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.