Political Cartoons and Memes to teach social studies.

A guide to teaching with Political Cartoons in the social studies classroom.

What are Political Cartoons? Why use them?

While many of us think of cartoons as something entertaining or funny (they usually are), Political Cartoons in contrast are often rather serious. Political cartoons have historically and continue to address an array of issues from local city government concerns to global health issues. Political Cartoons often are not entirely comprehensible on their own. They usually require an amount of prior knowledge about an issue to understand what the cartoonist is trying to communicate. For example, a 2021 political cartoon that shows a closed sign in front of a public school in Los Angeles, but also shows a film crew filming a TV show.  This Political Cartoon would require the reader to be aware of the 2021 pandemic.  Readers would also have to know the fact that public schools were rented out to "Hollywood" so this "more important" group could continue business as usual.

Why Political Cartoons?

Political Cartoons like many art forms present an opportunity for the artist to express their discontent about something they are concerned with. They have been used as type of protest or means of spreading propaganda for centuries.  One example is the famous "Join or Die" cartoon published by Ben Franklin to encourage the colonies to come together for their survival prior to the Revolutionary War.

Common characteristics of Political Cartoons:

•Caricatures of those involved. For example: A president might be drawn as having  an over-sized stomach, big ears, etc..  

•often try to show the ignorance or blatant arrogance of those in power

•show hypocrisy of government, laws, or leadership 

Political Cartoon Ideas for students:

*The environment (community, national, global)

*Education (their own school policies, or city, state, and national policies that affect them)



*International Relations

*Racial Injustice, Social injustice,

*Women’s Rights

*LGBTQ+ Rights

*Housing (fairness, homelessness)

*economic inequity

Sources for Political Cartoons

The Week political cartoons. Also very USA government focused.

USA today political cartoons. A wide array of cartoons with several beyond DC government.

US News and World Report political cartoons with both a US and world focus.

The Washington Post. The Washington Post is based in Washington DC and therefore has an array of political cartoons about the US government.