In the early stages of planning this unit, I knew that the end product would be a trial of some sort. Whether this took the shape of an actual trial with witnesses, of a grand jury indictment, was unclear. However, because it is necessary to present students with a balanced and fair evaluation of the time period so that a trial be successful for all students involved, I realized that an incredible breadth of information would need to be covered. At first, rewinding to the onset of the Cold War in the immediate aftermath of World War Two seemed sufficient. But students would need to review the causes of World War Two, and maybe the Great Depression not only in American History, but also as a worldwide event. But the Red Scare of the 1950's can trace its roots back to World War One and the communist revolutions of that time period. However, then the communist revolutions, their ideals and goals, would need to be included as well. This process led me back -- way back -- to the earliest writings of Karl Marx and James Monroe. As the unit began to take shape, it became evident that the design of this unit would be ideal for a course taught in a thematic manner.
The War of 1812 questioned the strength of the United States and its ability to ward off an invasion force. The troubles of Europe, the defeat of Napoleon, the impending crisis of the Bourban return to power in Spain, and the threat of European influences in both North and South American prompted President James Monroe and Secretary of State John Quincy Adams to issue what has become known as the Monroe Doctrine. Issued to Congress in the State of the Union, the message urged that while the US has strived "not to interfere in the internal concerns of any of its powers" any infringement or intervention by Europe into the affairs of North and South America would be paramount to "endangering our peace and happiness". Monroe hoped that the resulting foreign policy, a standard that would remain as the precedent for the next 100 years, would allow "the United States to leave the parties to themselves, in the hope that other powers will pursue the same course."
The ideology asserted by Monroe would lay the foundation for a foreign policy of isolationism.
Clear connections can be made between this foreign policy, the onset of the Cold War, and the fear embedded among the people of the United States in regard to foreigners and ideas contrary to democratic thought. McCarthy's crusade would only work if the country was in a position to hear his message. It is important to note that he did not invent the idea of a communist threat to democracy, just as the Weimar Republic, and other contributing factors, created conditions that would allow the Nazi Party to become elected to power. People were ready for McCarthy, and in some ways, needed him to be the voice of the movement -- a role he welcomed for the political advancement it provided. As an introduction the principle of isolationism is critical to analyzing McCarthy. In the aftermath of World War Two, when isolationism had been shattered by the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when totalitarian regimes seemed to be gaining momentum, and the United States seemed to be the only power capable of combating the threat from abroad, people were afraid. For over a century, a foreign power had not waged an attack on the United States in the United States such as Japan had done. This drastically altered the perception of safety. The enemy was no longer overseas, but capable of a direct attack on American soil. Perhaps the best way to combat the possibility of attack is to continually be on the defensive. The Midwest, a region where isolationism has a particular stronghold even in the present day, in some ways welcomed the ideas of McCarthy. Connections to the present day, especially in the aftermath of September 11th, can be made. Why was the United States, the government and the citizenry, so willing to participate in conflict, both armed conflict and ideological conflict? It is possible that the perception of safety vanished, and it became our civic duty to protect ourselves and our loved ones in a seemingly impending crisis. In the early stages of the Cold War, public sentiment was no different.
Communal living has a limited presence in American History. Although individuals, such as George Ripley and Robert Owen, would try to create small Utopian societies, these colonies had short life spans. At Brook Farm all members were equal, and each would share equally in the production of goods, their consumption, and consequently in the abundant spare time that would follow. The community struggled to survive, many members became disenchanted, and when a fire destroyed the Community Building, the experiment in utopia came to an end.
The phenomena of communism drew worldwide attention in the mid 19th century. This topic may seem irrelevant to McCarthyism, but it does have a place in this unit. The idea of communal living, of individuals working collectively for the benefit of the state, has been attempted, and explored. However, these attempts have largely been unsuccessful, and this happened for a reason. The democratic liberal philosophies of the American citizenry prohibit the masses from living in such a state. Simply stated, we choose to not live in this manner because it is somehow un-American. An exploration as to why these ventures are largely unsuccessful may not be necessarily be required in this unit, but could serve as a possible extension.
The disenchantment of the common man with government, specifically monarchy and tyranny, in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, forced individuals to adopt new political ideologies. Combined with the Industrial Revolution, the worker was livid and ready for change. The Industrial Revolution brought to the world production that was inconceivable just decades earlier. The Revolution allowed the owner to increase wealth, and although the workingman's lot would improve, he could not enjoy the fruit of his labor to the same extent as the owner. Karl Marx and Frederiech Engels would write a pamphlet for the International Communist Party, a work so influential that even in the present time the impact can be felt. The Communist Manifesto was published in 1848, and although a product of the time period written to specifically combat the social and economic problems of mid 19th century Europe, the Manifesto resonates today.
The revolution that Marx envisioned would eventually take place, but in many ways, his ideas were abandoned and manipulated by those who came to power. In Russia, the Soviet Union was born out of the need to reform the inadequacies of the Tsar's government and his policies. Around the world, revolutions took place, and several regimes toppled only to be replaced by a new world order. Lenin and Trotsky led Russia out of World War I and into a hopeful new being. However, what Lenin would create would not be the social utopia that Marx had envisioned. Although Marx prophesized about the possibility of a violent revolution, he did not envision the consolidation of power that Lenin embraced. Lenin, and later Stalin, moved away from the ideals of Marx, and in doing so, set the stage for McCarthy. The communist government of the Soviet Union would taint the reputation of communism around the world. Perhaps this is why the Red Scare of the early 20th century did not have as much public support as McCarthy's crusade. There was no proof that communism was necessarily bad.
Communism, at least the Marxist version, was not yet associated with dictatorship. And while the principles of communism differ greatly from democracy, even in the Marxist version, it was possible to have a country embrace communist and socialist ideals without completely rejecting the economic principles of a free market economy. Once Stalin came to power this could no longer be. Communism was inextricably linked to a totalitarian government; and that was too closely linked to the Fascist regimes of Hitler and Mussolini. In the aftermath of World War, especially a war fought specifically to ensure that people worldwide could enjoy the Four Freedoms
, a war in which many Americans died, a war that allowed military conflict to come to the United States, there was no room for a totalitarian regime that could threaten our democracy.
The dissemination of new ideas in the 19th century was more laborious than in the present day. Modern technology quickened the rate at which new information is passed along. While during the War of 1812 news of the Treaty of Ghent -- which effectively ended the war -- did not reach the United States until after the Battle of New Orleans, the news media and the public found out about Vice President Cheney's hunting incident before President Bush. This phenomenon is due to the prevalence of television, and society's need to know what is going on in the world we live in. News broadcasts are abundantly available. NBC30, A local affiliate of NBC has four news broadcasts daily, one at daybreak, one in the late morning, one in the early evening, and finally at 11pm each night. And this is only a local broadcast. National news is aired twice daily: first during the Today Show and later on NBC Nightly News. This is not unique to NBC, with ABC and CBS following a similar schedule. Furthermore, FOX News, MSNBC, and CNN primarily broadcast only news shows. Add in the Financial news stations, and as a society we are inundated with information. This is primarily a development of the late 20th century, and television was still in its infant stages during the McCarthy Era. However, the man who would be most closely associated with combating McCarthy and his crusade against communist infiltration in the United States, would begin his journalism career first on radio, and later would be instrumental in shaping the format and ideals of television.
Edward R. Murrow first came into the public limelight during World War Two. His broadcasts via the radio airwaves during the war kept America informed. Other journalists, such as Ernie Pyle, would bring a different voice -- a literary one -- into the foray. However, Murrow's voice stands out as being one of the earliest and most trusted in the business. Born Egbert Roscoe Murrow in 1908, Murrow would move with his family to from Polecat Creek, NC to Blanchard, WA. In high school he would change his name to Edward R. A graduate of Washington State College, where he excelled in speech and debate, Murrow would later become involved in as organization dedicated to helping persecuted scholars escape from Nazi Germany. Only in 1937, at the age of 29, did Murrow begin his career in broadcast journalism, a forum that is still defined by Murrow's contributions. As the impending doom of World War II began to take shape in the late 30's, Murrow realized the need to report the stories as they were uncovered. Murrow would assemble a crew of young journalists, Murrow's Boys, capable of broadcasting events as they occurred. In an early standoff with the network higher-ups, Murrow would insist that his reporters have two distinct qualifications, and disregarded the quality of the journalists speaking voice. "Murrow put his foot down: he was not hiring announcers, he said, but people who could think and write."
Throughout his career, Murrow would contend with the Network executives who were often more concerned with using the news division as profitable entertainment than with the ideals of journalism.
As the war broke out, Murrow and his boys were there to report and broadcast the uncovering stories. But the public was not ready for war. Many did not want to become involved in Europe's affairs. At the end of 1940 a poll indicated that 95% of Americans were against war with Germany. It would be the Battle of Britain that would alter the public opinion, and Edward R. Murrow's voice, intermingled with the resounding disaster of bombs, would be brought from Europe into the living room of the United State's. But for Murrow, "radio's task was not to bring the story to the listener, but to bring the listener to the story."
Later, Archibald MacLeish would allude to the effect Murrow's broadcasts.
After the War, Murrow's radio show, Hear It Now, would be adapted for television and renamed See It Now. Both Murrow and his producer Fred Friendly would set the standard for the weekly news magazine, and remnants of their ideas are still present today when viewers tune into 60 minutes, 20/20, or DatelineNBC. For that matter, one can still hear the presence of Murrow's style each day on NPR -- the radio format of this show is very reminiscent of Murrow. Murrow would mesh popular culture and serious news to appeal to the viewer, and just as the networks are today, he was forced to succumb to the pressures of advertisers and their money. Perhaps that is what is so remarkable about his efforts to expose McCarthy. In an episode of See it Now, in which McCarthy's campaign was only alluded to, the chief sponsor of the show withdrew its monetary support. Able to broadcast without this financial support, Friendly and Murrow instead subsidized the show themselves, a testament to their diligence.
Senator McCarthy began his crusade at Wheeling, West Virginia. In a speech he announced to the world that he had in his hand a list of card carrying members of the communist party, all of whom worked for the National Government. Although he would never produce the list, and the number would dwindle from 256 to 40, McCarthy grabbed national attention by the horns. In addition to McCarthy's list anti-communist activists alleged the infiltration of communists into Hollywood, and later the Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss would draw national attention. It is important to note, that although most that were accused were done so wrongly, there were some communists that had in fact infiltrated the national government. Also, cases of espionage were present and very likely, just not likely to the extent that McCarthy asserted. Most were afraid to combat McCarthy and a sense of hysteria quickly spread throughout the United States. Standing up against McCarthy most assuredly meant that a person was perceived by the public to be a communist, or at least a communist sympathizer -- a fate with potentially equal consequences. In some ways this makes Murrow's stand even more heroic.
Murrow's crusade would come in two distinct phases. The first would be a story about the discharge of a man from the Air Force, whose father was a supposed member of the communist party. The most frightening aspect of this incident is the speed in which the "trial" took place. The hearing was neither broadcast nor open to the public, which is not uncommon. However, the evidence that was used to convict the man was in a sealed envelope -- the man himself was never given the opportunity to examine this evidence. Murrow broadcast a story about this man, and although he never mentioned McCarthy's name, Murrow was linking the Senator's actions and ideas to this case. Months later Murrow would attack McCarthy directly. This episode would be Murrow's finest hour, and in some ways his own downfall. The episode was antagonistic and exceedingly biased. The show utilized McCarthy's own words and portrayed him to be a madman. McCarthy was later given the opportunity to rebut Murrow's accusations on See It Now. However, soon after this episode, Murrow's show was redesigned. It was expanded to an hour and broadcast on Sundays -- a move that basically killed his ratings. This was a move by the CBS executives to quiet Murrow and Friendly, and furthermore, to appease the network sponsors.
Teaching with the Sources
This unit relies heavily upon primary source documents, supplemented by secondary sources. The beauty of teaching with such material is that is forces students to interpret history, a skill that is vastly different than recalling history. When students are forced to interpret history for themselves there are several important outcomes. First, they automatically assume more personal accountability to the material and its meaning -- after all, it is their own ideas that are being tested, not the teacher's nor some random textbook author. They are then more likely to retain the information. This is the type of organic learning that is needed so sorely in the modern classroom. After all, the study of history is not about distant figure and events in the past, it is the study of us and of the present day and more importantly of the student. That is why relevant connections must be made to the present -- not because it makes history come alive to the student, but because it helps the student see why the world is the way it is and why as humans we make certain decisions -- decisions not only on a grand international scale, but on the local and personal level.
A great starting point for this unit is with Monroe's Message to Congress in 1823. I realize that it is seemingly too distant from McCarthyism, but allows the student to develop a foundation in isolationism, a concept of foreign policy that dictated the US role in the world for over a century. Parts of the speech can be excerpted for use in the classroom, and I suggest specifically examining the passages that lay out Monroe's ideas. The teacher should have students identify these ideas. The first being that Europe ought to stay out of the affairs of the Americas, and America would stay out of the affairs of Europe, and secondly, that any interference by Europe would be considered an attack on the United States. Students could also be asked to define isolation and should later be able to explain why this term is, or perhaps is not, a good way to describe the foreign policy.
The second step would be to read excerpts from the Communist Manifesto. Specifically, the section on the proletariat and the bourgeoisie would be the most important. In this section Marx explains the difference between the two classes, outlines how the two came to be in such conflict, and then describes how the communist revolution will take place. An upper level class might be able to read larger chunks of this work, others might only be able to read very short passages. The piece is long, and can be difficult to comprehend, but certainly this should not distract from its use in the classroom. When faced with a difficult reading, students often rise to the challenge, and although they might need much help at the outset, they will be able to do the work.
A second option would be to have students read a secondary source document that explains the Communist Manifesto and Marx's ideas. Students might struggle with these concepts, and that is to be expected. A comparison of communism and democracy would be a great way to clarify the two ideologies. In the present day oppression is closely linked to communism, but in its inception, Marx actually was searching for a way to ensure equality. In this way, he does not differ from the Founding Fathers -- both strive for equality. It is in methodology that differences emerge. Only later would communist governments use oppression to control the masses and keep a communist government in power -- a government that strays away from equality for all and that asserts itself as a totalitarian regime. A typical graphic organizer to visually depict various political ideologies is to draw a straight line. To start, the line should be labeled left, center, and right. Next, add in liberal and conservative on the left and right, respectively. At this time it would be important to define what these terms mean. Liberal generally implies the desire to change and reform public policy, while conservative implies a willingness to stay with the status quo. Of course, in our modern political world these words have greater meaning than that, but in the root sense, these definitions are adequate. Radical can be added to the left of liberal, and reactionary to the right of conservative. These, too, should be defined; Radical is equated with broad sweeping changes and reactionary with a desire to return to past. Students, if they are ready, should now be able to place Communism and Democracy on the spectrum. One possible method is to have students decide where they believe the two terms belong, and then defend their position. These predictions help to clarify student thinking. Of course, students will choose both ends of the spectrum, and that is ok. Sometimes, a well reasoned wrong answer is better than a poorly defended right answer.
These ideas can be explored further by reading Animal Farm by George Orwell. Allegorical in nature, this novel explores the Russian Revolution and the rise of Lenin and Stalin to power. This work is useful for several reasons. First, it is a great piece of fiction. It embodies all the elements of a good piece of literature, character development, rising action, falling action, climax, etc. The novel is also a great piece of history. It makes the confusion of the Russian Revolution accessible, and explores the ideas of communism -- both Marxism and Leninism, in a way that most are able to comprehend. It is the type of book that can be read with a lower level class and an upper level class and still be successful. Finally, it is a great example of allegory. Symbolism, to this extent, is often difficult to interpret -- like Edgar Allen Poe's "Masque of the Red Death" -- but Orwell puts the reader at ease in this novel.
Orwell, who must have drawn inspiration from Jonathan Swift's
, created a masterpiece of satire. The work is meant to ridicule a topic and in turn prompt change. Orwell's target in this piece of literature was the problems associated with tyrannical rule and the absence of democratic principles. Manor Farm symbolizes Tsarist Russia, Animal Farm the new U.S.S.R. Each character, and consequently each event, parallels a part of the Russian Revolution. Old Major is Lenin, Snowball is Trotsky, Napoleon is Stalin, Animalism is Communism. The characters are wildly fantastic and at times are downright hilarious. Thematically, the story examines a ruler's need to control the citizenry, and the dangers of the communist regime. Orwell is heavily critical of Stalin and his dictatorship, but even more importantly, the author is skeptical of the United States and Great Britain for doing little to combat Stalin. The Tehran Conference of 1943 is symbolized in the animal's game of cards where Napoleon and Pilkington first compliment each other only to cheat and betray the other's trust. Orwell, in his rich satirical voice, is in actuality insisting that both the United States and Great Britain do more to contain Stalin and his vicious tactics of ruling. Orwell is also skeptical of leaders who adopt grand ideas for the betterment of society, but in turn, choose only to hold onto power through oppressive means. At this time, students should place George Orwell, and the characters of Animal Farm on the political ideology spectrum that was created earlier in the unit. Is Orwell a liberal, a conservative, a radical, or a reactionary? Students should defend their opinions using specific evidence from the text. Of course, it is possible to build more elaborate lessons and activities to accompany this text, but that might detract from the unit too much. Animal Farm is a useful tool to explore the development of a communist regime, but this is only part of understanding why communism was viewed as being so evil. Animal Farm does allow students to build a strong foundation to argue for McCarthy's crusade, an important aspect of creating a successful trial in the classroom.
Animal Farm allows the scholar to examine a difficult topic in an accessible manner. Squealer, a symbol of propaganda, controls what the other animals ought to think. Arguing against the regime means inevitable doom for the animals. At this juncture students should define the terms dissent and disloyalty. The two should not be confused with each as being synonymous, nor should the former automatically lead to the latter. Herein lies the greatest difference between a communist and democratic regime. In the latter, dissent dos not automatically mean disloyalty, while in the former it does. Is Murrow the dissenting voice, or is McCarthy? Is McCarthy being loyal and Murrow disloyal or vice versa? Certainly, arguments can be made to support and answer to these questions.
The trial of McCarthy, or perhaps of Murrow, needs to be both highly structured, and also allow for organic and constructivist growth. Structured means that students need to know what they will be arguing for and against -- they will also need to have access to documents that can be used for evidence. Organic growth means that students should have the freedom to draw their own conclusions and to have these conclusions validated. Make sure that students have adequate evidence to both convict and acquit whoever is being tried. Also, do not get bogged down in procedure. The trial, in this unit, is meant to teach students to argue and defend using evidence and not the procedure of an actual trial. That can be taught in a separate lesson. Also, if so desired, the teacher can choose to have witnesses for both the prosecution and the defense, or they can safely be removed from the picture. In this case, the trial ceases to be a trial, and become an indictment hearing. Depending on student level, the teacher can prepare evidence packets in advance, or if desired, students could be asked to search for their own evidence. Be aware that this takes more time, and also implies that students will need to be taught how to locate relevant primary source materials. At the end of the unit, if the unit has been
Successful, students should be ready to take on this task in a mostly independent manner.
An important quote by Edward R. Murrow can be used and analyzed. It might even be a document to include into an evidence packet for students to use in preparing for the trial. It provides insight into democratic principles, and relevant connections can be made to the present day. An obvious avenue to the present day, and an important connection to be made, is to examine how certain groups were represented in the media and targeted for investigation in the aftermath of 9/11. A central theme to explore is how much should freedom be restricted in order to preserve the safety of the country. This is evident in the following quote from Murrow: "We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men-- not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular . . . We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home."
Can dissent cross into treason, and at what point does dissent qualify as such? What role as citizens ought we to play in speaking out against the government? By examining these ideas in the historical context, we then examine ourselves and decide the role we will play as individuals in the modern world. After all, this is why we study history. History it is not just the study of the past, nor is history only the study of how we came to be who we are. We study history in an effort to understand ourselves in the present and who we should be in the future. Murrow's words and advice ring true more now than they ever did before.