Using Cartoons to Investigate Geographical Issues. Dr Grant Kleeman Macquarie University–Sydney. This presentation:. Examines cartoons as a form of political satire and social commentary Outlines the benefits derived from using cartoons in the classroom
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Dr Grant Kleeman
When used appropriately, cartoons meet a range of educational needs, and the skill of cartoon interpretation is something that has application well beyond the years of formal schooling.
Used in an educational context, cartoons are seen as having several distinct, though often interrelated, advantages. These include:
Gag (or pocket) cartoons generally take the form of a relatively small drawing accompanying a specific article or report.
Standalone caricatures differ from editorial cartoons in at least one important respect. In editorial cartoons, the idea comes first and the artwork emerges from it. The caricature, on the other hand, is a portrayal of personality.
Cartoons that incorporate a series of separate pictures to illustrate a story. These may be for mere enjoyment or they may have a role similar to political and editorial cartoons.
Exaggeration and distortion
Editorial and gag cartoons
The cartoonist’s message
Perspective & tone
Use of caption: Reinforces and helps contextualise the cartoon’s non-verbal elements.
Use of caricature: President George W Bush. Note the exaggeration of distinctive facial features.
Use of a visual metaphor: Stark, arid landscape used to further emphasise the plight and suffering of those living in the poverty stricken nations of the developing world.
Use of Symbolism: Uncle Sam – A symbol used to represent the United States of America.
Use of symbolism: Staring African child – representative of the suffering of people in the world’s poorest countries.
Use of a visual metaphor and exaggeration: An obese Uncle Sam used here to emphasise the affluence of the United States of America and the nations of the Western world more generally.
Use of symbolism: Aid begging bowl. A symbol/visual metaphor used to emphasis the plight of many of those living in developing countries. Also, represents the developing world’s dependence on aid.
Cartoonist’s perspective: Sympathetic to the plight of those living in the developing world.
Context: The cartoon was drawn as a response to the campaign mounted by Bob Geldof, Bono and Britain’s Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to address poverty in Africa. It involved cancelling the debt of world’s 18 poorest nations, pledging universal access to AIDS treatment and a commitment to double the aid given to African nations.
Cartoon by Sean Leahy of Brisbane’s Courier-Mail
Brainstorming – an instructional strategy used to generate, develop and refine ideas – can be undertaken independently by students, but is often more effective when employed in conjunction with group-based learning.Each member of the group can, for example, be asked to think creatively about a specific cartoon and then write down as many ideas as they can generate. Each member of the group then shares their ideas with their peers and the group then negotiates a consensus-based interpretative position. This process can be enhanced through the collaborative completion of a cartoon analysis scaffold or via the construction of a cartoon interpretation mindmap.
Issue: Do those living in developing countries have a right to enjoy the same material standard of living as people living in developed countries? What are the implications of this for global warming?
Issue: Global inequality and access to natural resources.
Large family home – used to symbilise the high standard of living enjoyed by those living in developed countries relative to those in developing countries.
Caption used to reinforce the point being made by the cartoonist.
Used to emphasise existing inequalities and the possible impact of rising material standards of living in developing countries.
House full of domestic appliances. Powered by electricity generated via the burning of fossil fuels which add to carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere.
Simple dwelling symbolic of the low living standards experienced by many of those living in developing countries.
Climate change, rising sea levels, glacial retreat and an increase in extreme weather events.
Two motor vehicles powered by petrol, a fossil fuel. The burning of fossil fuels is linked to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.
Symbolic of the gulf between the living standards of people in developing countries and those living in developed countries.
Few material possessions (especially electrical appliances and motor vehicles) – Low levels of energy consumption.
Having developed their skills of cartoon analysis via the group-based processes outlined above, students reach a stage where they are able to interpret cartoons independently. Students can further consolidate this skill by adopting a systematic approach to the interpretation of cartoons and the communication of the geographical knowledge and understandings derived from the process. This ‘scaffolding’ assists students to stage the cartoon interpretation process and structure their written responses.
When interpreting cartoons with a geographical theme, students should be encouraged to ask themselves the following three questions:
1.What information does the cartoon convey? This includes the issue being addressed and the perspective, stance or point of view adopted by the cartoonist.
2.What geographical concepts/generalisations are related to the issue addressed in the cartoon?
3.What are the geographical implications of the issue addressed by the cartoonist?
Using the Internet, have students locate cartoons indicative of a selected geographical issue such as global inequalities, globalisation, population growth, pollution or land degradation. Students can then analyse the cartoons using the processes outlined above, share their findings with the rest of the class and mount a wall display of the cartoons and the accompanying mindmap-based analysis.
Groupwork-based instructional strategies enable the gifted and talented student to relate to others, demonstrate their leadership skills, manage and influence others and appreciate and understand the views, attitudes and feelings of other students.
Sample cartoon-based instructional strategies
1. In groups, study the Nicholson cartoon and brainstorm the issue being addressed. Share your findings with the rest of the class. Use this information to write a short statement explaining the point Nicholson is tying to communicate in his cartoon.
2. Conduct a class debate. Topic: People in developed nations must accept a lower standard of living as part of their contribution to global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
3. In groups, brainstorm what you and your family could do to reduce greenhouse emissions. Make a list of the suggestions and share them with the rest of the class
Source: Kleeman, G. et al. (2004). Global Explorations. Melbourne: Heinemann.
As a class, discuss the point Nicholson is making in his cartoon. Use the knowledge gained to write a paragraph outlining your understanding of the issue.
As a class, discuss the point of view being expressed in the Nicholson cartoon. What does it tell us about the relative size of Australia’s official refugee intake? Why is the use of the ‘fortress’ significant in this context?
Working in groups, discuss the issue raised in the cartoon. Share the main points raised in your group’s discussion with the rest of the class. To what extent do you think this cartoon reflects the current state of Australia’s mandatory detention policy?
As a class, brainstorm the point Nicholson is making in his cartoon. Explain how the cartoon relates to the issues of land and water management?
Study the cartoon and then write a written response. Use the following points to help structure your response:
1. Identify the issue addressed in the cartoon.
2. Explain the geographical processes relevant to the issue.
3. Outline at least two different perspectives relevant to the issue addressed in the cartoon.
4. Identify the actions that individuals, groups and governments can take to address the issue highlighted by the cartoonist.
Nicholson on Cronulla
A Geography of ethnicity
Spatial conflict – the cultural importance of space
A matter of perspective
The following Internet websites provide access to a vast number of political cartoons:
The world’s newspapers can be accessed via: http://www.world-newspapers.com
Not just for fun