and Ms Fouch gave him extra credit. Ask the students whether these students are showing caring or selfishness. Discuss.

  2. Explain to the learners that Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States in the early 1830s and then wrote about his observations in Democracy in America (1835). Tocqueville wrote about a unique concept in U.S. democracy that has been called "enlightened self-interest."

  3. Read or display this quote from de Tocqueville: "The Americans, on the contrary, are fond of explaining almost all the actions of their lives by the principle of interest rightly understood; they show with complacency how an enlightened regard for themselves constantly prompts them to assist each other, and inclines them willingly to sacrifice a portion of their time and property to the welfare of the state."

  4. Define enlightened self-interest for the learners as "to sacrifice time and resources to the benefit of the whole, which, in turn, benefits self."

  5. Ask the learners to discuss how an unselfish act of caring could be viewed as a selfish act(if we care for others, they will care for us; caring for the common good benefits everyone, including ourselves; caring is personally rewarding, it makes us feel good; etc.).

  6. Have the learners share acts of kindness or caring they have done that have led to them receiving something unexpected in return -- either tangible or intangible.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how individuals have helped others.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define and give examples of the motivations for giving and serving.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Explain and give examples of enlightened self-interest, egoism, and altruism as they relate to philanthropy.