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Analyzing Editorial Cartoons: Foreign Aid

Lesson Plan Objectives | Historical Context | Analyzing the Cartoon | Sources| What Classroom Teachers Say

 

 


ID: 1nd/bx/7/2
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Lesson Plan Objectives

As students analyze the editorial cartoon, they will

  • Understand the context in which the cartoon was drawn
  • Discover the basic elements of the cartoon
  • Find and interpret the icons that appear in the cartoon
  • Identify the cartoonist’s message
  • Develop skill in seeing and understanding persuasive techniques used by cartoonists
  • Identify qualities of cartooning such as sensory, formal, expressive, technical, and judgmental

“A cartoon does not tell everything about a subject. It's not supposed to. No written piece tells everything either. As far as words are concerned, there is no safety in numbers. The test of a written or drawn commentary is whether it gets at an essential truth.”

“The Cartoon by Herb Block” posted at http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/swann/herblock/cartoon.html

 

 
   

“Cartooning is an irreverent form of expression, and one particularly suited to scoffing at the high and the mighty. If the prime role of a free press is to serve as critic of government, cartooning is often the cutting edge of that criticism.”

“The Cartoon by Herb Block” posted at http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/swann/
herblock/cartoon.html

Historical Context for the Cartoon

Although foreign aid is not a hotly debated topic today, Republicans in Congress actively opposed the expansion of the foreign aid program proposed by Democratic administrations in the 1960s. One of the major components of aid took the form of agricultural exports. In this cartoon, Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen sharpens his axe in an effort to “cut” the program.

 

   
   

“The political cartoon is not a news story and not an oil portrait. It's essentially a means for poking fun, for puncturing pomposity.”

“The Cartoon by Herb Block” posted at http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/swann/
herblock/cartoon.html

 

 

 

Analyzing the Cartoon

What follows are guidelines for analyzing or interpreting a cartoon. Not all of them will apply to every cartoon, of course.

Visual Elements

  1. List the objects or people you see in the cartoon. Sometimes cartoonists overdraw, or exaggerate, the physical characteristics of people or things in order to make a point. When you study a cartoon, look for any characteristics that seem overdone or overblown (facial characteristics and clothing are some of the most commonly exaggerated characteristics.) Then, try to decide what point the cartoonist was trying to make through exaggeration.

  2. Which of the objects on your list are symbols? Cartoonists use simple objects, or symbols, to stand for larger concepts or ideas.

  3. What do you think each symbol means?

Words (not all cartoons have words)

  1. Identify the cartoon caption or title.

  2. Locate three words or phrases used by the cartoonist to identify objects or people within the cartoon. Cartoonists often label objects or people to make it clear exactingly what they stand for. Watch out for the different labels that appear in a cartoon, and ask yourself why the cartoonist chose to label that particular person or object. Does the label make the meaning of the object clearer?

  3. Record any important dates or numbers that appear in the cartoon.

  4. Which words or phrases in the cartoon appear to be the most significant?

  5. List adjectives that describe the emotions portrayed in the cartoon.

Interpretation

  1. Describe the action taking place in the cartoon.

  2. Explain how the words in the cartoon clarify the symbols.

  3. Explain the message of the cartoon.

  4. What is the cartoonist’s opinion on this issue?

  5. Who would agree or disagree with the cartoon’s message? Why?

  6. Did you find this cartoon informative? Why or why not?

  7. Did you find this cartoon persuasive (not all editorial cartoons are drawn to persuade, however)? Why or why not?
 

Sources

 

What Classroom Teachers Say

Students should decide if the cow represents a “cash cow” or agriculture. They might also note that Dirksen’s labored expression indicates that the work of opposing the program is hard.

For teachers, the cartoon could be used to teach units about the government budget, congressional leadership, and divided government.

 

 

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The Dirksen Congressional CenterCopyright 2007

Subject Headings Chronological Listing Value of Cartoons for Educational Purposes