What Are Our Common Values?
  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
      2. Benchmark E.3 Recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good as defined by democratic principles.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.6 Explain why acting philanthropically is good for the community, state, nation, or world.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark E.6 Identify and describe fundamental democratic principles.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.6 Make a connection between fundamental democratic principles and philanthropy.

This lesson introduces or reviews the Core Democratic Values and explores the importance of these values. Students read or listen to The Well, a book set in 1910 in the south. Students analyze what life would be like without the support of these values and rights.

PrintDuration: One-Hour Class Period, Plus Additional Reading and Discussion Time

The learner will:

  • recall and define the core democratic values.
  • read (or listen to) The Well by Mildred D. Taylor.
  • discuss examples from the book of the application and abuse of the Core Democratic Values.
  • The Well by Mildred D. Taylor (See Bibliographical References)
  • Copies of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution for reference
  • 8” x 11” poster paper
  • Copies of homework sheet (Attachment One: Core Democratic Values in Our Home)

Teacher Note: The Well is written in southern and black dialects from 100 years ago. The characters use the word “nigger” quite frequently. This was common language usage at the time of the book’s setting but is no longer acceptable and is considered a derogatory term. This should be discussed with the class before reading the book.

Home Connection: 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework:Each student writes his or her assigned Core Democratic Value at the top of the homework sheet (Attachment One: Core Democratic Values in Our Home) and then presents the information to someone in the family. Students also talk about the rules at home and write about what happens when the rules aren’t followed.

  • Taylor, Mildred D. The Well. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1995. ISBN: 803718020
  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Read aloud the Preamble to the Constitution. Then discuss the context in which it was written—the people who formed this government had experienced life without the rights they spoke about in the document. They wanted to be sure these values/truths would be protected in this new government. Ask the students if they think that these “truths” are still protected in this country.

  2. Ask the students to recall the Core Democratic Values which are found explicitly and underlying the statements in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Write the CDVs on the board as you briefly discuss what each one means. (List eight of the Core Democratic Values: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, common good, justice, equality, diversity, truth) Help the students recall them all by reading aloud parts of the two documents. If this is new information for the students, introduce the terms first and then read parts of the documents to show where they show up and how they are phrased.

  3. Assign a CDV to each student. There may be three or four students who work on each one. They may work in teams or individually to research and write a brief definition or explanation of the assigned value.

  4. Each student (or group) makes a mini poster of one Core Democratic Value. The poster should be clearly labeled with the value and include an explanation or definition. An illustration and example may be used to make the explanation clearer.

  5. Have each student present the poster information to the class. Display the posters in the classroom as a reference. As an alternative, pair up students to teach each other about their respective values. After each five minutes, switch partners so they learn about each of the values in a one-to-one dialogue.

  6. Introduce the book The Well by Mildred D. Taylor. Tell the students that the book is set in the south in 1910. At that time, slavery was not legal, but African Americans did not have the same rights that whites had at the time. Tell students to listen for examples of the African Americans in this story not having the protection of the Core Democratic Values.

  7. Subsequent Days:

  8. Over the course of several days, read aloud (or have the students read) The Well. Discuss the following Questions:

    1. How did David’s family act when the wells in the area dried up? Which Core Democratic Value did they demonstrate?

    2. What did Charlie Simms think of Justice and Equality?

    3. Did David’s family believe that telling the truth was important? How can you tell?

    4. How did some of the white families feel about the life and liberty of the African Americans?

    5. What was Hammer’s attitude about the pursuit of happiness?

    6. What was Charlie’s attitude about the pursuit of happiness?

    7. What was Mama’s attitude about liberty? Why did she whip her boys?

    8. When blacks and whites had different stories, who decided which was right? How did they decide? Did the decision maker think that he or she was supporting the truth?

    9. What role does diversity play in this story?

    10. Why weren’t the Core Democratic Values working for the African Americans in this story? Could this story happen today with our present laws? What would have been different?

  9. Help the students make a connection between the concept of common good as a Core Democratic Value and as an act of philanthropy. Define philanthropy as giving or sharing time, talent or treasure for the common good.

  10. Discuss how David’s family well was a treasure that they shared with people in their area whether they were black or white. Discuss David’s parents’ attitude about the well. Talk about why acting philanthropically was good for the whole community in the story and relate this to current acts of philanthropy.


Use the following rubric to assess student posters:

4 Points -- Poster includes the CDV clearly written at the top and an accurate description. An illustration and example support the explanation.

3 Points -- Poster includes the CDV clearly written at the top and an accurate description. Either an illustration or example supports the explanation.

2 Points -- The poster includes the CDV clearly written at the top but does not include a sufficient description. An illustration or example attempts to explain the value.

1 Point -- The poster includes the CDV, but the value is not supported with an accurate explanation, illustration or example.