Great Debate (The)--Do Americans Today Have Civic Virtue? (10th Grade)

9, 10, 11, 12

Having formulated an initial opinion on whether or not Americans today exhibit civic virtue, the learners will defend their positions in light of the opinions of writers. They will make a personal plan to exhibit civic virtue through civic engagement in an environmental stewardship act.

PrintOne Fifty-Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • define the terms civic, virtue, civic responsibility, civic engagement.
  • formulate a personal opinion concerning the status of civic virtue in America and support that opinion with defensible rationale.
  • design a personal plan to exhibit civic virtue by caring for the environment.
  • Copies for half of the class of Handout One: Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital
  • Copies for half of the class of Handout Two: AARP Survey on Civic Involvement -Summary
  • Copies for all students of Handout Three: An Action Plan


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Place the words: civic, virtue, civic virtue, civic responsibility, civic engagement and social capital on the display board and ask learners to help you define these terms.

    1. civic: relating to or of a citizen, city, or citizenship
    2. virtue: morality, goodness or uprightness; a special type of goodness
    3. civic virtue: a special type of goodness relating to or of a citizen, city of citizenship
    4. civic responsibility: a person’s duty or obligation to their community as a citizen
    5. social capital: (community capital) the "banked" good will of the people in a society that can be used as a resource in times of trouble or conflict.
  2. Tell the students that there is a great debate about whether or not Americans today are loosing their sense of civic responsibility and civic virtue. They are going to have the opportunity to join the debate.

  3. Divide the class in half. Give one half copies (one per learner) of Handout One: Bowling Alone, and the other half copies (one per learner) of Handout Two: AARP Survey. Teacher or group selects two co-leaders to take notes and represent the group in the debate for each group.

  4. Instruct the groups to read their assigned article, prepare to share the highlights of that article and defend its stance (Yes - Americans continue to have civic virtue – AARP Article, or No - Americans are losing their sense of civic virtue – Bowling Alone) based on examples from the articles and observations in their own community. Their arguments are to address the issues of civic responsibility and civic virtue for the common good.

  5. Have the group’s co-leaders present their arguments giving supportive evidence and examples. (NOTE: If possible, invite another class in to hear the debate. At the conclusion of the debate, take a straw vote of the invitees as to which side they felt made the better defense for the stance that they represented and why).

  6. Have the learners reflect: Did they agree with the stance they were assigned? If so why, and if not, why not? Did they change their minds in anyway after hearing both sides of the debate? Which side of the debate would more likely result in more being accomplished for the common good?

  7. Share with the learners that Earth Day presents an opportunity to consider their civic virtue and responsibility in relationship to the environment.

  8. Individually, have each learner develop an “action plan”that identifies an environmental issue/problem area that he/she will address. Have them consider the causes for the issue/problem, the goal/solution in dealing with this issue/problem and steps that will take to resolve the issue/problem. Reflect on how this type of involvement speaks to civic virtue and civic responsibility.


Learner involvement in class discussion Learner involvement in group work Learners role in the debate Depth and relevance of the learner’s “action plan.”

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark HS.9 Analyze a major social issue as a "commons problem" and suggest ways the civil society sector could help to resolve it.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibilities.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 04. Raising Private Resources
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Describe a detailed action for service.