Ask the Experts—What Do Contemporary Surveys Tell Us About Americans and Civic Virtue?
  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss civic virtue and its role in democracy.
    2. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Utilize the persuasive power of written or oral communication as an instrument of change in the community, nation or the world.
      2. Benchmark HS.4 Analyze and synthesize information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to public policy. Discuss these issues evaluating the effects of individual actions on other people, the rule of law and ethical behavior.

Students will learn to identify factual information from objective sources and to use that information to support their own points of view and refute the arguments of an opposing point of view.

PrintOne Forty-Five Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • identify at least three facts that could support an argument from an article on one side of an issue.
  • identify at least three facts that could support a contrasting argument from a second article on the opposite side of the same issue.
  • support a conclusion with at least two examples that are supported by factual evidence from an expert source.
  • clearly and accurately state an opposing argument.
  • formulate a logical response to an opposing argument.
  • Summary of Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam (see Attachment One fromLesson Three: The Great Debate)
  • AARP Survey on Civic Involvement (see Attachment Two fromLesson Three: The Great Debate)
  • Student copies of Attachment One: Final Essay on Civic Virtue and Attachment Two: Holistic Scoring Guidefor Civic Writing
  1. Anticipatory Set:Ask students if they have ever bowled, and then, if they have ever bowled alone.


  2. Beginning with the Bowling Alone article (see Attachment One, Lesson Three: The Great Debate), ask students to cite the article's facts that support the viewpoint that most of today's Americans do not have civic virtue. Those facts should include at least some of the following:

    • statistics on lower voter turnout in elections
    • facts on reduced attendance at political events such as town meetings and political rallies
    • increase in percentage of Americans who "do not trust" the government
    • reduction in participation in social and religious groups
    • reduction in participation in school functions
    • reduction in union membership
    • reduction in membership and participation in civic and fraternal organizations
  3. Next discuss the conflicting information provided in AARP Study of Civic Involvement (see Attachment Two, Lesson Three: The Great Debate). Some of those facts would include:

    • involvement at the local level: "98% of those surveyed reported being involved in at least one activity that connects them with people outside their household."
    • average respondent has more than four memberships...
    • high percentage of respondents involved in "some type of religious organization"
    • high percentage who feel attachment to community
    • 1/3 reported working with others to solve problems
    • belief that they can solve local problems by working with others.
    • "53% volunteer their time"
    • more than 50% reported involvement in activities that involved working outside the home and with others.
  4. Ask students whether either of the articles caused them to change their opinions, guiding discussion.

  5. At the end of the discussion, assign the following writing topic assignment: (see Attachment One: Student Handout: Final Essay On Civic Virtue for student handout and rubric)

  6. Rewrite the essay on whether or not citizens of the United States have enduring civic virtue as follows:

    • Define civic virtue.
    • Take a clear position on one side or the other of the question: "Do most Americans today have enduring civic virtue?"
    • Give at least two arguments to support your position using the information from the articles that you read last night.
    • Clearly state an argument that might be made by a person on the other side of the issue.
    • Refute that argument.

The essay serves as the final assessment of the student's understanding of the definition of civic virtue and ability to apply that definition to contemporary United States society. The essay should be evaluated on the completeness of the definition, the appropriate use of material from the two articles assigned the night before and the student's ability to follow the directions for the essay and include all required material. A modified rubric is provided from the persuasive civic writing portion of the Social Studies MEAP and would be appropriate for this assignment (see Attachment Two: Holistic Scoring Guide for Civic Writing).