WWW: Using Editorial Cartoons to Teach Social Justice

pazIf I had to choose one point to take from our recent professional development workshop on Alice Leora Briggs’ depiction of the violence in Juárez, it is this:

Artists play a critical role in exposing injustice.

It’s true. Hypocrisy and greed are never safe around an artist. And among artists, there can be none more unabashedly political than an editorial cartoonist. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s: “Teaching Tolerance” website has a powerful series of political cartoons that can help students explore social justice issues while building important language skills like irony, satire, caricature, dialogue, etc…

The series, “Using Editorial Cartoons to Teach Social Justice,” features 14 standards-based lessons revolving around issues like Racial Profiling, Intolerance, Gay Rights, Immigration Debates, Bullying, and more. The lessons are multidisciplinary and geared toward middle and high school students. Essential questions guide the exercises:

  • How are editorial cartoons different from other kinds of art and media?
  • Why do artists create editorial cartoons?
  • How can images and text work together to deliver a message?
  • How do I interpret an editorial cartoon?
  • What are the important elements that many artists use in editorial cartoons?

I recommend starting with the “Introduction” and then selecting whichever lessons you like. I am highlighting a few that seemed particularly powerful to me:

Poverty/Environmental Justice: This cartoon uses visual composition and satire to expose one of the most fundamental distinctions between the rich and the poor: where we live. The lesson will introduce students to the concept of “environmental justice,” demonstrating that it is no coincidence that the pollution of oil wells, factories and toxic waste dumps disproportionately affect the poor.

Racial Profiling: This cartoon uses irony to attack Arizona’s nativist SB 1070, which was introduced to authorize police to stop people who look like they might be in the United States illegally.

Language Diversity: This cartoon uses satire in a frontal assault against language discrimination. There are also two key lessons within this lesson that will help students make sense of the cartoon’s message: “Linguicism,” and “Everyone Has an Accent.”

Hope this helps.
– Adam


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