What happens to a republic if virtue is not practiced? In a nation founded on constitutional principles such as individual liberty and consent of the governed, civic virtue must be central to all civic education. To teach civic virtue is to help preserve our republic by developing the character of students. This civic resource avoids shallow topics, inviting teachers and students to dive straightforwardly into robust, history-based topics. Through rich narratives, critical questions, meaningful discussions, and personal application, teachers and students will examine the civic virtue assumptions of our nation’s Founders and their relevance today.
Educators are encouraged to begin exploring this resource with our Thought Activity for Educators. It provides important background for teaching character through the lens of virtue. A student’s first introduction to the resource should be the Defining Civics Virtue lesson which can be paired with the Benjamin Franklin and Civic Virtue lesson or used as an introduction to any of the 24 lessons provided.
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Defining Civic Virtues
Through this introduction lesson, students will understand why it is important for engaged citizens to practice civic virtues to build and support a healthy civil society.
Benjamin Franklin and Civic Virtue
Students will analyze Benjamin Franklin’s method for developing and practicing virtues to identify ways they can make being virtuous a habit.
Aaron Burr and Hubris
Students will examine the difference between self-serving ambition and noble ambition, and then explore the character and career of Aaron Burr.
Alice Paul and Responsibility
Students will analyze Alice Paul's story as an example of facing adversity and choosing to act responsibly.
August Landmesser and Courage
This lesson provides a look at the virtue of courage through the courageous action of August Landmesser. This lesson explores the significance of courage in a society built on democratic principles.
Benedict Arnold and Dishonor
Students will define the vice of dishonor by examining the story of Benedict Arnold. It will help them to identify the dangers of deception and lack of integrity in a civil society.
Che Guevara and Injustice
Students will explore Che Guevara's role in the Cuban Revolution and how the Communist system he fought for and helped install led to great injustice in Cuba, as well as contributed to global communist injustice.
Clara Barton and Responsibility
In this lesson, students will learn about how Clara Barton dedicated herself to the responsibility for caring for others throughout her life and how they can act responsibly in their own lives.
Douglas MacArthur and Hubris
Students will explain the benefits of humility in leadership by learning about the vice of hubris through the story of Douglas MacArthur.
Dwight Eisenhower and Responsibility
Students will examine the military decisions that Dwight Eisenhower made on D-Day in World War II and how he took responsibility for his grave decisions of launching the Normandy invasion.
Elizabeth Eckford and Courage
By tracing the experience of Elizabeth Eckford and the Little Rock Nine, this lesson provides an investigation of the virtue of courage and why it is important in a society that values individual liberty.
Frederick Douglass and Responsibility
This lesson is an in-depth look at responsibility through the life of Frederick Douglass. Responsibility is defined as striving to know and to do what is best rather than what is most popular. A responsible person is trustworthy for making decisions in the best long-term interests of people and the best outcomes for the work to be done.
George Washington and Prudence
This lesson provides a look at the virtue of prudence through the life of George Washington. Students will explore how Washington’s prudence influence the early republic and discuss what are examples of prudence can be observed today.
Huey Long and Immoderation (Extremism)
How should leaders behave and make decisions in a democratic society? Student will explore these questions through narratives and activities that focus on Huey Long.
Irma Grese and Self-Deception
In this lesson, students explore the problem of self-deception in the context of the World War II Holocaust. They consider how ordinary men and women can be indoctrinated to commit inhuman evil, and discuss how we can guard against ideologies that lead to these behaviors.
James Armistead and Courage
Students will identify how and when an individual should act courageously through exploring the story of James Armistead Lafayette.
John Brown and Self-Deception
Students will explore the vice of self-deception in this lesson on civic virtue. Students will examine whether John Brown deceived himself with self-righteousness by thinking that he could end slavery in the antebellum United States by freeing and arming slaves to launch a racial war in the South.
Joseph McCarthy and Irresponsibility
This lesson asks students to explore how irresponsibility create an unhealthy civic culture of fear and distrust.
Jourdon Anderson and Justice
This lesson addresses the virtue of justice, which requires that rules are applied and enforced equally for everyone. Students will analyze the virtue of justice by evaluating a letter from Jourdon Anderson to his former slave owner. They will consider how Jourdon received justice for himself and for his family and how they can seek justice on behalf of themselves and other people.
Maximilien Robespierre and Injustice
Students will examine the role that Robespierre played in the mass murder of the Terror during the French Revolution focusing on the vice of injustice.
Roger Taney and Injustice
Students will explore the vice of injustice in this lesson on civic virtue. Students will examine Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney and the Dred Scott (1857) decision that instituted great injustice against African Americans by arguing that they cannot be citizens. This lesson contains a historical narrative, discussion guide, primary sources related to the majority decision and dissents in the Supreme Court case, and activities that guide students through analyzing the effect of injustice on constitutional principles and civil society.
The Schechter Brothers and Integrity
In this lesson, students will read about the struggles of the Schechter Brothers and how they refused to give up their values or compromise their integrity. Students will use this example to think about ways they can be purposeful in their own lives.
Thomas Jefferson and Prudence
This lesson includes art analysis, secondary source analysis, and guided discussion to help students explore the important virtue of prudence.
Tiananmen Square and Courage
An exploration of the virtue of courage using the example of an anonymous individual who refused to yield to a tank during the crackdown on protesters at Tiananmen Square.
William “Boss” Tweed and Immoderation
Students will explore the vice of immoderation in civil society in this lesson on civic virtue. Students will examine “Boss” Tweed and his corrupt New York political machine, and how the vice affected politics and civil society.
William Stoughton and Injustice
Through this lesson, students will explore what does injustice look like in leadership and among ordinary citizens.