Tagged: Civics

FDR & Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms

In the famous conclusion of his January 1941 speech, FDR named four “essential human freedoms”—freedom of speech and expression, freedom to worship as one chooses, freedom from fear (of armed aggression, for example), and freedom from want (for destabilizing “social and economic problems,” he pointed out, had birthed the appalling political movements that now threatened American security). In each case the president pointedly added that these freedoms must prevail everywhere in the world.

Each year before Thanksgiving, I have students listen to a portion of FDR’s Speech.


What Do Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms Mean to You? Consider Norman Rockwell’s iconic Four Freedoms paintings, then interpret each of FDR’s 4 freedoms for yourself, your own way.

Choose just one, or all four. Use large paper (12×16). I permit students to choose whether or not they want to use paint, colored pencil, or marker to color their posters once they’ve drawn them, depending on the age level, teachers can customize this to be full-blown paintings, collages, digital collages, or just sketchbook or art journal prompts.

At one time, I taught both 8th Grade Civics and 8th Grade Art- obviously this is a great way to integrate disciplines or develop cross-curricular projects. History/Social Studies students (including HS, not just MS) could analyze the text of the speech before creating an artwork. When I taught Civics, I liked to have students scan Eleanor Roosevelt’s preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) for influence of or allusion to her late husband’s speech.

Excerpt from President Roosevelt’s 1941 Annual Message to Congress

September 2018 | CBS SUNDAY MORNING–Norman Rockwell’s The Four Freedoms Today

Grading Rubric

Objective/CriteriaGrading Scale
Subject & Elements of Design
(Careful Observation & Accurate Depiction of source materials)
3 Good
2 Satisfactory
1 Needs Improvement
Formal Principles of Design
(Arrangement of elements effectively capture, maintain and direct attention of viewers)
3 Good
2 Satisfactory
1 Needs Improvement
Content, Meaning & Impact Invoke Mood, Feeling Evoke Memories, Associations Provoke Reactions, Thought, Discussion, Action
3 Good
2 Satisfactory
1 Needs Improvement
Improving with or adapting to materials used.
3 Good
2 Satisfactory
1Needs Improvement
Engaging, Persisting, Planning, EXPRESSION, Observing, Reflection, & Pushing yourself
3 Good
2 Satisfactory
1 Needs Improvement


  • VA:Cr1.2.8a – Collaboratively shape an artistic investigation of an aspect of present-day life using a contemporary practice of art and design.
  • VA:Cr2.1.8a – Demonstrate willingness to experiment, innovate, and take risks to pursue ideas, forms, and meanings that emerge in the process of art-making or designing.
  • VA:Cr2.3.8a – Select, organize, and design images and words to make visually clear and compelling presentations.
  • VA:Cr3.1.8a – Apply relevant criteria to examine, reflect on, and plan revisions for a work of art or design in progress.
  • VA:Re7.1.8a – Explain how a person’s aesthetic choices are influenced by culture and environment and impact the visual image that one conveys to others.
  • VA:Re7.2.8a – Compare and contrast contexts and media in which viewers encounter images that influence ideas, emotions, and actions.
  • VA:Re8.1.8a – Interpret art by analyzing how the interaction of subject matter, characteristics of form and structure, use of media, art-making approaches, and relevant contextual information contributes to understanding messages or ideas and mood conveyed.
  • VA:Cr2.3.IIa – Redesign an object, system, place, or design in response to contemporary issues.


Annotated Gettysburg Address

 Listen to ‘Maladjustedd’ Podcast; Season 2 Episode 4

A Few Facts About the Battle of Gettysburg

  • After a great victory over Union forces at Chancellorsville, General Robert E. Lee marched his Army of Northern Virginia into Pennsylvania in late June 1863
  • The Confederacy hoped that by bringing the war into the northern states, northern politicians would abandon the war and normalize the South’s secession.
  • The Battle of Gettysburg, fought from July 1 to July 3, 1863, is considered a major turning point of the American Civil War. 
  • Estimated 51,112 casualties in this one battle, 31K Union, 39K Confederate; he bloodiest single battle of the entire war

A Few Facts About the Speech

  • Lincoln gave it November 19, 1863. He’d been working on drafts for a few days. The legend that he wrote it on the back of an envelope came from the fact that he continued to make notes and revisions even on the train right from Washington to Pennsylvania.
  • Gettysburg National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 3,500 Union soldiers killed in the Battle of Gettysburg
  • A few weeks after the burial process started, in October, a dedication ceremony was planned for the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.  The cemetery committee chose Massachusetts statesman and orator Edward Everett to deliver the main speech. The committee asked President Abraham Lincoln to deliver “a few appropriate remarks.”  At the November 19 ceremony, Everett spoke for two hours on the causes of war and the events that led to the Battle of Gettysburg.  

Lincoln’s Speech with Mr. Mallory’s Commentary

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

A “score” is 20 years, so 4 score and 7 is 87. 1863-1776=87, he’s talking about the Declaration of Independence. The important part isn’t the date it’s the “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Conceived in liberty means that the United States was based on principles of self-government and limits of law and order even on our rulers. That was the British tradition of rights and freedoms going back to the Magna Carta in 1215 AD. The first part of the Declaration of Independence is a treatise on “Social Contract Theory,” the idea that people agree to set up governments existed to protect our rights and basic needs together- we enter a contract together. Without spelling it out Lincoln is insinuating that the Southern states had broken that contract and violated the Constitution when they rebelled and left the union, insisting instead on a form of tyrrany, which included slavery.

Which brings us to “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” The part of the Declaration which we all remember is “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.” Maybe what Jefferson meant was that American colonists had as much right to self-government at the Dukes and Barons and Aristocrats in the House of Lords in parliament, but Lincoln was now making it clear to the mostly poor immigrants fighting for the Union in the Civil War, that this war wasn’t about federalism vs. antifederalism, Southern politicians had threatened to leave over slavery, they left over slavery, so make not mistake; if we believe that “all men are created equal,” are we willing to fight for it?

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. 

Lincoln wanted to make the stakes clear. If we were willing to just roll over and let the confederacy secede, we didn’t really believe in liberty or equality. That’s why this was a test. It was testing not only whether genuine democracy could work after 87 years, and not only our resolve, but whether we really believed in the principles we’d been claiming to believe in for the last nine decades.

We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. 

Thank you Captain obvious. Tell us something we don’t know. It’s printed right here on the program.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. 

Now That’s saying something both humble and profound. It’s not about him. It’s not about Edward Everett or Pennsylvania  Governor Andrew Curtin or the Mayor or town council of Gettysburg or the President and professors of Gettysburg Seminary or the members of the committee to establish a memorial there. It was about the thousands of soldiers killed, mortally wounded, injured and captured there. Soldiers fighting to keep the United States alive, fighting to keep liberty and equality alive. That’s who made it a holy place.

Dedicate, consecrate, and hallow are all synonyms. He’s using repetition for effect here. To make something holy (hallow) is to say that it’s special. To be consecrated means to be sacred- revered. Lincoln’s deliberately using religious sounding language. To be dedicated is to be set aside for a special purpose. This would no longer be farmland or wilderness, it would be a cemetery. And not just a cemetery, a special one for military dead. A place that needed to be remembered- an event that needed to be remembered. But Lincoln was about to go on to make a point that it wasn’t even the soldiers that we need to remember, but we need to remember the cause that that died for- and to take up that cause.

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. 

On the one hand- little did he know right? That more than 150 years later people all over the world remember, and study this little 2 minute speech. On the other hand, had you ever heard of Edward Everet before I mentioned him a little bit ago?

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. 

Lincoln wants us to be dedicated, consecrated, hallowed- not to get too creepy or too religious but to be “baptised” in the blood of the fallen soldiers at Gettysburg. To be commissioned for a mission, to be initiated into the sacred brotherhood of knights fighting for the same things they were conceived in and dedicated to. Woof! That;s heady stuff.

This is more than just a coach’s pep talk at halftime in the locker room to a team losing an important game. This is a call to something holy. Something akin to saving the world. Something our future depends on. He’s evoking destiny itself. 

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion 

Devotion is another religious sounding word. To be devoted means absolute commitment. A devout believer isn’t casual. They’re disciples, pilgrims, apostles. They’re on a mission for God. And what’s the cause? Just sending Lee’s army back to Virginia? Restoring the Union? Punishing treason? Or was it something bigger? Was it preventing the death of the nation? 

Remember what Lincoln said the war was testing? Whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated could long survive. Conceived how? Dedicated to what?

“Conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Lincoln’s calling us to fight for liberty and equality. Principles worth dying for.

— that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain 

Resolve: to decide firmly on a course of action. But not just an empty promise like a New Year’s resolution. To die in vain- without success or a result, to die for no good reason. If we’re serious about a memorial (or about Memorial Day), it’s not enough to acknowledge their deaths or just admire their cause. If we aren’t also dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, then it doesn’t really matter that they died. If we’re waving the Confederate flag, why’d they die? If we think we’re better than everybody else because of our skin color- which, by the way, we didn’t choose, what was the point?

— that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

For impact sake, I should let Lincoln have the last word, but I want to mention that Lincoln, again is using religious imagery, he’s evoking resurrection. He’s ending on a high note- giving us hope that that nation, that’s being tested whether or not it can long survive- it can live again, and it’s new life can be stronger, more robust and more honest- living up to its promises of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, not just for wealthy land owning white males, but for everybody.

Is it any wonder than 100 years later in 1963 Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would invoke both the Declaration of Independence and Abraham Lincoln in his famous “I have a dream speech,” where he shares that he had a dream that one day this nation would rise up and live out the true meaning of it’s creed. Again, religious language, a creed is a statement of belief- what it is you hold self-evident; like, that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.”

Finally, I want to let you know what I’ve tried to teach my Civics classes for the last twelve years- That “OFthe people, BY the people, FOR the people” bit- the one part everybody seems to remember without even trying to memorize the Gettysburg Address? Please try remembering this about it:

How can government be OF the people? Because you don’t have to be born into nobility or aristocracy. If “all men are created equal,” that means, as British philosopher John Locke postulated, we’re ALL capable of governing; whether that’s voting, having input or actually running for office.

How can government be BY the people? Because that’s our right. To say that we’re “endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights” means that we all have the inherent prerogative to participate and be represented, to have some influence. That’s the true meaning of liberty- not that we can do whatever we want whenever we want, but that we are free from any one person or segment of society controlling all the rest of us entirely. 

How can government be FOR the people? In practice, this is really hard, but in theory- look at Thomas Jefferson’s “Social Contract Theory;” “…to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the government.” John Adams and James Madison made similar statements, that the very purpose of government was to protect the rights and well being of its people, not to preserve the power and privilege of some ruling class as had become the case in most of Europe by 1776. It’s not us and them anymore. We ARE our government. How can we be here for eachother?

I guess that’s another lesson. But don’t stop asking yourself;

“How can we ensure that these dead would not have died in vain?”

And “How can we make sure that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth?”

I don’t know about you, but personally, I think it’s be being devoted to the same cause to which they gave their last full measure of devotion- by being dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” 

I know that not everyone agrees with me, but that’s America.

Expressed (Enumerated) Powers

In Civics we learn that the Constitution embodies certain kinds of power.

  • Expressed Powers (AKA Enumerated, Itemized, Specified) These are things that the Constitution deliberately and specifically mentions (expresses) that the Government (especially Congress) has.
  • Reserved Powers These are powers “reserved” kept for the State governments. (See also the 9th & 10th Amendments)
  • Implied Powers (Article I, Section 8  the “Necessary & Proper Clause”) AKA the “elastic clause.”) Also from the individual interpretations of lawmakers, presidents, officials or from court precedents and Supreme Court decisions.

Article I Section 8 is a specific (“expressed, enumerated”) list of things the government (especially Congress) is empowered to do.

Take a look at this list and consider what they mean. Do you think it was a good idea to give these powers to the national/federal government? Why/why not? Can you think back to (or look up) Articles of Confederation to see why the framers gave Congress these powers?

Section 8. The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;

To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;

To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;

To establish post offices and post roads;

To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;

To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;

To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

To provide and maintain a navy;

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings; — And

To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.

Have you seen or heard any examples in recent current events or history when you have seen leaders or governments apply, employ, struggle over or deny the federal government any of these powers? Are there additional powers that you think the government might need? Are there powers listed here that you don’t think the federal government shouldn’t have or are no longer necessary today even if they may have been in the past?

Discuss it with your parents or friends and think about what they think about governmental power. Be sure to ask them why they feel that way.

Please post your questions, comments, and examples in the comments section below- but please avoid fights & attacks. Inappropriate or abusive comments will be removed. “Error of Opinion May Be Tolerated Where Reason Is Left Free To Combat It,”~Jefferson

What Govt. Can't Do

in Civics we learn that the Constitution embodies certain principles.

  • Popular Sovereignty (“We the people” have ultimate authority)
  • Federalism (shared power between National, state & local levels)
  • Limited Power (Separation of powers & checks & balances intended to prevent concentration of power in one group or one leader)

Article I Section 9 is a specific (“expressed, enumerated,”) list of limits on the government: things it is prohibited from doing by the Constitution itself deliberately, not just by checks and balances.

Take a look at this list and consider what they mean. Do you think it was a good idea to set these limits? Why/why not? Can you think back to (or look up) the list of grievances in the Declaration of Independence to see why the framers set some of these limits?

Have you seen or heard any examples in recent current events or history when you have seen leaders or governments ignore, violate or try to get around any of these limits? It could be our own Federal government, state governments or other countries.

Section 9. The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person. (Slave importation- one of the several compromises made at the Constitutional Convention)

The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.

No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

{No capitation, or other direct, tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.5}

No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state.

No preference shall be given by any regulation of commerce or revenue to the ports of one state over those of another: nor shall vessels bound to, or from, one state, be obliged to enter, clear or pay duties in another.

No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and account of receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time.

No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.

Please post your questions, comments, and examples in the comments section below- but please avoid fights & attacks. Inappropriate or abusive comments will be removed. “Error of Opinion May Be Tolerated Where Reason Is Left Free To Combat It,”~Jefferson

Cap’n Sam Asks; How do we ‘Form a more perfect union?’

Got a question for ya; Who are “We the people?” Who’s government is it? Who IS the government? Was it the 55 rich white guys at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787? Is it the people we’ve voted for who represent us in Washington D.C.? Is it the people who are hired to work in all to government agencies and departments and bureaus in national, state and local governments? Or is it you? Is it me? Is it us, U-S? If it is, what’s that mean? Are you prepared to govern? What do we need to be equipped to govern our America? 75 years later in his Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln called for a new birth of freedom so that government “OF the people, BY the people and FOR the people might not perish from this Earth.” What if it does? What would life be like? What’s it mean for life to be of, by, and for the people? I’ll as you again; who are “We the people?” What’s that mean to you? What’s it mean for all of us? I dunno, you tell me. YOU tell me.

Another Assignment; Two Heroes of Character

Using an essay format, research and report on 2 heroes (real or fictional, living or dead, local or world renowned) related to your curriculum & the Touchstone you created in Assignment #1. Your report should include the heroes’ names, a brief summary of their deeds, an explanation of what they overcame, and the connection between the traits that made them successful and your class touchstone of traits. Also, include a general plan of how you can integrate them into the curriculum/lesson(s) (e.g. video, literature, posted photo, as a guest speaker) and finally a brief summary as to how learning about these heroes can model character and be inspirations to your students and deepen critical thinking and problem solving skills.

HERO #1: Art Hero Edvard Munch

EdvardM1Edvard Munch (1863-1944) was a Norwegian painter whose intensely evocative treatment of psychological themes greatly influenced an early twentieth century art movement known as German Expressionism. He is most famous for his 1893 painting, the Scream, which is thought to represent what it feels like to suffer a panic attack. This painting is so well known as to be considered iconic, like DaVinci’s Mona Lisa or Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. It is one of the most expensive paintings ever sold at auction, fetching more than $100 million.

Munch is believed to have suffered from both depression and anxiety. Munch’s mother died of tuberculosis when he was only five. His sister Johanne Sophie, to whom he was very close, died from the same disease when he was 14. Their father passed away when Edvard was 25 and attending college, leaving him destitute and forcing him to return home to take care of his younger siblings. In his 40’s, Munch had the courage to seek medical and psychiatric help. He believed that his treatments were successful and his work became brighter, more colorful. and had more optimistic themes.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazis labeled Munch’s work “degenerate art” (along with many other modern artists) and removed 82 of his works from German museums and either destroyed, put into warehouses, or smuggled out to the Netherlands. In 1940, the Germans invaded Norway and the Nazi party took over the government. Munch was 76 years old and with the help of underground smugglers and art collectors gathered and protected as many of his paintings as he could on the second floor of his home, putting himself at great risk. Today those works and many by Dutch painter Vincent VanGogh are preserved at the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway.

Munch exhibited character traits which were uncommon among commercially successful painters of his time. He demonstrated his imagination in paintings that engaged viewers as if they were participating in scenes from a play. He showed his curiosity and adaptability first by delving beyond just subject matter into content and meaning and then by exploring new forms incorporating new philosophies into his works such as symbolism and synthetism. He showed enormous amounts of passion and self-awareness by making himself vulnerable in his work by constantly exploring his own personal pain and experiences. And he showed perseverance and courage by remaining true to his vision even in the face of enormous political and social pressure.

Much’s example shows us that everyone has inherent dignity and deserves to be treated equally with respect, because we never know what others have had to suffer through. Much didn’t settle for being just another post-impressionist painting the same pretty flowers and street scenes as the rest of his contemporaries- he challenged himself to learn and apply new ideas and explore new horizons, and we should also keep pushing ourselves to get better. Munch created several different versions of his composition the Scream between 1893 and 1910 with paint, pastel, etchings and engravings. That’s an example for us to never be satisfied, but to constantly work to improve and learn, even from what we think of as mistakes.


Boyer Valley Art Room Touchstone Creed:

We respect each other as artists
We push ourselves
We learn from mistakes
and celebrate each other’s successes


One of the National Art Education Standards is Personal Expression: Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas (content). Art History and Art Criticism are also among these standards. One of the critical thinking skills integral to Art Criticism is being able to interpret the content and meaning of artworks. Munch is discussed within one of the major 20th century art movements taught in Eighth Grade Art.

I introduced Munch by first having students perform “aesthetic scans” of a small number of his paintings in the series he called “the frieze of life.” These include one of a child at her mother’s death bed, one called “Jealousy,” and one called “Self-portrait in Hell.” I have students come up with possible narratives about what’s happening in the paintings and discuss the points of view of the various subjects in the paintings and speculate as to the possible frame of mind of the artist when he/she created them. We also discuss how and why artists attempt to invoke moods, evoke associations and provoke reactions from their viewers. Then I briefly share Munch’s biography with them before having them create their own expressionist paintings.

Instead of painting attractive impressionistic landscapes and flowers, Munch to paint his experiences and his feelings. By doing so he pioneered a whole new genre of painting which was more personal and unique. Today many people use painting as a form of art-therapy and most people tend to believe that art should be intensely personal and expressive, utilizing unique systems of personal symbolism and embedding meaning into color choice and stylistic decisions.

One of the most cliche axioms out there is “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” One of my favorite quotes from the WWII period which marked the end of Munch’s life is from British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, “when you’re going through Hell, keep on going.” Both of these quotes represent the Munch’s character to me. Instead of giving up a career in art when faced with having to become responsible for his family, he used his pain and struggle as the very subject of his painting. Van Gogh chose to escape his mental illness by suicide. Jackson Pollack succumb to his addictions. Munch had enough self-awareness, humility and courage to seek professional help for both his addictions and his mental illness.

At a public school I may not be able to directly quote 2 Corinthians 1:4 and tell students that “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” However, I can use Edvard Munch as an example of how we can derive meaning from our suffering and create purpose from our hardships. Munch shows me how just like steel is stronger than iron because it has gone through the fire, we can all become stronger from the challenges we have to face.


HERO #2: Civics Hero Senator James Grimes

200px-james_wilson_grimesOriginally from New Hampshire, James Grimes moved West to practice law in what would become Burlington, Iowa. He served first in the Territorial and later State House of Representatives as well as as one of Iowa’s earliest Governors. He helped revise Iowa’s state constitution. As a member of the Whig party, he helped establish the fledgling Republican Party in Iowa in the 1850’s. As a member of the U.S. Senate, he served on the Joint Committee on Reconstruction which drafted the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Perhaps his greatest demonstration of character was as Iowa’s Senator, just after the Civil War. Grimes broke party ranks to oppose the removal from office of President Andrew Johnson after he was impeached. Johnson was a slave owning Democrat from Tennessee appointed Vice President by Lincoln in a symbolic demonstration that his administration represented the entire nation. Johnson sought to quickly reintegrate the Southern states back into the Union but faced fierce opposition from the radical wing of the Republican party who wanted to punish the secessionists.

Congress impeached Johnson for firing his Secretary of War. The Constitution requires that Presidential appointments be confirmed by the senate, but Congressional Republicans hastily passed a law requiring that he also seek approval before removing Cabinet members as well. Grimes saw the impeachment for what it was, an unprecedented abuse of Constitutional process for in a play for power in a political fight. He didn’t believe that Johnson, no matter how arrogant or inept, had not committed high crimes or misdemeanors.

Not only did he go against his own party, but at the expense of his own health Grimes tirelessly negotiated between Johnson and Senate members for a narrow acquittal vote. Grimes suffered a stroke two days before the final Senate vote and fell before reaching his desk as he entered the Senate the day the vote was taken. Even though the Supreme Court Justice gave him special permission to remain seated, Grimes mustered the strength to stand up and announce his “not guilty” vote. A year later, poor health forced him to resign his office and he passed away at home in Iowa at the age of only 55.


Grimes is an incredible example of integrity and commitment. He demonstrated enormous amounts of judgement, responsibility, courage and temperance. Grimes put the Nation’s well being before the goals of his party and sacrificed his potential re-election, not to mention his personal health and well being to preserve the Constitutionality and balance of power between the branches of government.

Grimes took responsibility for the integrity of our Constitutionally established system of government even though it meant standing up to peer pressure and standing up to prevent an unpopular person from being bullied. Even though he may have disagreed with the President on a variety of issues and even disliked him personally, he thought it was important to respect the dignity of his office and his right to due process of law and the protections provided by the law.

MS Civics Class Touchstone Creed:

We’re all responsible making this a learning space
We respect everyone’s rights & dignity
We show grit to grow & to try again when we fail
Everyone matters, everyone’s voice should be heard


Each year at Boyer Valley, we include a unit on Iowa History as part of our Civics class. Perhaps the greatest emphasis of the class is on the U.S. Constitution. In the Iowa unit, we also examine the Iowa Constitution. Some people describe Grimes as the James Madison of the Iowa Constitution. Talking about checks and balances between the three branches of government goes hand in hand with talking about Constitutional government. Not only are the Johnson, Nixon and Clinton impeachment attempts all part of history, but the impeachment/removal from office process is analogous to the Grand Jury/Trial Jury process in the criminal justice system.

Once we reach the Civil War/Politics portion ot the article on Iowa History written by an ISU professor which we use for the unit, I have students read and discuss an article from Iowa History magazine on Senator Grimes. This has been a terrific resource for launching discussions that Ryan & Bohlin might consider “moral discourses.” Students are asked to compare Grimes’ actions with Republican Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater’s negotiating with Richard Nixon and Iowa Democratic Senator Tom Harkin’s address to the Senate in the wake of the Clinton impeachment.

I personally think that the 14th Amendment, which Grimes helped to craft, refocused the law on principles of equality and justice which the Constitution itself was intended to provide in the first place. I think that Grime’s example shows students that these aspects of our democratic republic require vigilance, commitment and sometimes sacrifice. To selfishly deny the rights of due process and equal protection to others for the sake of expedience endangers the equality, protection and processes for everyone, including ourselves.

Likewise a lack of integrity, judgement, responsibility, courage and temperance on our parts degrades those virtues in our collective community. When we contribute our character to the general welfare, we nurture these same traits in others. We repeat tales of Washington’s courage and Lincoln’s honesty in an effort to instill those virtues in our young. We regale kids with tales of Franklin’s ingenuity, Sam Adam’s aversion to tyranny and Patrick Henry’s audacity both to make kids proud of our moral heritage as Americans and to inspire a desire to belong to that heritage.

I’d hope that James Grime’s example would encourage students to become critical thinkers and readers so that they could scrutinize people’s motives and make choices which align more with their own principles than with objectives of parties or special interests. Better yet, to consider what’s in the best interest in the majority of the community, and not just what’s in their own personal interest or those of the subgroups with which they identify. In other words, stand up for what’s right, not just fight over who gets to be right in an argument.

Classroom Touchstone Creed Assignment

ASSIGNMENT:  Now that we have looked at the different positive character traits and virtues, and reflected on the qualities found in a community of virtue, decide on a Touchstone Creed for your classroom that will be the vision that will frame everything that happens inside your classroom.

In general, a Touchstone is a basis of comparison, a reference point against which other things can be evaluated. It sets the measure for all subsequent worth.

A Character Touchstone is a concise, memorable guide to right behavior. It is not a complete moral system, but a summary that is easy to remember and to teach. It is a short list of rules to which you can refer automatically in moments of stress or indecision.  In a classroom (or school-wide) a Touchstone provides resonance, sets expectations and unifies.


I’ve had a lot of experience composing something like these touchstone creeds over the years, but I have to admit that I still found it intimidating.

Here’s the personal mission statement after reading Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits in 1994, while teaching at LA Lutheran Jr/Sr HS:

to be God’s clay pot
to refresh students with living water
to have a growing faith

Mission statement that our faculty developed at Los Angeles Lutheran Jr/Sr High in ’96:

We share Christ
disciple Christian believers,
and prepare students for college and life

Mission statement created for Boyer Valley Cheer Squad in 2002:

Positive, Committed Leaders
stirring-up spirit,
building excellence & character

Although, now that I’ve been using John Wooden’s 15 brick “Pyramid of Success,” I think it may be high time to revise and update that one.

I chaired the mission statement committee for St. John Lutheran Church in 2005:

Offering with open arms the love of Jesus

I created this for my teaching blog in 2007

Helping students be seen, not just heard &…
Challenging all students to meet their full potential

Perhaps my all time favorite touchstone is Henry Wallace’s
“Good Farming, Clear Thinking, Clean Living.”
If I taught FFA I think I’d have it painted on my classroom wall.

My wife frequently recites a slogan for her students from Jim Fay’s book ‘Teaching with Love & Logic,’
“Responsible, Respectful, and Fun to be around.”

One of the concepts I try to stress in Civics class is that we always need to consider that Civic Virtue = General Welfare = Common Good. Some of the principles I spend the most time teaching in Civics include Equality, Rights,Social Contract, Liberty, Justice, and Unity. Some of the things that my middle school colleagues and I at Boyer Valley have discussed that we hope to instill in our students are Respect, Responsibility, Empathy & Compassion (Caring).

I REALLY want to just adopt this quote from Teddy Roosevelt-
“Look up, not down- Look out, not in- Look forward, not backward- and lend a hand.”

Here’s one of the 2 final “Touchstone Creeds” I came up with-


We’re all responsible making this a learning space
We respect everyone’s rights & dignity
We show grit to grow & to try again when we fail
Everyone matters, everyone’s voice should be heard

I’ve always used structural frameworks to teach visual art. Discipline Based Art Education (DBAE) consists of Art History, Design/Aesthetics, of course actual Art Making and Art Criticism. Art Criticism involves critical thinking skills such as description, analysis, interpretation and evaluation. It’s always a challenge to get students to talk about each other’s work in a positive, supportive atmosphere. You always imagine a “creative community,” almost like a miniature artists’ colony in your classroom. Unfortunately immaturity and social dynamics don’t always permit that. Just a few of the virtues that I hope to have my Art students adopt are Respect, Responsibility, Caring, Expression, Vision, Curiosity, Creativity, Aesthetics. Those and keeping your hands off of other people’s projects and cleaning up after themselves!

So here is the other Creed I developed-

BV ART STUDENTS (7th-12th Grades):

We respect each other as artists
We push ourselves
We learn from mistakes
and celebrate each other’s successes


Socio-Political Dynamic Tension Graph

Here is a graph I created that illustrates my theory on political systems being effected by human desires to 1) restrict or relax control and 2) be individuals and yet be part of a collective group.

Here is a graph I created that illustrates my theory on political systems being effected by human desires to 1) restrict or relax control and 2) be individuals and yet be part of a collective group. Click on the graphic to enlarge.

Obviously the visual and analytical part is derived from the basic supply & demand graph. The political power aspect is based on Psychologist/Educationist William Glasser’s “choice theory” where we either try to control others or try to connect with others. The social participation aspect was inspired by Philosopher/Theologian Paul Tillich’s assertion that we all have equally powerful drives to individuate (“be ourselves”) and at the same time belong to a collective community which is bigger than ourselves.

I’ve written about this on this blog before.See previous post on Sociological/Political Theory. I was frustrated by the traditional Liberal/Conservative continuum that most Social Studies & Civics/History teachers ascribe to. I felt like something was missing. It was too limiting. I felt like Soviet Communism and Fascist dictatorships had more in common than they had different, but on the traditional continuum, they were supposed to be polar opposites. I believe what they have in common is control.

Also, I think of myself as fairly “Liberal/Progressive” but I’ve got a truckload of friends who consider themselves “Libertarian/Tea-Party” conservatives, one Army Special Forces veteran who is a self-described “Anarchist,” and what I’ve found listening to these folks is that in some cases, they actually had more in common with “Occupy Wall Street” style Liberals than other Republicans. This threw me and I wanted to try to develop a schema which would help make sense of these discrepancies.

My hope is that this graphing model will help analyze, understand, visualize, and discuss these concepts with a little more flexibility and depth than the old fashioned Right/Left line model.

What do you think? I’d love to get a discussion going for once. Please leave your questions or contributions in the comments below.

Sociological/Political Theory Based on Spiritual/Psychological Needs

Hyped up on coffee & beer last night, I threw together these two mind- maps. One could be an axis for plotting types of governments or political preferences. The other charts the pull (tension) of out three major democratic principles. The two could be superimposed. Neither is perfect, but I was pretty excited about them at 3:00 this morning. Too bad I’m not working on a degree, I wonder if they’d be a decent basis for a thesis or dice rotation.



3 Core Democratic Principles