McCarthyism and the Red Scare

A TED-Ed video followed by several APUSH Topic 8.3 MCQs, SAQs, and LEQs

In March 2017, educator Ellen Schrecker and the folks at TED-Ed produced a very good 5:43 animated video entitled What is McCarthyism and How Did it Happen?

This year, for the first time ever, I showed this video to my APUSH students. I will show again next year, but unlike this year, will then provide them with a chance, after they have watched the video, to answer the APUSH style Multiple Choice, Short Answer, and Long Answer questions found below.

The MCQs

Questions 1–5 refer to the excerpt below

“McCarthyism is Americanism with its sleeves rolled.”

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205 — a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

“Our job as Americans and as Republicans is to dislodge the traitors from every place where they’ve been sent to do their traitorous work.”

“The reason why we find ourselves in a position of impotency is not because the enemy has sent men to invade our shores, but rather because of the traitorous actions of those who have had all the benefits that the wealthiest nation on earth has had to offer — the finest homes, the finest college educations, and the finest jobs in Government we can give.”

* US Senator Joseph McCarthy, (D-Wisconsin)

Q1
The term McCarthyism refers to

  • A. the geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies, the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc, which began following World War II.
  • B. the policy of protecting the interests of native-born or established inhabitants against those of immigrants.
  • C. the power of the courts to declare law unconditional
  • D. the practice of making accusations of subversion and treason, especially when related to communism and socialism.

Q2.
What was the goal of McCarthyism?

  • A. Rescinding democratic freedoms of citizens
  • B. Destroying careers of politicians
  • C. Exposing suspected communists in the government
  • D. Exposing suspected communists in the government and other institutions

Q3.
How long did the McCarthy Era last?

  • A. Only one year
  • B. About ten years
  • B. Slightly over twenty-five years
  • D. It never ended, it continues still today

Q4.
Which organization run by J. Edgar Hoover sought to hunt down and eliminate communists from any position of influence in society?

  • A. The CIA
  • B. The FBI
  • C. The Supreme Court
  • D. The Senate

Q5.
Which of the following is taking place at the time of the McCarthy Era?

  • A. The Russian Communist Revolution
  • B. The Vietnam War
  • C. The First Red Scare
  • D. The Second Red Scare

Questions 6–7 refer to the excerpt below

Actor Gary Cooper testifying before HUAC. 1947. Getty Images

Q6.
The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC)

  • A. Was headed by Senator Joe McCarthy
  • D. Was created to investigate alleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of private citizens, public employees, and those organizations suspected of having either fascist or communist ties.
  • C. Had little or no connection with the investigation into alleged communist propaganda and influence in the Hollywood motion picture industry.
  • D. Investigated the 1972 break-in of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters located within the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C.

Q7.
Failure to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee could have resulted in all of the following except being:

  • A. Blacklisted and fired
  • B. Jailed for contempt
  • C. Deported
  • D. All the above

The SAQs

  1. During the McCarthy Era, Americans experienced a Second Red Scare. Name and briefly describe one external (meaning it didn’t happen in the U.S.) cause of this Red Scare.
  2. Name and briefly describe one internal cause of the Second Red Scare.
  3. Name and briefly describe one federal response to the Second Red Scare.
  4. Briefly describe one major similarity between the McCarthy Era Second Red Scare and the First Red Scare.
  5. Briefly describe one major difference between the McCarthy Era Second Red Scare and the First Red Scare.
  6. The First Red Scare occurred immediately after World War I. Name and briefly describe one external (meaning it didn’t happen in the U.S.) cause of this Red Scare.
  7. Name and briefly describe one internal cause of the First Red Scare.
  8. Name and briefly describe one piece of historical evidence in support of the claim that the First Red Scare resulted in official restrictions on freedom of speech.
  9. Name and briefly describe one piece of historical evidence in support of the claim that the First Red Scare resulted in attacks on labor activism.
  10. Name and briefly describe one piece of historical evidence in support of this claim that the First Red Scare resulted in attacks on immigration and immigrant culture.

The LEQs

  1. Evaluate the extent to which American government officials sought to expose suspected communists in the government and other institutions from 1947 to 1975.
  2. Evaluate the relative importance of the different causes of McCarthyism.

Sidenote #1

If you by chance have a few MCQs, SAQs, or LEQs that you’ve created and want to see added to this post, just email them to me at ppaccone@smusd.us. I’d gladly include.

Sidenote #2

Below, are some other very good video that tells the story of the McCarthy Era and the First and Second Red Scare

The Second Red Scare by Adam Norris
The First and Second Red Scare by Yohuru Williams
The Second Red Scare by Steve Heimler

Sidenote #3

Aside from the above, I also encourage my students to watch APUSH teacher Jose Gregory’s 8.3 AP Daily videos (The Red Scare). I’m a big fan of the AP Daily videos.

Yes, I have heard many AP teachers describe the AP Daily videos as “boring,” worse even, but that’s not how I view the videos.

I view the AP Daily videos as content-rich, well-structured, professionally-looking, and well-presented bite-sized bits of knowledge that allow for all students to learn the needed content and skills in as little time as possible.

Below is what I especially like about the AP Daily videos (Mr. Gregory’s videos, in particular):

  • That the information found on each slide is so well written and formatted that the students who want to take notes need only take screenshots of the slides, rather than have to listen over and over again to what the video-producing teacher has said to get the gist of the message. To put it another way, I find the AP Daily videos infinitely more “note-taking friendly” than any of the content-delivering videos produced by various AP teachers found on Youtube, though I think many of these teachers have also produced high-quality videos. I, in fact, show some of their videos in class on occasion, though only after having had my students watch the AP Daily videos.
  • That the AP Daily video-producing teachers don’t attempt to interject humor, movie clips, silly faces, and sound effects into their videos. I prefer the no-nonsense, I’m not-going-to-waste-your-time approach; finding the alternative, and their attempts to engage, generally an unwanted distraction.
  • That AP Classroom provides me with the ability to hold my students accountable to the watching of the videos by way of an online, though often administered in class, AP Classroom Topic Question Quiz.
  • That AP Classroom provides me with an indication of the extent to which the students in my classes have answered the AP Classroom Topic Question Quiz questions correctly.
  • That AP Classroom provides me with an indication of the extent to which my students have “watched” each of the assigned videos.
  • That AP Classroom does not allow students to skip through a video and still earn credit for having “watched” the video. Students must watch the entire video for AP Classroom to so register.

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Peter Paccone

High school APUSH teacher with much in-class and online teaching experience. Also a blogger, keynote speaker, editor, podcast host, and conference presenter.