Altruism in Children

out beyond right doing and wrong doing there is a field I will meet you there..Rumi

THE ALTRUISM TEST

Teaching for thirty years

in Europe and Australia

kids of different ages, races,

beliefs and abilities

I passed with them

many tests but the one

I have repeated many times

sticks to my mind:)


THE ALTRUISM test

very simple idea really

students in one class

each get ten stickers

of different colour, quality,

popularity and size.

From the five they choose

and keep

they are asked to give away

all or few or none

to any child.


Then they are taken out of the class

to mingle in the safe public place

with kids they do not personally know

and encourage to share the stickers around.

After the set up time

teacher asks each student

how many or if any

they shared and with whom and why.


The parents are informed

to give the teacher permission

to conclude the test

and asked before hand

what they think

what will be the response

of their child.


I kept the notes

of the Altruism test

from the communist Europe

from the catholic school

of the post communist time

from the united church campus

and the Muslim campus

in Australia

and the public Australian schools

I still teach to this day.


This old teaching logbook

of mine

is the silent reminder

of my teaching beginnings

and stays with me to the end

but also shows me

very clearly

how children are the same

and different

depending

where they are

and what they are taught

to value and believe in.


Before I share

my findings with you

my curious reader

I have to state

do not expect

the data based

accurate assessments

with percentage and all,

just a mere observations

of one old teacher.


I have done the Altruistic Test

in the few primary schools

in the Communist Europe

over the time of five years

with different age group

and all atheists

with socio-economic background

all the same.


The results were interesting,

and I generalise here

so be aware,

and also time plays the role

as these tests were done

twenty years ago:

1.Older kids were more willing

to share.

2.Those with the higher level

of socio-emotional intelligence

scored better.

3. Majority of children picked up

the similar stickers because everyone

should be the same

4. Majority of children kept one sticker

and shared the rest because it is fair.

5. They gave away the stickers

on the public playground

firstly to kids

they seemed

familiar to them

(a little kid from neighbourhood..)

6. The least stickers

were given

to the kids

of minorities like gypsies

or politically

or socially ostracised

(single mother's families,

on the secret police watch list..)


The Communist parents told me

they hoped children should share equally

and every one should be the same.


In the post communist era

in the first private catholic schools,

results of the students rapidly changed.

Older kids still shared more

and those with higher

socio-emotional intelligence

scored better.

And yet, students were more

interested in picking different stickers

and valued the religious ones more.

The majority of children

wanted keep all five stickers for kids

in their church or home

and very few were given away

to strangers they did not know

because God don't know them

and they probably even don't know God.

The catholic parents thought their kids would give away five or at least four to the strangers because they know God is watching them and see how good they are.


In the Australia

the different

socio-economic

background

made the difference

in results,

those better off

were willing to share more.

In the past ten years

I have tested students

from the same class

from the United Church

and the Muslim College

their scores were similar

to the catholic students

from the post communist Europe

as well as their parents' responses.

But something curious happened.

Many parents in Australia

were disappointed with the results.

We asked them afterwards

where they found the five stickers

and mostly forgotten at the bottom

of the school bags.

Students were forced then

to give them away

because God can see everything, smile.


And finally the public schools

in Australia and their scores,

still older kids shared more

and those with higher socio-economic

intelligence and from better

socio-economic background

find it easier to part with stickers,

but with two or three.

Majority of kids stated

they want to keep two

because they got it first

and it is fair.

And also the bargaining

took place in the classroom

once they pick their favourite ones

and there was not enough

cool stickers around,

the swap market style,

one cool sticker for two ordinary ones,

some heated arguments

and screams and shouts

but after that

kids found it easy to give away the rest

to the first kid they stumbled upon

on the public playground

without any exemption

or wondering who is that kid

or where they come from.


The most parents had no expectations,

they just hoped their kid would share at least few.

And they all had been pleasantly surprised

with satisfactory results,

and laughed that kids are to bargain

and get what they want

in our cut throat competitive world.

Later their parents also found

the heavily bargained for stickers

on the bottom of the school bag,

once won, the prized sticker lost its shine.







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Comments 6 comments

agusfanani profile image

agusfanani 10 months ago from Indonesia

It's interesting to know how your students do the altruism tests and find out the results. The result saying few students don't want to share with people they don't know because God don't know them too has made me laugh.


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 10 months ago from Western Australia Author

Kids are kids they come up with many things adults would never come up with smile and make us smile even laugh at their logic, hey? Was happy to share, found it interesting too:)


Max Havlick profile image

Max Havlick 10 months ago from Villa Park, Illinois

Hi Beata. Thank you for sharing this material.

An interesting experiment, to say the least, but to be honest, it also seems possible to me that your own different manner in response to these very different cultural environments might have had important, if only subtle, effects on the responses of your student subjects.

Continued best wishes.


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 10 months ago from Western Australia Author

yes I agree Max, it is not the accurate research just a mere reflection of one teacher, and yes you are right teachers change with time and different settings just as students do...it is hard to measure something so changeable and fluid and so dependable on the situation at hand as the human response hey?


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 10 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Cool and it dang sure is accurate. Accuracy is not numbers it is observation. The umph is there for us to extrapolate what we will. Science of the social nature is made from non-interference and repetition. Put my boy in a Petre dish and who knows, leave him alone and we all know - good stuff happens. Thanks a bunch for this, will share it with some teachers.


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 10 months ago from Western Australia Author

Thank you Eric very smart observation of the accuracy and us in the social experiments we daily undertake even unconsciously B

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