Kris Peterson, Literacy Specialist, School District of New Berlin, Wisconsin
The Crucible is a play written by Arthur Miller, telling a story of 17th century Salem, Massachusetts, and the accusations of witchcraft and subsequent witchcraft trials. It is reported that Miller wrote this play to draw attention to the parallels of the hunt for communists in the 20th century.
This is a required read for many high school English Language Arts programs. Students meet characters who are pure of heart and decent citizens, yet accused of being witches. Fear and greed inspire characters to accuse friends and neighbors, hoping to be left alone or gain land for themselves. The community is torn apart, and mistrust is rampant. The system is broken.
Cross-curricular connections help students see relevance in instruction and connectivity throughout their school day. This is a great piece to tie with social studies curriculum involving the 1950s and Joseph McCarthy’s charge to find and accuse communists. The story provides teachable points about the dangers of group mentality and the fact that fear and greed can cause otherwise rational people to do very irrational things.