Heroes and Villains

The Schechter Brothers’ Contribution

An exploration of individual’s contributions to society through the life of the Schechter Brothers. The virtue of contribution is defined as discovering your passions and talents, to use them to create what is beautiful and needed, to work hard, and to take care of yourself and those who depend on you.

Founding Principles

Civic Virtue image

Civic Virtue

A set of actions and habits necessary for the safe, effective, and mutually beneficial participation in a society.

Private Virtue image

Private Virtue

The idea that only a knowledgeable and virtuous citizenry can sustain liberty.

Suggested Launch Activity

CENTRAL QUESTION: How can one person’s talents and passions affect society?

Part I: Contributions & Benefits
Lead a class discussion based on the question above. As discussion becomes focused on the way society can benefit from an individual person’s talents, introduce the term “contribution” and its definition: To discover your passions and talents and to use them to create what is beautiful and needed. To work hard to take care of yourself and those who depend on you.

Assign students to groups of 4 or 5 and distribute the Contributions & Benefits handout, one per student. First, allow time for individual students to complete questions 1 through 3. After students have completed that portion, have each small group discuss their responses to the questions and to the table each student completed.

Have each group report, via their chosen reporter, the “contributions to society” statement they drafted.


Part II: My Contributions: Who Benefits?
Distribute one Our Contributions: Who Benefits? handout to each student.

Conduct a “round robin” activity to complete the handout, as follows:

1st.  Each student writes his or her name in the “My Name” space at the top of the table and in the “____’s contribution” row at the bottom of the table.

2nd.  Students pass their paper to the left (clockwise). The next person to hold the paper completes it about the person whose name is at top, adding notes in row 1, in similar fashion to how they completed the previous activity.

3rd.  Students pass their paper to the left (clockwise) again and repeat Step 2, completing the next row.

4th.  When the paper gets to the person immediately to the right of the person whose name at the top of the table, that person reviews all the previous information and writes a summary statement about that person’s contribution to the class, school, or community.

Each row need not be a new trait, but might expand on a previous person’s notes.

Conclude with the following questions:

  • What talents, skills, and priorities (or passions) did you identify among the people in your group?
  • What kind of work does it require to develop those skills?
  • In what ways do you already see yourselves as having contributions to make to society?
  • Do our contributions need to be only charitable? Are they limited to such fields as medicine or education? How do other professions or vocations benefit communities?
  • How do we benefit from farmers? …from people who transport food to supermarkets? …bankers? …the person who wakes up at 4 a.m. to bake bagels for the people in his neighborhood?
  • Describe the relationship between individual freedom and the individual contributions we can make to society.
  • Make some predictions about the kinds of contributions your classmates might make to their communities in the next five years, ten years, and twenty years.

About Launch Activities

The optional introductory activity above is designed to support you in the classroom. However, the primary narratives and photos in the section that follows can be used with or without this introduction.

Lesson Background

The year was 1934, and Joseph, Martin, Alex, and Aaron Schechter found themselves in jail. The four brothers were businessmen who operated two poultry butcher shops in Brooklyn, New York….

Essay PDF

Sources and Further Reading

A.L.A. Schechter Poultry Corp. v. U.S. 55 S. Ct. 837. Supreme Court of the U.S. 1935.

Panama Refining Co. v. Ryan. 293 US 388. Supreme Court of the U.S. 1935.

Virtue Across the Curriculum

Below are corresponding literature and film suggestions to help you teach this virtue across the curriculum. A sample prompt has been provided for the key corresponding work. For the other suggested works, or others that are already part of your curriculum, create your own similar prompts.

Apollo 13 (1995), directed by Ron Howard
Describe the various roles held by individuals at NASA. How did each person use his or her individual strengths to make a unique contribution to the mission? How did they adapt in response to the changing crisis? Are there characters who tried to undermine the contributions of others? Who among these individuals acted virtuously? Why?

Particle Fever (2014) directed by Mark Levinson
Describe the various roles of the people highlighted in this documentary. How does each person use his or her individual strengths to make a unique contribution to the CERN project? How do they, as individuals or as a team, respond and adapt when problems arise? How do you see each person’s particular set of skills, temperament, and passions influence the project? When the discovery is made and those in the auditorium rise in a standing ovation, who wipes away tears? Why? How is his contribution affirmed by that moment and by that response?

Lost Moon: The Perilous Journey of Apollo 13 by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger
Moneyball directed by Bennett Miller (2011)
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
I Hear America Singing by Walt Whitman

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