The editorial cartoonist Phil Hands, who draws for the Wisconsin State Journal, took it upon himself recently to visit a local Madison, Wisconsin, elementary school to teach about the importance of freedom of speech, especially in light of the violent events that have shaken the cartooning world.
Sitting down with students at Van Hise Elementary School, Hands’ goal was to not only share facts about recent events like the attack on Charlie Hebdo, but to show students how cartoonists were getting standing up for their right to freely express themselves. Focusing on the how cartoonists around the world to showed solidarity for those impacted by the attack, Hands explained how cartoonists use their right to freedom of speech stand up and say something about the world we live in through art. Although some cartoonists have differing perspectives, their art represents a space where they can get their message across in a non-violent manner. For Hands, his goal was simple:
I hope [the students] understand the power of media and the power of cartoons. How expressing yourself visually can be important and is an option as well. I know some people have trouble expressing themselves in words sometimes, and sometimes pictures are the nice way to show people how to share their thoughts, especially, you know, deep passionate thoughts.
He ended his lesson by showing the students some of his own work, whose central focus is President Obama and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and helping students to create some of their own.
As adults who understand the greater implications of recent events, we can often accidentally overlook the importance using these events as vehicles for educating new generations about the importance of non-violent means of speaking up and, most importantly, their right to freedom of expression.
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Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!