Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sensory Impact

As the world reacts to the death of Nelson Mandela, I keep harkening back to the days when it seemed there were very few teachers who made the struggle for human rights in South Africa part of their curriculum.  One of my former students reminded me the other day that I also had a poster in my classroom that raised the question Terrorist or Freedom Fighter?

In recalling the history of Mandela's journey from prisoner to President, some of the news media (but far too few)  are reminding those who weren't alive or who have conveniently forgotten how as President, Ronald Reagan was on the wrong side of history with his policy of engagement toward South Africa.  Briefly, this policy was far too little too late and never really took a moral stance on Apartheid.  It wasn't until strong economic sanctions (not supported by Reagan) were enacted taht the tide began to turn.  But that's another story, but definitely one we can learn a good deal from in dealing with future ethical issues on the international scene.
The aforementioned posters that hung in my classroom (previous blog entry) were removed the day that Mandela voted.  Just as my students wished.  But in hearing from some of them via Facebook all these years later, I'm not surprised that many recall vividly the impact of those visceral drawings.  Three more are included here as a way of illustrating that contention but also as a way of preserving them for anyone who wants to see them.  The magic of the internet makes it possible to track them down and re-live their impact.  I found the picture of the Passbook to be most useful in teaching about the Homelands policy.  The hand suppressing the head really assaults the senses; it is most often recalled the most vividly.  It's urgency is undeniable.  Finally the "No More" poster was left on the wall as a talisman of sorts so that subsequent classes would know and remember.  It hung at the front of the classroom until the end of the 2004-05 school year when the school I taught at was torn down to be re-built again.  I believe I have it to this day.

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