How do you introduce The Crucible to students? How do you cover McCarthyism and satire in a mini-lesson? How do you treat students to some good music in the process? I came up with a way to sneak a Bob Dylan song in.
I used “The Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues” to demonstrate satire, cover the flaws of McCarthyism, and pair with The Crucible.
This line (missing from the live performance) strikes me particularly.
“Well, I investigated all the books in the library
Ninety percent of ’em gotta be burned away
I investigated all the people that I knowed
Ninety-eight percent of them gotta go
The other two percent are fellow Birchers . . . just like me!”
The song is a “talkin’ blues” set with a Dr. Seussian parody of 1950s paranoia. I thought the simplicity of the song would get trough to students to help them understand the politically paranoid mindset.
But did it work? Unfortunately, my students hadn’t learned about the Cold War yet, so they were a bit lost even though I gave them a rundown before playing the song. In the future, I will cooperate with the history teacher to pair both the minilesson and the Crucible reading with the 1950s era.
I know my senior English teacher would be proud.