When high school students are tasked with creating political cartoons, the topics they choose to combine range from budget cuts at their school to social issues.
Students in Lisa Benanto’s Studio in Cartooning Animation class at Colonie Central High School learned about political cartoons and were then asked to combine a political issue and something they are interested in to make a cartoon.
Benanto spent a day lecturing the students on political cartoons and two days on a packet going over the history of political cartoons so the students would have background information.
Benanto is preparing the students for a 100-question test they will be given at the end of the year to test their knowledge of the course. The test is a requirement of the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR), which was created in 2012 to monitor the effectiveness of the teachers.
One topic that a few students picked dealt with the issue of budget cuts and losing an art program and a teacher. Many of the students participated in the after school art club that was cut.
“Last year we had an $8 million dollar deficit, I believe, so the kids lost a lot of teachers. So, it’s still fresh in their minds. It was their art club teacher,” said Benanto.
Many of the students said it was depressing that they didn’t have the art club anymore. The students met after school and got to hang out with their friends and create art.
One of the cartoons shows students displaying their award winning art when a man in a suit with large scissors comes and cuts their paintings in half. In a class discussion on the cartoons, the students said it made them feel like art didn’t matter or wasn’t important.
Bullying and discrimination were another popular topic. Brenda Freeman, a junior, made a cartoon with a woman in a burqa. The woman was picked on so much that she committed suicide, which is depicted in the final phase by the woman having her eyes covered.
“It’s basically about how people are bullied because they look different. You can tell in her eyes she’s bullied. That’s why it’s focused on her eyes,” said Freeman.
Another student, Gianna Ross, a sophomore, drew a cartoon focusing on people with tattoos and how it is hard for people with tattoos to get jobs. Ross said she may want to be a tattoo artist.
“I was looking at job applications online because I’m trying to get a job for the summer. I don’t have any tattoos because I’m too young, but like, it was in so many of the job applications that you can’t have tattoos. Like, even McDonalds, and I just don’t understand why you can’t have a tattoo,” said Ross.
Some of the students had previous experience with cartoons by looking at them in the newspaper. They also picked up on politics from what their parents talked about.
When asked if he looked at political cartoons, sophomore Zane Zoller said, “ I do a little bit in the newspaper. I’ve never tried to make them before. I might have some actual ideas for a point now, instead of something that just kinda popped into my head.”