As I See It
In teaching seventh-grade American history this year, I have been using a lot of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century political cartoons. Published in muckraking magazines like Punch and McClure’s, these cartoons take up several of the topics we cover during the first term each year: immigration, women’s suffrage, and imperialism. They are powerful images and the boys have become good at analyzing them: anarchists threatening the Statue of Liberty, nurses caring for soldiers in France while denied the vote at home, the American eagle astride the earth. The boys are quick to see that many of the controversies that divided Americans a hundred years ago continue to divide them today, so the cartoons become an accessible historical lens through which they are able to gain some perspective. They seem to take a particular interest in assessing the progress women have made since the ratification of the 19th Amendment, and recently we had an interesting discussion about the extent to which the U.S. should be involved in the world, and if Puerto Rico should become an American state.
These students are living in unsettling times and in all of this, I’m hoping that our study of American history will give the boys some reassurance that the nation has survived epidemics and political strife before and will again.
Fortiter et Recte!