Thursday, October 9, 2014

Encouraging student activism: tobacco

A while back, I wrote about how to use extra credit to motivate students to use their power as consumers to influence those aspects of the economy that are directly harmful to people and/or the world. I believe that this is an essential “closing of the loop” in our teaching: students need to not only learn about the damage that some of our economic activities are doing, but to take action.

I started with an extra credit project in which students send letters or emails to tobacco corporations. I realize that tobacco corporations probably do not care that most people think they are evil—they have an addicted, and very sizable, minority of citizens as customers. But I refuse to totally give in to cynicism on this point. The best effects of this project may be on the students, even if the effect on the market is negligible.

I would like to post a link to updated instructions for such an assignment. Since my original posting, there have been some changes in tobacco corporations. Specifically, the big four will soon be the big three. But the biggest change is that I have added a positive activity. As most of you probably know, CVS Health has decided to stop marketing tobacco products—a decision that will cost them about two billion dollars a year in lost revenue. I would like my students to send them emails thanking them for this decision.

Here is a link to my website, on which I have posted a PDF of the instructions I posted for my students. You may alter it for your students, if you wish to do this activity.

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