Teachers of the World, Unite! Cartoon Triggers Controversy In Iowa Over Depiction of Capitalism

This cartoon is causing quite a stir in Des Moines. The cartoon was handed out by a teacher in Roosevelt High School and local business people like Jeff Travis are irate that it is a propaganda demonizing capitalism and there are demands for discipline of the teacher. However, there is another side to the story and a legitimate concern for academic freedom.

The flier states “Communism stands for equal sharing of the work according to the benefits and the ability, but in capitalism an individual is responsible for his works and if he wants to raise the ladder. While the profit of any enterprise is equally shared by all in Communism, the profit in the capitalist structure belongs to the owner only.” That is clearly a distorted view and would be a serious problem if offered as a true account in the history class. Travis for example was shocked by the depiction on a personal level: “I took great offense. I don’t smoke big stogies. I don’t have a big gut. My employees are not shackled. If this was a fair representation, where is the fence around the workers on the communist side? Where is the guy holding a gun to their heads saying either comply or die? Where are the bodies that Stalin and Mao put in the graves.”

However, in a posted statement, the school is saying that the flier is indeed propaganda and was distributed as an example of such historical depictions:

“[T]he class, 20th Century History, was studying the Cold War and propaganda, looking at some of the arguments both sides made about why their system was best on a range of topics, including their economies. The handout simply highlights the differences between capitalism and communism, and some of the arguments made during the period of the Cold War.”

Here is the actual lesson plan and material that encourages students to think critically of such material. Yet various conservative sites are not accepting that rational for the distribution of such material.

Academic freedom is more often discussed in college and graduate schools but it is also necessary in high schools. Teachers must be given some sense of freedom in challenging the preconceptions and perceptions of students. The materials discuss how capitalism is based on a concept of individual rights transcending society and government. While I would have modified the material to point out other sharp differences, including the political aspects of the economic system in Communist countries, such issues may also have been addressed more fully in class. My concern is over a lesson plan and material that is being attacked in such a public way without greater consideration of the intent of the teacher and actual class discussion.

What do you think?

Source: Examiner as first seen on Reddit.

26 thoughts on “Teachers of the World, Unite! Cartoon Triggers Controversy In Iowa Over Depiction of Capitalism”

  1. The actual wingnuts here are those offended by this cartoon and using it to attack free speech and the truth.

    Obviously the teacher is promoting economic fact; and not promoting China or other so-called “communist” countries (with their state capitalist economies, as their own leaders and founders admitted).

    “communism” (also called “communalism”) comes from the word “commune,” which defines the numerous cooperative democratically self-reliant townships throughout central Europe, and the Middle East following the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution (where the term “community” comes from). The Communist Manifesto was written in 1848 to advocate this form of democratic economy and government on a global scale (i.e.; socialism).

    This is exactly what the Quakers, who wrote the original draft of the Bill of Rights, practiced and promoted.

    And, yes, capitalism DOES work much like what the cartoon says. Workers don’t need to be shackled to be exploited–and they/we are, as anyone who reads the business pages can tell. Any type of master-servant model (be it government or private) involves exploitation and dictatorial control. That`s a fact of any kind of capitalism.

    So I say accept the truth and deal with it.

  2. If liberals are so upset with capitalism, go out and create companies which treat workers well. – Bron

    We do. I did. It did well for 20 years. And I am as liberal as they come.

    Look around you, Bron, without those blinders on…

  3. Elaine:

    That cartoon and others which depict a fat cat capitalist with a big cigar is the quintessential figure and has been used for a very long time to depict capitalists.

    And I understand it isnt liberals alone who dont like capitalism, quite a few conservatives dont either. And many republicans give capitalism a bad name by being venal pricks to their employees.

    Personally I like the fourth way, a free market system in which workers share 50% of all profits with the owner. Or employee owned companies where everyone is a share holder and contributes to the success of the company. But in a free society you can do whatever you want.

    If liberals are so upset with capitalism, go out and create companies which treat workers well. Facebook just made the mural painter a multi-millionaire by giving him stock instead of paying him a fee. Socialism isnt going to do that but capitalism can and does do that.

    A society/people should be free to do what they want to do [as long as it doesnt impact someone’s rights], you like a safety net? Great, more power to you, now go out and create a company which provides a safety net to workers and quit asking others to do it for you.

    Progressives always seem to want to change society by forcing others to change. Why dont progressives start changing society by starting businesses and showing the rest of us how a socially conscious business works instead of forcing others to pay for your grand schemes which typically go bankrupt or dont work.

    It is probably easier to use government to force people to do things than to have to get your hands dirty and actually create something.

    Seriously, if you had a company which gave 50% of profits to employes and paid for day care and health insurance, I imagine you would have no shortage of willing employees.

  4. Sometimes Hugo Chavez says some interesting things……take for instance…his stance on the Bush Policy’s or was that Cheneys’….. Socialism vs my interpretation of Capitalism….

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