CRNI is disturbed to learn that amid complaints from parents and local police, the Governor of Texas has now intervened in a controversy over use of an editorial cartoon as part of a lesson in the Wylie Independent School District.
• UPDATE: NATIONAL COALITION AGAINST CENSORSHIP + 10 FREE SPEECH & EDUCATION NGOS HAVE WRITTEN TO WYLIE INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, PROTESTING THEIR DECISION •
We’re grateful to Daryl Cagle for bringing this incident to our attention, summarised well on his blog and including a robust response from the cartoonist involved, David Fitzsimmons of the Arizona Daily Star.
Fitzsommons’ cartoon was drawn in May in response to the alleged murder of George Floyd, the event that sparked the worldwide #BlackLivesMatter protest movement. As incidents of police violence against African American citizens continue – most recently the shooting of Jacob Blake – it is apparent the issues addressed by the cartoon remain vital and that the teacher concerned was perfectly apposite in selecting it as part of an online lesson this month. It is of great concern that Texas Governor Greg Abbott is now pushing for an investigation and dismissals despite the withdrawal of the material and an apology.
Other than the polarised reactions elicited by the cartoon (perhaps exaggerated in the context of the ongoing party convention season) a notable feature of the complaints made, particularly by the police fraternity spokesperson seen here, is what might be best described as “cartoon illiteracy”. Our Executive Director takes up the topic below.
Editorial cartoons are a commonplace resource in school curricula across the Unites States of America and licensing for educational purposes represents a valuable income stream at a time when press and media visibility for political cartoonists is dwindling. See our recent emergency statement about cartoonists’ viability in general.
“I dearly wish Texans aggrieved by what they felt they saw in this excellent Fitzsimmons cartoon would take a second look. The main subject of the cartoon is not the contemporary police officer, who is just the last in a series of avatars for oppression, but the identical African American figure that is portrayed throughout. The bottom right corner of the composition is empty; racism will assume yet another face in the future unless we eradicate it.
“In any case, the whole purpose and intent of an editorial cartoon is a reflection of one opinion on an issue and in the context of educational use students are not compelled to agree with it but rather to examine that view and identify the historical events to which it refers. To dispense with cartoons simply because they evoke a reaction is an affront to the intelligence of the young and speaks to an insidious lack of trust in teachers. This culture war farrago cannot be allowed to establish a precedent.”Terry Anderson, Executive Director, CRNI