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Teaching with the News Archive
This lesson was published in December 2009.
The United States in Afghanistan: Analyzing Political Cartoons
In this lesson, students will:
- Explore viewpoints on the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.
- Interpret political cartoons and place them in the context of political discussion about Afghanistan.
- Identify the techniques used by cartoonists to express opinions.
Scholars Online Videos from Michael Bhatia:
Additional Online Resources
BBC Timeline: Afghanistan
Timeline from 1919 to present
Council on Foreign Relations: U.S. War in Afghanistan
An interactive timeline (from 1999 to present)
In the Classroom
- Discussing Afghanistan
Write the question "Why did President Obama increase U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan?" on the board. Have students brainstorm what they know about Afghanistan. Why did the United States invade Afghanistan in 2001? Why have some people argued for increasing troop levels? Why have some people argued against it? You may wish to show your students the brief Scholars Online videos about the Taliban and U.S. presence in Afghanistan.
- Analyzing Political Cartoons
Tell students that they are going to analyze a series of political cartoons to understand different viewpoints on U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. Tell students that it is not only the message of these cartoons that is important, but also how the message is conveyed. What techniques does the cartoonist use to convey his or her views?
Divide the class into groups of three or four each. Distribute "Political Cartoons in the Press" to each student and tell students to read the directions carefully. You may wish to spend extra time going over with students the different techniques listed on the handout. Assign each group two cartoons. Have groups discuss their assigned cartoons and answer the questions provided.
- Drawing Connections
Ask students to report on what they discussed. In each cartoon, what was the cartoonist's message? How did the cartoonist express this message? Ask students to point out the different techniques used and their significance. Why do students think the cartoonist chose these particular techniques? How did the techniques used affect the message? What information about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan do these different cartoons convey? Do the cartoons represent different points of view?
Have students consider current events in Afghanistan. What have students heard about these events on the news or from their families? Which of the cartoons best reflects students’ own thoughts about Afghanistan?
Let Your Voice Be Heard
Encourage your students to express their views.
Contact Elected Officials
Students could write letters to elected officials. They can find contact information for the White House at www.whitehouse.gov/contact and their U.S. senators and representatives at thomas.loc.gov.
Students could write letters to the editor of a local paper or write articles for the school or community newspaper.
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