Definitely, I think for many people, the donations example works. And I like the firefighter example too, especially if someone has had first responder experience or has been in an emergency.
I’m curious what happens if one starts with a toy problem that arises from or feels directly applicable to a true conundrum in the listener’s own daily life, to illustrate that prioritization between pressing problems is something we are always doing, because we are finite beings who often have pressing problems! I think when I started learning about EA via donation examples, I made the error of categorizing EA as only useful for special cases, such as when someone has ‘extra’ resources to donate. So, GiveWell sounded like a useful source of the ‘the right answer’ on a narrow problem like finding recommended charities, which gave me a limited view of what EA was for and didn’t grab me much. I came to EA via GiveWell rather than reading any of the philosophy, which probably would have helped me understand the basis for what they were doing better :).
When I was faced with real life trade-offs that I really did not want to make but knew that I must, and someone walked me through an EA analysis of it, EA suddenly seemed much more legible and useful to me.
Have you seen your students pick up on the prioritization ideas right away, or find it useful to use EA analysis on problems in their own life?
I like your idea that the applicability of EA concepts in daily life decision-making can be used to show EA as a powerful tool. I haven’t specifically done that yet but have considered it.
I had expected to get pushback when I first started teaching about prioritizing causes and was careful about how I introduced it. However, students don’t really push back on it, and when we work through examples, they do understand why an EA might prioritize, for example, schistosomiasis charities over cancer ones. That said, based on post-lesson surveys, that doesn’t always translate to a shift in thinking after the lesson (though for some students it has.) I’m still working on bridging the gap between mastery of a theoretical concept and actual application in real life.
Sky and Danny, I’d be very interested to talk to either/both of you and share ideas about this. I’ve done quite a bit of EA outreach in my own school, having been teaching for the best part of a decade (some is discussed in my post history), as well as some outside. Please send a PM if you’re interested and we can set something up.