Input needed

I am using an activism theme in my classroom next semester. Each student will be required to select a cause, then complete a series of writing projects designed to promote that cause.

Of course, in the midst of becoming more effective writers, my kids also have to prepare for their End-of-Instruction test — which will require them to identify some literary devices — so we can’t neglect that.

The kids’ favorite way to learn literary terms is to listen to a song and then identify all the figurative language and sound devices used in the lyrics, so to tie our literature and composition lessons together (and to reinforce the idea that words are powerful tools), I would like to confine next semester’s playlist to music with a social conscience.

As I’m sure you can imagine, my iPod contains a pretty extensive collection of left-leaning anthems — everything from Peter, Paul and Mary’s version of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” to Steve Earle’s “Amerika v. 6.0” and Eminem’s “Mosh” — but my goal for the semester is to help my kids become effective activists for their own beliefs, not indoctrinate them with mine, so I really need some conservative stuff to balance things out.

I’ve got Hag’s “Fightin’ Side of Me,” Charlie Daniels’ “In America,” and Darryl Worley’s “Have You Forgotten?” on the list, but I’d like to give the kids something a little more substantial than a handful of Nashville cliches about God and country. (I’d also like to find stuff that doesn’t suck. I can listen to a crappy song once, maybe twice, but I am not willing to hear Toby Keith bleat about putting a boot up somebody’s arse six times in a single day, y’know?)

Thanks in advance for your ideas … and feel free to post any liberal-leaning suggestions you might have, too. Whatever doesn’t make it into a lesson plan will probably end up on a Folk Thursday playlist somewhere along the way. 🙂


10 thoughts on “Input needed”

  1. Maybe “Taxman” by the Beatles? I’m not sure that the Beatles can truly be considered right wing, but the song leans right of center. I’d imagine Ted Nugent has a right wing anthem or two, and Rush has some songs steeped in Ayn Rand philosophy. More libertarian than big R Republican, but right of center nonetheless.

  2. Thanks! I hadn’t even thought of “Taxman.” That’s a great one. I looked for some Nuge stuff, but I couldn’t find anything political in his catalog (and as Ron pointed out, whatever I found would probably get me fired if I played it in class). I’ll have to look up some Rush lyrics and see what I can find.

  3. How about Lee Greenwood singing “God Bless the USA,” though he might not have written it…didn’t look that up. But really for songs with a message I think of Phil Ochs or Pete Seegar…oops you said conservative. There is a site I haven’t checked it out but it might have some worthwhile suggestions.

  4. Thanks for the link! I’m actually going to use Greenwood’s song as part of a lesson on verifying information. There was a rumor circulating for years that he was a draft dodger who fled to Canada rather than serve in Vietnam. The rumor is completely false, but it persists, despite extensive evidence to the contrary. We’re going to spend one day sifting through B.S. and learning how to debunk myths….

  5. What a great Idea for a unit!
    If I have a kid needing extra credit I generally give them a cd with 15 tracks on it and ask for a page of reflective writing on each track.

  6. Well, it’s not “conservative” surely, but how about the Beatles “Revolution”? It blew a lot of minds back in the day, because in a time when “takin’ it to the streets” (another candidate for political, anyway), it DIDN’T advocate revolution …

    Also, there’s (again, not precisely conservative), “Bullet the Blue Sky”, “Sunday, Bloody, Sunday” (assuming you don’t mind getting into ‘The Troubles’) and “Walk On” by U2, among lots of others which I can’t think of at the moment.

  7. Thinking about Phil Keaggy reminded me of an old hymn he rearranged: “Rise Up, O Men of God.” Maybe not what you had in mind, but it does constitute a call to action.

  8. The Eagles’ “Get Over It” certainly fits the bill. It does use the “A” word (once) so that might be a problem for use in a classroom.

  9. Emily,

    I made a public access TV show in Austin for 19 1/2 years, producing 563 shows featuring news and information left out or distorted by the establishment media. Two of these shows featured protest songs from many performers, but only one is up on the internet at this time. If you would like to see this program, please click on

    I have a DVD of the other program at my house in Tulsa.

  10. Here is what my class is doing:

    For this discussion, let’s practice close reading of a literary text. I have selected U2’s song, “Bullet the Blue Sky,” from their Joshua Tree album. Read the lyrics carefully, and then answer the following questions:

    1. Explain four instances of symbolism and figurative language in the song.
    See Session 3’s lecture for a refresher on symbols and figurative language.
    2. Do you find a protagonist in this song? If so, who
    3. Do you find an antagonist in this song? If so, who or what is it?
    4. Is there a central conflict in this song? If so, what is it?
    5. What themes do you find in this song?
    6. How have the songwriters used sounds to draw the attention of the listeners?
    Optional question for anybody with more of a music background who can listen to the song:

    7. How have the songwriters used sound effects and other musical elements to draw the attention of the listeners?

    Bullet the Blue Sky

    In the howling wind comes a stinging rain
    See it driving nails
    Into the souls on the tree of pain
    From the firefly, a red orange glow
    See the face of fear
    Running scared in the valley below

    Bullet the blue sky
    Bullet the blue sky
    Bullet the blue
    Bullet the blue

    In the locust wind comes a rattle and hum
    Jacob wrestled the angel
    And the angel was overcome
    You plant a demon seed
    You raise a flower of fire
    See them burning crosses
    See the flames higher and higher

    Bullet the blue sky
    Bullet the blue sky
    Bullet the blue
    Bullet the blue

    This guy comes up to me
    His face red like a rose on a thorn bush
    Like all the colors of a royal flush
    And he’s peeling off those dollar bills
    Slapping them down
    One hundred, two hundred
    And I can see those fighter planes
    And I can see those fighter planes
    Across the mud huts where the children sleep
    Through the alleys of a quiet city street
    You take the staircase to the first floor
    Turn the key and slowly unlock the door
    As a man breathes into a saxophone
    And through the walls you hear the city groan
    Outside is America
    Outside is America

    Across the field you see the sky ripped open
    See the rain through a gaping wound
    Pounding on the women and children
    Who run
    Into the arms
    Of America

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