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Because one student did something silly and gave $5000 does not seem a good reason to tell students not to give money. This is just one student, and it could have just as easily gone the other way: he could have been very happy he gave the money. With almost any act of kindness their is some risk involved. Perhaps you might say something about not giving *so much* money.

I'm not sure why: but I don't like the idea of calling an assignment "required" and then having no accountability. I am also not sure what the point is of having a time limit, as opposed to just some significant act of kindness. I suspect if there was not a time requirement many more students would participate.

Other than the above, I really like the idea and might try something similar. I

Eric Schwitzgebel

Thanks for the comment, Amanda (and sorry for my slow reply)!

Yes, maybe only asking them to think carefully before giving anything of substantial value.

On the time limit and the "required" aspect: I thought pretty hard about both of these, and I can see some arguments pro and con. With the time limit: "Small acts of kindness" is kind of a meme -- you know, buying coffee for the person behind you in line, or such. I wanted students to try something more challenging than that, and I felt like cancelling a class licensed me to ask for 90 minutes. On calling it "required": "Optional" doesn't effectively convey the seriousness of my request to them. Why accept as a principle that nothing can be required unless there is a mechanism for checking on whether the requirement was met? (Compare: You are required not to cheat, but Honor Code schools often discourage any checking mechanism.)


Well 90 minutes does make sense per cancelling class. And perhaps just saying "large" act of kindness would not be sufficiently motivating. Maybe 90 minutes *or* an otherwise large act of kindness?

I have to say, I don't like the idea of it being optional either haha. So with something like this, there may not be a better option than calling it required. And I definitely think some things can be required without a checking mechanism. I am just not sure a philosophy assignment is one of them.

Anyways thanks I think it is a very cool assignment. And much better than what you originally called it on facebook :)

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