I’d like to teach the world to sing

by Henry Farrell on April 13, 2006

I’ve just come from a seminar given by Michael Tierney, who before launching into his paper on the Very Serious Subject of principal-agent relations in multilateral development agencies, encouraged us to visit and contribute to his list of “international relations themed music”:http://mjtier.people.wm.edu/teaching/irplaylist.php. Apparently, he begins his early morning classes by playing a song appropriate to that week’s topic so as to wake up the students. Contributions include “One is the Loneliest Number (Three Dog Night)” for the class on Polarity/Hegemonic Stability Theory and “Peace, Love and Understanding (Elvis Costello)” for Democratic Peace Theory. He pleads for alternative suggestions “to rectify the bad musical tastes of my colleagues,” which are indeed rather impressive. Sounds like exactly the right sort of silliness for a blog’s comment section – I’ll start the ball rolling by suggesting Tom Lehrer’s “MLF Lullaby”:http://www.song-teksten.com/song_lyrics/tom_lehrer/that_was_the_year_that_was/mlf_lullaby/ for a class on multilateral alliances, and indeed that Lehrer’s “We’ll All Go Together When We Go”:http://www.atomicplatters.com/more.php?id=70_0_1_0_M replaces Metallica’s _Blackened_ as the theme song for the week on Nuclear War and Its Consequences.



Harry b 04.13.06 at 12:28 pm

Randy Newman’s “Political Science” for.. well, just about any class on IR taught here.


Bernard Yomtov 04.13.06 at 12:47 pm

Don’t forget Lehrer’s “Who’s Next.” It’s quite appropriate for proliferation issues.


Andrew Ti 04.13.06 at 1:02 pm

“We Both Go Down Together” The Decemberists for Nuclear Deterence?


C.J.Colucci 04.13.06 at 1:03 pm

Buffalo Springfield’s “Stop, Hey, What’s That Sound”? The title is “For What It’s Worth”.


stand 04.13.06 at 1:24 pm

Rock the Casbah” by The Clash


Kelly 04.13.06 at 1:42 pm

Oh, that’s awesome – I thought I was the only one who did that. Although, I tend to make mixes on my iPod and play them in the background over the course of the class. Once the students catch on to the idea, they try to guess the overall theme of the class from the music playing. Plus we play “tie the songs into the lyrics”…

Hrm. Now I must browse my playlists and see if I have anything to contribute,…


djz 04.13.06 at 2:29 pm

Noel Coward’s “Don’t Let’s Be Beastly to the Germans” (1943)

I suggest this song is a good example of tacit negotiation even in what is considered all out war. Inspired by Ch. 4 in Schelling’s Arms & Influence.


y 04.13.06 at 3:08 pm

We’ll try to stay serene and calm/When Ahmadinejad gets the bomb…


Brett 04.13.06 at 4:31 pm

I’m curious how the experiment works. I played Charles Mingus’s “Fables of Faubus” to students in my Law and Society class when we started talking about school desegregation, and I got a lot of blank stares and bemused glances. Maybe if I had brought in music all the time it would have seemed less strange. . .


harry b 04.13.06 at 5:04 pm

Tom Jones, “The Green Green Grass of Home” when teaching Benedict Anderson’s “Imagined Communities”

Noel Coward, “There are Bad Times Just Around the Corner” when teaching about the immediate post WWII negotiations between the Brits and the US over loans etc.


Slayton I. Mustgo 04.13.06 at 5:13 pm

Peter Gabriel’s War without Frontiers (Games without Tears). Or the other way around…


luci 04.13.06 at 5:17 pm

I had a professor play Union Sundown by Dylan for a bit on the Heckscher-Ohlin trade theory stuff. Seems a bit simple minded, but I guess the point was to come up with responses to the protagonist’s complaints.


yabonn 04.13.06 at 5:27 pm

Just put “Blame it on the Boogie” somewhere.

You know you want to.


Tom Scudder 04.13.06 at 5:28 pm

“Help Save the Youth of America” (by Billy Bragg) for Nuclear Deterrance, as well. (The cities of Europe have burned before / and they might well burn again / but if they do I’ll have you understand / that Washington will burn with them / Omaha will burn with them / Los Alamos will burn with them)


mc_masterchef 04.13.06 at 5:43 pm

Randy Newman’s “The World Isn’t Fair” for anything to do with Marxism.


DC 04.13.06 at 6:47 pm

“Should I Stay or Should I Go” – The Clash

The US presence in Iraq: “If I go there will be trouble/If I stay it will be double”


DC 04.13.06 at 6:53 pm

“Get Up, Stand Up” – Bob Marley

Politics of the Third World/Post-Colonialism


DC 04.13.06 at 6:55 pm

“Help!” – The Beatles

Humanitarian Intervention.


blah 04.13.06 at 7:52 pm

“That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” – The Smiths

The International Monetary Fund.


Vitia 04.13.06 at 10:54 pm

“Wake up” the students? With choices like those listed above, older than the students themselves, is there any possible outcome (Tom Lehrer?) other than the students secretly smirking at what an utter fuddy-duddy the instructor is?

Let me get this straight: we’re supposing that we’re going to make students more interested by playing songs that, uh, we like — songs that were popular before their parents concieved them.

Which way is the mountain/Mohammed thing working here?


dr ngo 04.13.06 at 11:31 pm

When explaining US policy in Vietnam by about 1966 (recognizing that it had somehwat different roots in earlier periods) I used to lead my class in singing – to the tune of Auld Lang Syne:

We’re here because
We’re here because
We’re here because
We’re here.

We’re here because
We’re here because
We’re here because
We’re here.

Ad infinitum.
Ad nauseam.


Henry (not the famous one) 04.13.06 at 11:54 pm

“London Calling” by the Clash for post-apocalypse wherever. And you can dance to it.

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Stones for interest-based bargaining (sorry for the jargon)

“(For the Love of) Money” by the O’Jays on monetarizing social relations (I don’t know what that means either, but I figured that “monetarizing” sounds intellectual—and anything by the O’Jays is better than anything by Pink Floyd)

“Love Train” by the O’Jays in place of “Peace Train” by Cat Stevens (see above–and it refers to the Mideast Peace Process before there even was one)

“The Thing That Makes You Rich Makes Me Poor” by Ry Cooder on the IMF

“The Cannon Song” by Brecht and Weill for the New World Order


Henry (not the famous one) 04.13.06 at 11:56 pm

“Don’t You Think That’s A Little Unfair” by Lefty Frizzel on the Developing World and Unequal Exchange


Gustav 04.14.06 at 4:09 am

Kraftwerk, “Computer world” for a class on computer ethics, integrity, surveillance society.

DAF, “Kebab Träume” for a class on integration and immigration issues in late-20th century Europe.


Nat Whilk 04.14.06 at 8:15 am

Tom Lehrer rulz!

You are the CT army.
Everyone of you cares.
You all hate poverty, war, and injustice,
… unlike the rest of us squares.

I think #20 has a point, though. I love “MLF Lullaby”, but do people still worry about German militarism, the way Lehrer did 40 years ago?


Donald A. Coffin 04.14.06 at 9:36 am

“London Calling.”

Phil Ochs’ “We’re the Cops of the World,” when dealing with western hemishpere issues. And it generalizes to the meddle east. (Well, I won’t correct that typo, now I’ve made it.)

Tom Paxton’s “White Bones of Allende.” (Guess what that’s about.)

Stones’ “Salt of the Earth.”


ProfWombat 04.14.06 at 9:16 pm

Eric Bogle, ‘The Green Fields of France’ aka ‘No Man’s Land’


DonBoy 04.15.06 at 9:00 am

Causes of WWII: “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” from Cabaret.


jen 04.15.06 at 8:26 pm

In response to vitia’s comments, as a student at William and Mary, where Tierney teaches, I can assure you that most of the students are familiar with the music suggested. It’s highly entertaining stuff and the change of pace is appreciated. I’ve personally never taken one of his classes, but from what I hear, he’s well liked. We actually like Tom Lehrer, it doesn’t get any better than ‘Poisoning Pigeons in the Park’, and even the chem professors play ‘The Elements’ sometimes. Even one of the poly sci profs (Lester) regularly works Rap lyrics into his lectures, if nothing else, it provides a laugh at an otherwise grade obsessed university.

Comments on this entry are closed.