Democracy, The Common Good, and the Third Sector

9, 10, 11, 12

Students will begin to ponder the essential questions regarding philanthropy, which they will consider throughout the unit. They will formulate answers, and be familiar with the terms associated with philanthropy and democracy.

Lesson Rating 
PrintThree to Five Forty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • Analyze and discuss an essay that explores American attitudes toward children.
  • Define, use and explain the historical significance of seven terms related to philanthropy.
  • Describe why philanthropy is important in maintaining a democracy by answering three essential questions.
  • Short videotape: If God Gives You Lemons (see Bibliographic References).
  • Barbara Kingsolver's essay "Somebody's Baby" from High Tide in Tucson or a similar essay that addresses the importance of community in our lives.
  • Articles about philanthropy and democracy (e.g., "PhilanthropyDescribed in Democracy in America byde Tocqueville" /resources/philanthropy-described-democracy-america-de-tocqueville)
  • Philanthropy Vocabulary (see Attachment One)
  • Student Journals
  • If God Gives You Lemons, prod. and dir. Gregory Siers, 11 min. followed by 12 min. interview, K-12 Education in Philanthropy Project, 1998, videocassette.
  • Kingsolver, Barbara. "Somebody’s Baby," High Tide in Tucson: Essays From Now or Never. Harper-Collins, 1996.
  • Learning to Give briefing paper: "Philanthropy Described in Democracy in America by de Tocqueville"  /resources/philanthropy-described-democracy-america-de-tocqueville)


  1. Anticipatory Set: View short videotape If God Gives You Lemons and discuss the actions of the boy in the film. Ask students what they would have done in his place.

  2. Introduce the essay "Somebody's Baby" from High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never. In the essay, author Barbara Kingsolver discusses the importance of community in raising children. Read the essay together.

  3. Divide the class into small groups and give each group one of the following questions to answer:

    • What does Kingsolver complain is the problem with America's attitudes toward children? Do you agree with her? Explain.
    • What does Kingsolver suggest it takes to raise children?
    • What does Kingsolver say is the most remarkable feature of human culture?
    • Based on this essay, what could you infer that Kingsolver feels about community and its importance?
    • Kingsolver's essay is about the relationship between community and children. Are there any other groups of people that could be included?
  4. Once groups have completed their tasks, conduct a class discussion of the questions.

  5. Introduce the essential questions:

    • Should students be responsible to their communities for caring and giving?
    • What role does philanthropy play in maintaining our democratic society?
    • Can one person make a difference in making the world a better place?

    Students will write these questions in their journals, and begin to think about them, but will not answer them in writing.

  6. Students will define the following terms in their journals: philanthropy, democracy, altruism, volunteer, first, second, third, and fourth sectors. As each term is discussed, the teacher should lead a short discussion of the history of each term, drawing on students' previous knowledge. See Philanthropy Vocabulary (Attachment One).

  7. Assign reading of articles on Philanthropy and Democracy (see Materials) or on the Internet by searching the "Third Sector." Highlight and discuss important information.

  8. Students are now ready to write brief responses to the essential questions (see above) based on their current knowledge.


The Somebody’s Baby class discussion is evaluated using teacher observation. Journals are evaluated based on completeness. A quiz on the terms that were introduced should be given when most students have mastered them.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define philanthropy to include giving and sharing; volunteering; and private individual action intended for the common good. Explain how a volunteer individual/group can act for the common good.
    2. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Compare and contrast the basic terms and operations of the for-profit, government, family, and civil society sectors.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark HS.4 Give examples of how civil society sector giving by individuals and corporations can impact communities.
    2. Standard PCS 06. Philanthropy in History
      1. Benchmark HS.6 Trace the historic roots of philanthropy and give an example of charity and of philanthropy.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Compare and contrast enlightened self-interest, egoism, and altruism as they relate to philanthropy and principles of democracy.