Using a curriculum overseen by AAEC, teachers can give students “a clearer understanding of the enduring value of this daily newspaper art form.”

Short of a diabolical plan to have members of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) operate clandestinely as editors and publishers so newspapers will start hiring more editorial cartoonists, there is a limit to what we can do to expand our ranks of employment. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t trying.

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Apart from making lots of noise in as many news organizations as possible and publishing a book, “Attack of the Political Cartoonists,” by J.P. Trostle, AAEC has undertaken a long-term comprehensive project designed to raise the profile of editorial cartooning with some help from a grant from the Herb Block Foundation (endowed by the estate of the late Washington Post cartoonist, Herblock).

Our main focus will be to encourage children to learn about the language of the editorial cartoon and appreciate its historic and contemporary importance in the political dialogue. We want to reinforce for them the role of the First Amendment in protecting free speech, with a particular emphasis, of course, on its protection of parody. For more intrepid students, we’ll provide steps on how to become an editorial cartoonist.

To do this, we’ve started to create a series of “Cartoons in the Classroom” lesson plans that teachers will be able to download—with no charge—from the nonprofit Newspapers in Education Web site (www.nieonline.com). In lesson plans there will be grade-specific cartooning history lessons and discussion of current events as seen through cartoons. Eventually, this curriculum will extend from kindergarten through high school. A large component of the material will call for studying cartoons drawn by the school’s “local cartoonist.” (Because of the importance of the Newspapers in Education program to editors nationwide, we anticipate a few red faces in newspaper offices when children and their teachers start asking why there is no local cartoonist.) We will also encourage our cartoonist members to be available to speak to the classes that are using this material as a part of the lesson.

In doing this, we want to make it possible for teachers to imbue a new generation—now wedded to television and the Internet—with a clearer understanding of the enduring value of this daily newspaper art form. And speaking of our art form, as cartoonists, we vow to continue giving these children—and their parents—a reason to give newspapers another chance.

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