Treating Others as You Would Like to Be Treated

9, 10, 11, 12

The learners analyze many variations of the Golden Rule and relate it to the concept of philanthropy and the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

PrintOne 50 Minute Class Period

The learners will:

  • compare versions of the Golden Rule from different faith communities.
  • define and differentiate between returning the favor and serial reciprocity.
  • identify the Golden Rule in the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights movement.
  • brainstorm ways that their school's King Day Event can model the Golden Rule.
  • A copy of Handout One: Quotes from Different Faiths cut into eight sections--one quote per section.
  • A copy of Handout Two: Excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech for each group.
Home Connection 

Learners survey the adults in their lives about what the Golden Rule means to them and whether it is important to promote this concept. Summarize their "survey" conversation(s) in their journals and reflect on how their own personal understanding compares to that of those surveyed.



  1. Teacher Note: Before class, write the terms returning the favor, pay it forward, and serial reciprocity on the display board.

    Anticipatory Set: Divide the class into groups of eight and give each group one of the sections cut from Handout One: Quotes from Different Faiths. Tell the learners to read and discuss the meaning of the words found on their paper. Tell them that one person from their group will report a summary of their discussion to the rest of the class.

  2. After five minutes of small group discussions, have each group read their quote, identify its source, and briefly summarize its meaning.

  3. Once each group has shared, ask the learners if these quotes remind them of something commonly known around the world (The Golden Rule). The Golden Rule is a universal moral value/ethical behavior that means "treat others as you would like to be treated." This includes showing respect for all people, not just members of one's own communities.

  4. Point to the terms on the display board and ask students if they have prior knowledge of these terms. Discuss and compare the terms, clarifying the definitions as needed. Define the phrase returning the favor as the process of "giving something" back to a person who has "given something" to you. This represents a circular rather than linear pattern of giving. Define the phrases pay it forward or serial reciprocity as when someone, having received from one person, gives to another person. This creates a chain of giving in a linear rather than circular pattern. To determine student understanding, ask them to give examples of the two forms of giving.

  5. Ask the learners whether the Golden Rule represents returning the favor, serial reciprocity, both, orneither. Ask them to justify their choice and encourage debate to come to consensus.

  6. Tell the students that you want to discuss these concepts in the context of the civil rights movement. Assess prior knowledge and make sure the students have some basic understanding of the civil rights movement. (Some background: In 1954, the Supreme Court rules on the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, unanimously agreeing that segregation in public schools is unconstitutional. In 1955, NAACP member Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat at the front of the "colored section" of a bus to a white passenger, defying a southern custom of the time. In 1961, over the spring and summer, student volunteers begin taking bus trips through the South to test out new laws that prohibit segregation in interstate travel facilities, which includes bus and railway stations. Several of the groups of"freedom riders" are attacked by angry mobs along the way. In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. is arrested and jailed during anti-segregation protests in Birmingham, but later that year he was able to join the March on Washington where he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. More detail can be found at

  7. Distribute to each group a copy of Handout Two: Excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” Speech. Ask the learners to read the selection and respond to the prompts in discussion.

  8. Have a representative from each the group share their responses with the whole class. Ask the class to suggest how this information can be used to promote justice and kindness in the community and world.

  9. Brainstorm ways to model the Golden Rule through a service project in the school or community.


The assessment of this lesson will focus on the learner's participation in small and whole group discussions.

Cross Curriculum 

Plan a project or campaign to promote the Golden Rule as a means to build justice and kindness into the school culture.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.4 Define and give an example of serial reciprocity.
    2. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Identify how subgroups and families in society demonstrate giving, volunteering, and civic involvement.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss and give examples of why some humans will sacrifice for the benefit of unknown others.
      2. Benchmark HS.3 Give examples of human interdependence and explain why group formation is one strategy for survival.
      3. Benchmark HS.4 Describe and give examples of characteristics of someone who helps others.
      4. Benchmark HS.5 Describe civil society advocacy organizations and their relationship to human rights.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Analyze philanthropic traditions of diverse cultural groups and their contributions to civil society.
      2. Benchmark HS.2 Give examples from history of how intolerance of ideas, religion, and minorities contributed to social disintegration.
    3. Standard PCS 06. Philanthropy in History
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Describe how the common good was served in an historical event as a result of action by a civil society sector organization.
      2. Benchmark HS.2 Give an example of individual philanthropic action that influenced national or world history.
      3. Benchmark HS.3 Describe important events in the growth and maturation of the civil-society sector in the nation and world.
      4. Benchmark HS.5 Identify positive philanthropic historic acts or events that helped build the community, state, and nation.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define and give examples of motivations for giving and serving.
      2. Benchmark HS.10 Identify reasons why historic figures acted for the common good.
      3. Benchmark HS.4 Cite historical examples of citizen actions that affected the common good.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.