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Teaching with the News
U.S. Policy in the Middle East: Analyzing Political Cartoons
In this lesson, students will:
- Explore current issues in the Middle East and their relation to U.S. policy
- Interpret political cartoons on Middle East politics
- Identify the techniques used by cartoonists to express political opinion
In the Classroom
Begin class with a brief discussion on current events in the Middle East. You may wish to use the map included in the PowerPoint for students to refer to throughout the discussion. What is happening in the Middle East today? What strategic interests does the United States have in the Middle East? How has U.S. foreign policy affected the region? How have U.S. relations in the Middle East changed in the past few years? You may wish to show the following Scholars Online videos to introduce students to topics that will be referenced in the cartoons.
What are the United States’ interests in the Middle East?
What is Iran’s role in the Middle East?
Divide the class into groups of three or four each. Distribute “Political Cartoons” to each student. Review the introduction with your class, emphasizing the techniques cartoonists use to convey an opinion on political issues. Complete page 2, “Presidential Medals,” with your students to give them a sense of the assignment. What are the techniques being used? What is the message of the cartoon? How is this cartoon related to what the class knows about the Middle East?
Assign the remaining cartoons to students, two cartoons per group. Have the students discuss the cartoons and answer the questions provided. Inform students that they will be presenting their work to the class.
Have each group present on their political cartoons. If you have multiple groups analyzing the same cartoons, you may wish to have them present together or on different questions from the activity.
As a class, discuss how cartoonists provide perspective on political issues. What topics do the cartoonists bring up? What techniques are used in the cartoons that students analyzed? Were students able to identify the message of each cartoon? If so, what were the cartoonists trying to express? Which techniques did students think were most effective in getting the message across? Were certain techniques easier to identify than others? Why? How do these cartoons relate to U.S. policy in the region? Do students think that the cartoons they analyzed give favorable or unfavorable views of U.S. foreign policy? Ask students to give specific examples. If students were making their own cartoons on the Middle East today, what opinions would they want to express?
Have students consider some alternate titles and/or captions for the political cartoons on the handout. You may also want to have students create their own political cartoons related to current events in the Middle East.
Additional Resources from the Choices Program
The Middle East in Transition: Questions for U.S. Policy
Drawing on maps, cartoons, and primary sources, students examine the history of U.S. involvement in the Middle East from 1900 to the present.
The U.S. Role in a Changing World
Readings, primary sources, political cartoons, maps, statistics, and simulations draw students into the promise and uncertainty of the modern era.
The terms used on page one of the handout were adapted from a lesson on the Library of Congress website.