Update August 25, 2020: I wrote an expanded and updated column about this incident for the Ft Worth Star-Telegram newspaper after Texas governor Greg Abbott called for the teacher to be fired and the Wylie school district to be investigated for using the cartoon below in a school assignment. See the column here in my blog and here on the Star-Telegram site.
There has been an interesting, testy confrontation at a school district in Texas about this cartoon by Arizona Daily Star Cartoonist, David Fitzsimmons.
My syndicate distributes David’s cartoons to over half of America’s daily, paid-circulation newspapers who subscribe to our service, including The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, not far from the Wylie Independent School District. A teacher posted David’s cartoon on the “Wylie ISD” Web site as part of an assignment for 8th grade students.
Testy police were quick to denounce the cartoon and the thin-skinned school district responded by taking the cartoon down and apologizing. In a letter to the school district, Joe Gamaldi, of the National Fraternal Order of Police, asked the district for an apology for posting this “abhorrent and disturbing” cartoon, writing, “We are willing to sit down with anyone and have a fact-based conversation about our profession, but divisiveness like your teachers showed does nothing to move that conversation forward.” The police organization then tweeted that the district had apologized and would also apologize to parents.
Cartoonist David Fitzsimmons responded,
“This cartoon was my response to the cold-blooded murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police officer depicted in the cartoon, which diagrams the historic roots of our systemic racism. I’m impressed the National Fraternal Order of Police is directing its fury at an illustration revealing how our present horrors are mere echoes of our cruel past. Perhaps it requires too much moral courage, or honest clear-eyed reflection, for the National Fraternal Order of Police to funnel their fury at the few racist police officers who disgrace their oath and their badges by disproportionately murdering African Americans.”
The interpretation of an editorial cartoon is part of state mandated AP History testing in 8th and 11th grade throughout America. Some of David’s biggest clients are the test preparation organizations, like Pearson Education, that license his editorial cartoons for these tests. It is the role of 8th grade teachers to both prepare students for these tests and to prepare them to evaluate controversies in the news by exposing them to different points of view about the issues of the day; there is no better way to do that than through editorial cartoons. David’s cartoons are widely used in middle and high school curriculums, not only in the USA, but around the world. David is among the most republished American editorial cartoonists. This cartoon, in particular, was widely reprinted in newspapers across our nation.
Cartoons about issues that don’t evoke passionate views on both sides of an issue don’t provide valuable lessons. The school district is teaching the wrong lesson by removing David’s cartoon and apologizing.
I give the teacher who used this cartoon as a teaching tool an “A” for her assignment. The timid school district and the National Fraternal Order of Police get an “F”.
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