computers or go to computer room. Go to http://www.teacheroz.com/fire.htm
Play the song by Billy Joel: We didn’t start the
fire. Explain that the song is about the time period
between 1950s to the 1980s the same time period that
encompasses the Cold War so chances are strong that most
of the references have a direct connection to the Cold
2. Students will pick 5 things from the song (there are
121 links) and go to the links. They must read the excerpts
and address the following questions/statements on their
1. Why is the mention of the person, object, or event
in this song?
2. Have students come up with a theme or way of identifying
it with the Cold War atmosphere. For example: nationalism,
poverty, propaganda, over-indulgence, Americana, dictators,
annihilation, devastation, psychological warfare, wars,
3. The next day, students will share their ideas with
the class and create a set of Cold War Themes/Topics
the teacher will type up or write on an overhead.
4. Students will now do a similar analysis of the lyrics
to Nena’s 99 Red Balloons song.
5. Hand out copies of the lyrics and if possible play
the song for them using your computer.
6. Have them take each verse section and determine what
the dominant theme(s) is/are using the lyric Analysis
form. When they are done, once again, have them write
a final statement at the bottom of the form.
Teacher Aid: The song begins with the release of 99 red
balloons into the sky. These same balloons are mistaken
for something else and therein begins the ‘mistake’.
Dominant theme should be devastation and total annihilation
(“In this dust that was a city”) due to paranoia
(“Panic Bells, its red alert”, mistakes (Back
at base, bugs in the software, Flash the message, something’s
out there”), and fear of the ‘other’ (“There’s
something here from somewhere else”). Other themes:
Total war (“This is it, boys, this is war”);
Heroism (“Everyone’s a superhero, Everyone’s
a Captain Kirk”); and Utter confusion (“Scramble
in the summer sky”).
7. Closure. Using the themes students have come up with,
ask them. Do these emotions or feelings exist today?
Who are they directed at in these modern times?
Prompt by asking:
What has replaced the Cold War in the movies? Who is
our new enemy? Do we need to have an enemy?