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. Typical spin attempt by a conservative to paint all or most liberals and progressives as Socialists.
    Rcampbell had it right.

  2. “You can attempt to discredit true free market capitalism, but it is the only system that has any chance of working for what is in the best interest of the majority.”


    Thank you for reinforcing the point of the cartoon, which is to teach studets critical thinking, as an antidote to propaganda, such as that you quote above illustrates. You have added another “Ism” to the mix of propaganda and that “Ism” is Libertarianism. I truth Libertarianism is the best hope for enslaving all but the most powerful, which would be the sociopathic power freaks who would inevitably rise to the top of such a system. Democracy and ecoomic systems are apples and oranges. It is those who have been seduced by propaganda, who think they are intertwined.

  3. Blouise,

    My husband is a liberal who helped establish and run three different companies. He treated his workers well–and always made sure they had good health insurance.

  4. “Most liberals look at capitalism in much the same way as depicted on the cartoon.” (Bron)

    I’m a liberal and I hang out with liberals and not one of us view capitalism in the manner depicted in the cartoon especially as it is drawn in comparison to communism. That’s more wingnut propaganda being used to justify the first wingnut propaganda.

    And BTW, several of my liberal friends are small business owners and not the least bit conservative in their politics. Which, of course, gives lie to the myth/propoganda that all small businessmen/women are Republicans.

    Hopefully the teacher will take the negative reaction of certain small businessmen (most small businessmen are critical thinkers and would see the point of the educational exercise) and work it into the lesson plan.

  5. Bron,

    “Most liberals look at capitalism in much the same way as depicted on the cartoon. So it isnt that much of a stretch for the small businessman to be offended nor is it a stretch for him to have thought the teacher was promoting communism in the classroom.”

    You know how “most liberals” look at capitalism? Do “most liberals” look at small businessmen as slave drivers? Maybe that small businessman has been listening to too much right-wing propaganda. The right-wing media does love to demonize us liberals/progressives.

  6. The guy with the cigar is wearing a Commissar’s hat. That cartoon is lambasting communism. But, the people of Des Moines were never appreciative of irony or double entendre. I believe that the cartoon is from Punch from the 1930’s.

  7. I don’t think many Americans think socialism is the cure for the ills of capitalism (standard and predictable conservative hyperbole), but most would agree that our American social safety net provides a counterpoint and that regulations are a necessary measure of sanity that more accurately represents American values (versus Ayn Randian Objectivism) against the kind of unfettered, unbridled unregulated cowboy capitalism that brought about the Bush depression of ’08 from which he have not yet fully recovered.

  8. The students should rise up on all four paws (whoops two feet) and demand that each critic submit their own cartoon of capitalism v. communism. Then the students can request these cartoonists to come to class and stand by their message and do some explaining. The wing-nut cartoonists should be held to the same standard of intolerance they extended to this cartoonist. A cartoonist is an artist, a creationist, a Seventh Day Adventist with a crayon, a free American. If I was the teacher the next class would be about freedom of thought and expression in America vs. Cuba or Des Moines. I would use the cartoon to teach the treachery of smoking and big business in America–movies, television, advertising versus death rates, photos of the inside of a smokers lung, description of sex with a smoker and how the bed clothes stink. Capitalizm is tied to smoking and smoking is good for a communist country like China where there are far too many people right now. As John Wayne often says in his numerous war movies when the platoon stops marching through Vietnam jungles to kill the commies and need a rest: Smoke em if ya gottem. I would ask the critics to defend their assault on the anti smoking message in the cartoon and ask if they work for R.J. Reynolds.
    Those schmucks hate it when big fat guys are advertised and shown smoking, they want it to be Lauren Bacall or Humphrey Bogart. Advise the
    students (in the presence of the critics) that smokers are dumb and will not live a healthy life, a long life, and are sucking up our precious medical resources.

  9. What does Jeff Travis want as a remedy? The second phrase of the first amendment, “free speech”, prevents the government from making laws that criminalize the exchange of ideas, and without a law, the teacher cannot be stopped. Since we feel, apparently, that the schools are an arm of the government, he cannot be disciplined either. So what is he after as a remedy, shunning? Possibly, “more speech”.

  10. One of the reasons why so many political terms are misunderstood and constantly argued over is that the fascist oligarchy and main stream media have historically controlled it’s version of the terms, offering the terms in various memes to promote their agendas. Even when I tell people, after years of study, that the U.S. most closely resembles a fascist oligarchy, they are in disbelief. Or that many members of our two parties are in collusion strickly for personal gains and they all beleive their representaive is a good person. Or that from a sociological study, a democracy and a democratic republic can “not” provide what is in the best interest of the majority, and therefore they are horrible systems that always benefit the rich over the poor. http://groups.google.com/group/HarrietRobbins/topics?hl=en Why do you think there are so many libertarians like Ron Paul and they (the real ones) believe the same things? Just like in any group, there are the false profits and the ignorant thinking that they know more than they do. You can attempt to discredit true free market capitalism, but it is the only system that has any chance of working for what is in the best interest of the majority. Lets take an automobile. Millions perhaps even billions of people have worked towards bringing the automobile to the technological achievements they have today, will very little assistance from govenrment, yet government has extracted (stolen and extorted) $billions and $billions from the various industries involved. Somebody, along time ago realized that mankind needed automobiles and set out to invent one, build it and bring it to the market place. Explaining how it all worked in hindsite is even difficult, but it just did. Explaining how a new product or service might come to the maketplace is even more difficult, but they do. That is the problem with libertarianism, it is hard to explain, but it does work, “MOST OF THE TIME”, unlike socialism, that seldom works. Thinking that socialism is a cure for the ills of capitalism, is our greatest fallousy and in fact it is greatly limiting the ability today of bringing products and services to the maketplace, causing the underlying economic depression. I call it a depression, as if we factor out the military industrial complex as GDP, which is really an expense, we are really in a depression, even though we have been led to beleive otherwise by the oligarchs and their servants in the main stream media. Keep voting from guys like Mitt, Newt and Barack and see what you get.

  11. Why dilly dally with such posters when the official data concerning “American capitalism” is far more shocking:

    The wealth of the richest 400 people = the entire bottom 50% …

    The wealth of six Walton’s in the top 400 = that of the entire bottom 30%

    (Sylvia Allegretto).

    That and other factors in the articles describes a plutonomy.

  12. Rich:

    I can see why wingnuts would be offended. Most liberals look at capitalism in much the same way as depicted on the cartoon. So it isnt that much of a stretch for the small businessman to be offended nor is it a stretch for him to have thought the teacher was promoting communism in the classroom.

  13. It’s the oldest propaganda trick in the book and one that wingnuts love to use—take things out of context to attack people and institutions. Can this be grounds for a defamation suit by the teacher?

  14. You can’t fix the wilfully stupid.

    No doubt a class on comparative religion would have the stupid complaining about “the promotion of Islamic propaganda”.

  15. They are complaining about it because, God forbid, someone might learn critical thinking in the public school system, instead of being trained to be obedient little slave workers incapable of having an original thought.

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