Power in Art: The Watchdog Role of Editorial Cartoonists
Average Duration
>60 min.
Difficulty Level
4
Lesson Host
Lalo Alcaraz
About

Learn about the history of editorial cartooning as a unique and powerful form of opinion journalism and practice analyzing cartoons from the 1700s to the present day.

News literacy topics

A free press; Investigative journalism/watchdog role; Opinion; Propaganda

Learning objectives

  • I can identify the primary elements of an editorial cartoon and explain how they work together to express an opinion.
  • I can summarize how editorial cartoons have held people in power accountable.
  • I can distinguish between functional and harmful representations of groups in political cartoons.
  • I can analyze and interpret an editorial cartoon.
  • I can describe why diverse voices and perspectives are important in editorial cartooning.
  • I can explain how modern forms of graphic political expression compare with editorial cartoons.

Essential questions

  • What makes political cartoons an effective and powerful form of expression? Why do they elicit strong responses, including from those in power?
  • What can a cartoon do or express that text cannot? What can a cartoon/drawing express that a photo cannot?
  • Are memes modern-day editorial cartoons — or are they different?
  • How can graphic political expression influence civic discourse and engagement?

Excerpt

“In this lesson, we’ll take a look at the unique and, from my perspective, amazing form of opinion journalism that is editorial cartooning. We’ll walk through the history of editorial and political cartoons and view some important examples together. We’ll also think about how these drawings can play a watchdog role in democracy — testing boundaries, pushing buttons, exposing wrongdoing and holding powerful people accountable for their actions and making some of them pretty darn angry in the process. I know my drawings have! In some cases this has resulted in cartoonists being harassed, threatened, jailed, tortured or even killed for their work.
So, what makes editorial cartoons an effective and powerful form of expression? Why do they elicit strong responses, including from those in power? I mean, they’re just drawings, right? Well, let’s see about that…”