Links for Learning
Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers and Students
This months Links for Learners will support high
school curriculum in:
Christian lifestylesfamily life; communication
of values; humor
Artdrawing and illustration; art careers
Historyillustrating American and world
history events/ politics
Links for Discussion Group Leaders and Participants
Look for connections for use in programs outside the classroom,
Parish sacramental preparation programs and
CCD classes; young adult discussion programs; seasonal discussion
groups; RCIA programs.
Parents will also find this material useful
in initiating discussion around the dinner table, in home
study, at family activities.
Understanding Basic Terms in This Months Article
Look for the key words and terms below as you read the article.
Definitions or explanations can be researched from the article
itself or from the resource materials cited throughout the
Links for Learners. You can also find a list of terms on the
glossary page of AmericanCatholicYouth.org.
Faith and values
Cartoon artistry significantly impacts our society. The
National Cartoonists Society boasts over 600 members working
in a wide range of artistic categories:
- Newspaper panels
- Newspaper illustration
- Gag cartoons
- Greeting cards
- New media
- Newspaper comic strips
- Magazine and book illustration
- Editorial cartoons
- Advertising and illustration
- Comic books
- Television animation
- Feature animation
While some might argue that gag cartoons and greeting cards,
for example, don't make a substantial contribution to our
lives, there's no question that even these art expressions
can give us a smile or touch our hearts when we need a boost.
Certainly cartoon art is memorable. This month's article
focuses on a well-known newspaper comic strip, Bil Keane's
The Family Circus,
a cartoon staple for decades. With his cartoons, Keane encourages
us to smile at little snapshots of family life.
Some cartoon work can be sarcastic, inappropriate, even raunchy.
Bil Keane chooses to spotlight family values and faith in
his work. Keane's son Jeff, himself an animator, says that
his dad's The Family Circus cartoons stay true to life.
This universality is the key to their success.
Contrast this with another application of cartooningeditorial
cartoons ("editoons"). Keane prefers not to focus on the negative
and the controversial. Newspaper editorial cartoons, however,
thrive on criticism, wit, ridicule, satire, social and cultural
comment. Perhaps the best example is the recently deceased
L. Block, known to readers of The
Washington Post as Herblock. Herblock's "editoons"
skewered politicians for decades, through 13 presidencies
from Herbert Hoover to George W. Bush. Herblock is especially
known for his ongoing criticism of Richard Nixon, from his
early days in Congress right through his last days in the
Reflecting on the work of the two men reveals that Herblock
may not have been all that different from Keane. Each man's
work originates in principles, in courage and in personal
character. Each man's work comes from what he knew from his
life experience. For Keane it has been a rich family life.
For Herblock it was the Washington political scene. Both have
created work of enduring quality. Keane's family themes reflect
universality. So does Herblock's political criticism. It is
said a recent viewing of Herblock's earlier cartoons caused
one woman to utter, "Wow! History repeats itself."
What common elements/themes can you find by comparing several
cartoon artists from different fields? Suggested artists might
include: Bil Keane on the family comics scene; Scott
Adams on the business side; Herblock or Jeff
Stahler on the editorial/political level; Jerry
Scott and Jim Borgman for teen humor. Other links/sources
for comparison include:
Schulz created a cast of enduring characters in Peanuts,
Snoopy being perhaps the best loved.
and Stan Berenstain created the Berenstain
Bears, childhood favorites among beginning and young
readers. The bears reflect a series of first-time experiences:
Mama's new job, a trip to the dentist, dealing with too
much birthday excitement or how to handle money.
- Lynn Johnston captures a taste of married life in For
Better or For Worse.
- Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert,
is wildly popular among business people who see themselves
in Dilbert's experiences with ridiculous company management
practices and workplace frustrations. Adams gets much of
his cartoon content from actual situations sent by e-mail
from his readers.
- Editorial cartoonist Jeff
Stahler of The
Cincinnati Post is a well-respected contributor
to the political scene. Stahler's editorial
cartoon, for example, depicts four presidents, Jefferson,
Lincoln and FDR with quotes from their profound speeches,
then Clinton saying, "Show me the money."
creations, from Snow White through Mulan,
touch the human spirit, portraying courage, trust, hope.
After reading some of the above bios on artists from several
categories, and viewing some of their cartoon work. Discuss
the following points:
- Do the artists have anything in common?
- What values do they hold dear, based on their bios and
their cartoon themes?
- What principles motivate them?
- What does each contribute to society?
- Do the images they create carry any power?
- Do they reflect any truth in our lives?
- How does the impact of print cartoon images compare to
that of television and feature film animation?
Images of the Teen Spirit
Has anyone captured the teenage experience in cartoon
form? Who, if anyone, depicts teens with truth and humor?
Find a cartoon or comic strip that illustrates what's important
to you as a teen. For examples, look at the newspaper comic
created by Jerry
Scott and Jim Borgman. Or Luann
by Greg Evans. Do these comics speak to your life, your values,
your sense of humor? Discuss with your class or group the
life's truth captured in the cartoons.
Try your hand at creating your own cartoon to illustrate
a truth, a reality in your life. More experienced artists
can use the skills they've learned in art classes. Those of
you who enjoy computer skills can visit an image
gallery for animated Web images that may serve as the
basis for your own animated cartoon.