Daniel Levin 0

Animate Larry Gonick's "Cartoon History of the US"

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With our public educational institutions under the siege of No Child Left Behind driven standardization of testing and thus, by necessity, of curriculum, and with textbooks routinely masquerading glitzy multimedia packaged-product as encyclopedic authority to the effect of removing ambiguity - not to mention interest, teachers at all levels stand in need of supplementary materials to aid in capturing what Diane Ravitch calls “the central narrative,” or the story, without which all social sciences as well as the liberal arts, including history itself, disintegrate into a jumble of meaningless morass. To confront these obstacles, secondary and college-level teachers have been known to incorporate novels as well as histories written in the finest narrative tradition. Also, during the last twenty-five years, Larry Gonick’s “Cartoon History of the United States”, “Cartoon History of the Universe Volumes I, II, and III”, and “Cartoon History of the Modern World Parts I and II” were published to commercial and critical acclaim, even drawing praise from notable academics and intellectuals such as Carl Sagan, Richard Leakey, Charles Johnston, Harriet Ritvo, and Richard Saul Wurman. These books have indeed been used in schools since their publications. An animated series of Gonick’s works would be a valuable addition to history teachers’ visual media tools for the classroom. It would offer enormous potential for teachers of government, economics, sociology, psychology, anthropology, philosophy and literature seeking to vary content delivery and otherwise supplement their courses with audiovisual materials. The key to this, of course, is student interest—and students enjoy and learn from Gonick’s cartoon series, as they enjoy and benefit from audiovisual presentations that are vital and integral to the academic substance of the course. Such student interest, finally, brings us back to that essential ingredient of academics that Gonick’s work taps into so well: the story, or the central narrative, which students crave. Please vote if you believe an animated version of Larry Gonick’s “Cartoon History of the United States” would be a valuable teaching tool.


Daniel Levin


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