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Secrets, Lies, and Atomic Spies

Ideas from Teachers


(Gr. 11)
As an English teacher, I feel it is very important for students to experience not only the literature but also the entire political, social, religious, or economic factors that prompted and inspired an author to respond to his environment.

I use NOVA's "Secrets, Lies & Atomic Spies" program as an introduction to the tension between the United States and Russia during the 1950s. I show the program before a lesson I developed around Arthur Miller's play, "The Crucible." My goal is to help students understand the connection between the hysteria during the witchcraft trials in Salem and the Red Scare.

I assign students to groups and each group takes on one of the following role: U.S. government, Russia, the Rosenbergs, or the general public. Group members write about their own feelings regarding the events at that time. Their writing takes the form of a newspaper article, an interview, or an e-mail. As a culminating project, students write an essay or research project investigating the principal players in the witch hunt of the 1950s.

Questions for students after viewing the program include:

  1. If your country is perceived to be in danger from hostile forces, do the freedoms granted by the U.S. Constitution still hold?

  2. Where do you draw the line as to suspension of the rights of individuals?

  3. Can you morally deny one person's rights while allowing them for another in the same country?

  4. Does being American grant you equal, more, or fewer rights than someone from another country?

Sent in by
Brian Homan
Beavercreek High School
Beavercreek, OH


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