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November 26, 2008


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Gerard Senehi

This looks terrific! great idea, and i really like the emphasis on making it real versus studying about it. I could see in light of that and some of the deeper and personal questions that one will need to explore, that the testing may have both an objective side as you describe and a side that has to do with how much one engages in making it real. I realize that this may not fly in academia as we are afraid to implicate students in this way because we are afraid of the measuring stick that will be used for evaluation. Maybe there is a way to validate the importance of both what students will learn as well as how much they make it part of becoming agents of good.
Sending you best wishes and support for the positive impact such a course could have!

Jeff Trexler


Phil Cubeta

Thank you both. The views on Gifthub are those of a Dumpster Dwelling Morals Tutor, in and out of Wealth Bondage. The College courses are written in an impersonal style, in the passive voice, imparting objective information, tested factually, to insure that those certified have been machined to a specific tolerance. The underlying pedagogical model is Prussian, as is most high school, junior college, and industrial training. "I teach, you memorize it. This - hint - just might be on the final exam1" What one learns as always is subservience, not to wisdom, but to authority. I am sorry to say there may be some carry forward into philanthropic advisory services in a corporate or even nonprofit environment. The donor is not our student, we are the donor's servant.

That is why, Gerard, a group like EnlightenNext has an opening to do something grand. You are "mission-aligned" with true teaching or mind-opening. To create a space where true teaching about giving rises up from the group in open, tentative, probing conversation is possible for you.

I will do the best I can at the college to keep that spirit alive, between the lines, but the best place to do it would be within an extended intentional community devoted to true learning.

Jeff has written of this, as a Greek ideal of the City and in the middle ages the ideal of the collegium.

Erasmus bodied it forth as Fool preaching to Fools, all in their scholarly gowns, or monkish outfits, with their asses ears showing just a bit.

To play the Fool, as every straightman knows, you cannot crack a smile. The Fool must be the last to recognize his own foolishness or the humor falls flat. I hope to rise to such professorial self seriousness.

Sean Stannard-Stockton

I'm seriously going to have to consider retaking the CAP exam. I would have loved to have found this sort of intro when I got started with the study.

Recently, I've been thinking about what the core ideas are that separate people when it comes to philanthropy. For instance, why is it that Bill Schambra and Bill Somerville are on the same side of the table when they debate Paul Brest? What are the key beliefs that cut to the core of how we think about philanthropy?

One of the candidates for a core belief is the idea of whether philanthropy is something that is "owed" back to the world. The word "owe" implies you took something or were given something that must be returned. You use the word "owe" in the beginning of the second paragraph and I'd like to point out that many people are beginning to think about philanthropy less as something that is "due" back to society, but rather as something that is given from a position of free will.

I'm not asking that you change the language, just that you consider whether the language is a part of your own internal narrative or whether it is an intentionally used word that correctly describes the CAP program's thinking about philanthropy.

Good luck Phil!

Phil Cubeta

Right, Sean, I know. Yes, I was taught that we are stewards, good or bad of what we are given. That is indeed a religious tradition, comes from the bible, the gospels, I also feel it deeply. I recognize others are more of the Atlas Shrugged persuasion, but I also believe that blindness can be cured, and that such is the role of the Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families.

I don't see how the view that we are self made is even remotely defensible, though it widely held. I can see how it would fit in a libertarian worldview, and might fit with a business like approach to giving, a social venture sort of approach.

You give freely, then, but why? Results? Why care about making the world better? In what value tradition are you rooted, or are your ethics more like brand preferences, a consumer choice, a market whim? Or is giving more like a marketing deal, a way to market a product or a practice, without any felt sense of obligation to something larger than oneself, and client service?

I do think we need a different kind of literacy to do philanthropy well. That literacy comes from the liberal arts, and from ethical and religious traditions. Now, by Golly, I have a big stick to beat my opinion into the dullards.

I do agree, though, that testing fairly for cultural literacy with an objective test is very hard. Hence the temptation to stick to the Tax Facts.

Anyway, thanks for the comment, Sean. Hope you had a good Thanksgiving and passed the gravy not because you must, but because you felt like it. If you ever feel like hogging the whole gravy boat, you may, at my table. I have learned that is how many a guest does act. It is a free country, their habits and mores are as good as mine. Who am I to judge. They were raised differently, in a pigstye.

Michael Moody

Sorry to come late to this discussion. But as you know, Phil, this is one close to my heart, as I am shamelessly and publicly in favor of more liberal arts education in philanthropy (even as I leave this profession myself). Your course therefore looks wonderful to me.

I'm wondering if you are using MC tests because that is easier or expected in the program, or if you prefer those as ways of evaluating students? I ask mainly out of curiosity, knowing that you will have thought about this choice a lot, not with an axe to grind for/against tests in your course. Although I will admit to being shamelessly and publicly (and with full throat) in favor of requiring more writing of students at every level, to the extent we can. I would have pegged you for a good old fashioned defender of the lost art of rhetoric, as well.

P.S. I'm staying away from the whole Ayn Rand vs. religious obligation question, except to say there IS a middle ground in thinking about philanthropy (and obligation) in terms of cultural tradition (which is ethical, and concerned with values and so on, but not always/necessarily religious). But wait.. I'm staying away from that discussion...

Phil Cubeta

The business model for the college requires selling a fair number of course enrollments. Right now there are about 300 in the CAP course. That is already quite a few to grade. So the objective testing is a necessary design requirement, but not what I would prefer. I am trying to write the courses around a series of Socratic questions, leading the adult learner through the issues, and seeking practical real world applications. Then in the summary of each section, I try to do my own synthesis, as a "model" for what it is worth, and as the basis for the objective test. Not ideal, better to have the whole course run as discussion online or otherwise and to have the test be a project or essay, or business plan. Still, if the College goes along with the Socratic workbook for the course, it seems to work well enough in provoking thought rather than pre-empting it. We also go on webquests where the learner gets thrown into contemporary controversies, like the one you mention about whether selfishness is a moral virtue, and whether moralities are in essence brand choices to be honored as such, much as we speak of the blind as differentially abled. I agree that it is rude to tell a blind person that colors exist. Likewise to tell a libertarian that virtue or taste exists and eludes him is very rude.

When Joseph Brodsky heard from a group of American undergrads that they had not read Ovid, he said, "You have been cheated."

Just as children who get no vitamin growing up get rickets and are stunted and deformed, so in a society devoid of poetry, we grow our philanthropists with bowlegs. And since they are wealthy we praise the bowlegs and honor them as a cultural difference well worth preserving and passing on their children.

Go far enough in this direction and what you get is Alan Greespan and the crash of the economy. Bad philosophy and bad art ultimately translate into the decay of the body politic. Had he had better teachers, he might have outgrown his Ayn Rand views before he did so much harm to so many.

And what do you mean about leaving the field? I certainly hope you are going somewhere you can put your talents and leadership skills to good use.

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