Heroes & Villains: The Quest for Civic Virtue

Improving Schools, Improving Society

The study of history has meaning beyond a test in a classroom, beyond meeting a state standard. Educators who help the next generation of citizens in our Social Studies classrooms are doing much more than teaching facts and timelines: they’re helping students understand their rights and responsibilities as Americans, and how to interact with their fellow citizens.

“All sober inquirers after truth, ancient and modern, pagan and Christian, have declared that the happiness of man, as well as his dignity, consists in virtue.”

–John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776

A Resource for the Classroom and Character Education Efforts

To help educators like yourself, the Bill of Rights Institute has written a new classroom-friendly curriculum called Heroes & Villains: The Quest for Civic Virtue. Not tied to any specific religious perspective, this resource is a primary source based curriculum that encourages teachers and students to explore the core values that the Founders believed were critical to civic life. It not only helps teachers meet state and Common Core standards by providing easy-to-use lessons, but it can also be used to support character-education initiatives school wide that aim to create a healthy academic culture.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Virtue” was a key theme to the Founders. After all, why create a form of government that guaranteed an unprecedented level of individual freedom if those individuals couldn’t be trusted to cooperate with one another and respect (and defend) the rights of others? Virtue is still relevant today in modern classrooms: many schools are trying to create educational environments that support learning and respect, while also dealing with bullying and other behavior issues.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

–Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Stories are “Sticky”

Relying on compelling images and inspiring narratives to help these important ideas “stick,” we have crafted this resource to help students understand some of the key virtues that have stood the test of time. Unlike other resources that use a list of non-threatening terms determined by committee, this resource is based on the primary source documents of the Founding generation, and the expertise of Founding Era scholars.

Each unit has an essay or image to exemplify a particular virtue, scaffolding questions, and suggestions for other works that can be used in cross-curricular efforts. While compatible with, but not dependent upon, a religious perspective, these compelling narratives will help your students understand why each virtue is important, and the “Virtue in Action” section of each unit will encourage them to change their behavior in their classrooms, hallways, and communities.

To learn more, please feel free to download this complimentary guide (PDF) for teachers and administrators. Additionally, feel free to download a complimentary sample unit (PDF). Click here to purchase this resource.