Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Comics and Political Fundraising: An Introduction to Democracy and Patriotism in the Classroom

The Wall Street Journal has a story about Sean Tevis who is running for office in Kansas against a three-term incumbent. The first-time wanna-be legislator has amassed a war chest larger than his opponent and he did it using an online comic strip and embedded computer code. This politician raised more than $95,000, which came from donors outside of his state of Kansas.

Click here to see more of Tevis' campaign comics.

The power of comics and technology at its best.

How can classroom teachers use similar technology and approaches? I advocate for students creating their own comics demonstrating their knowledge of any particular subject or issue. For the upcoming political season, students could have mock elections and collect data on their classroom, grade and school presidential and local electoral preferences and then compare and contrast that data to the state and national data.

Students could create comics that demonstrate a particular position of a candidate or issue. At the same time civil discourse, scholarly debate, and unemotional reflection can be emphasized with the students. Rather than a lecture about controlling their emotions and behaviors, the students can actively practice such behaviors with an authentic debate of issues that impact those students and their family lives.

Not to mention, the students can learn about democracy as the unifying concept of a diverse society, and patriotism beyond flag waving and recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance. Not that flag waving or recitations are bad or negative things, unless they are the sole component of a patriotic curriculum.

Our classrooms and our communities are full of clashing cultures and incompatible mini-societies centered on race, gender, sexual orientation, culture and religion. These divisive issues are used as tools for discrimination against groups, and they have significant implications in the classroom. If unity is to be achieved, it will not occur on the foundation of one of these contentious issues. If we are to create civil societies, then we must unit students on common belief in democracy. Comics are already a part of that democratic literary tradition.

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