“An American Story” -- The Responsibility of Citizenship
  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define philanthropy to include giving and sharing; volunteering; and private individual action intended for the common good. Explain how a volunteer individual/group can act for the common good.
      2. Benchmark HS.3 Explain and give examples of how a democratic constitution requires and protects philanthropic behavior as a democratic principle.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Give examples of human interdependence and explain why group formation is one strategy for survival.
      2. Benchmark HS.4 Describe and give examples of characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Give examples from history of how intolerance of ideas, religion, and minorities contributed to social disintegration.

Learners will recognize the importance of taking action in defense of core democratic values. They will identify philanthropic acts and describe their importance to the common good.

PrintFive Fifty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • identify five examples of philanthropic behavior in the movie “An American Story.”
  • define philanthropy and describe how it contributes to the common good.
  • recognize acts of philanthropy in the community.
  • Video, An American Story (see Bibliographical References)
  • Journal Entry Response Questions (Handout One)
  • An American Story Study Guide (Handout Two) See Notes for Teaching in the Unit Overview (GS/01.00) for information on selecting questions for use.
  • Teacher’s Answer Key to the Study Guide (Handout Three)
  • Group Discussion Questions (Handout Four)
  • Interview Questions (Handout Five)
Home Connection: 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework:Learners will interview a person in the community he or she believes is a philanthropist. Interview Questions (Handout Five) will be used.

  • An American Story. Directed by John Gray. 97 min. RHI Entertainment: Republic Pictures, 1992. Videocassette.

SYNOPSIS: Three World War II buddies return home, only to find that a corrupt mayor and sheriff have taken control of their small, Texas town. George Meade, Jesse Meadows and Juan Medina are war heroes who must learn to adapt to life back in the States. However, each man has an obstacle that gets in the way of his ability to readjust. When George decides to try for a political career, he must choose between working for the powerful mayor, Tom Cantrell, or fighting against the status quo. Meanwhile, Jesse struggles to overcome the feelings of inadequacy caused by a war wound, as well as by his wife’s new position as head of their factory. Juan battles prejudice to find a job. Despite their private troubles, the veterans join forces to defeat the mayor and the cruel sheriff who acts as his puppet. This well-acted drama was based on a true story. Originally telecast on CBS as a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation on November 29, 1992.

  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Project the Focus Question on to a screen as learners enter the room: “Explain three ways you can make your opinion known about issues which concern you.” Begin class with a short discussion about thoughts learners have on this topic.

  2. Use Journal Entry Response Questions (Handout One) to solicit a journal entry response from the learners. Call upon selected learners to share responses and discuss reactions. Record results on the board so the learners can see the acts of intervention and commitment.

    • After a representative sampling has been gathered, ask the learners to answer the following question to synthesize the assembled information: “What values or beliefs must an individual possess to intervene and take a stand on an issue?” Have the learners respond to the question by choosing one of the following formats:

  3. Write a one-sentence belief statement.

    • Volunteer a response.

    • Generate a consensus answer from small groups.

  4. Suggested guided responses to this question should imply core democratic values.

  5. Distribute copies of “An American Story” Study Guide (Handout Two) and go over the material with the learners. Instruct students that they will answer the questions individually after viewing “An American Story.” Show the video.

  6. Upon completion of the video, go over the selected discussion questions in a whole group format. Teacher’s Answer Key to the Study Guide (Handout Three) is available for the teacher’s use. Have the learners identify the core democratic values that were at risk in the video.

  7. Introduce the term philanthropy as giving of one’s time, talent or treasure for the sake of another, or for the common good; voluntary action for the public good; voluntary giving, voluntary service, and voluntary association, primarily for the benefit of others. All citizens can give to help others. The person does not have to do something on a big scale that is recognized by the entire community. Use Group Discussion Questions (Handout Four) to lead the class in a discussion about philanthropic acts. Answers to the group discussion questions should create the ingredients necessary for taking philanthropic action.

  8. Interview assignment: Using Interview Questions (Handout Five), have each student interview a person outside the classroom to gain an awareness of philanthropic acts among members of the community, to recognize these acts and understand the importance these acts play in the life of the individual being interviewed.


Observation of learner participation in the discussion of the study guide Completed interview