Here, in NYC public schools, it is a high-stakes testing week. These weeks make me pause to reflect on the ways in which the "educational industrial complex" use standards and testing to pander uninspired teaching materials to school districts across the country. Without going into a diatribe about how legislation like NCLB can make curriculum fizzle - I was looking for a silver lining today - so I thought of a "Big Text" (read like "Big Oil") resource that is worth checking out.
This year I've been on the lookout for a new World History textbook and wanted to check out one that Glencoe had done in partnership with National Geographic. When we received their sample materials I was intrigued by a supplemental text, Glencoe World History: In Graphic Novel
. Because graphic novels have taken such a strong hold in English classrooms, Big Text did not want to be left behind. This collection of teachable little comics are a bit stiffer than what you'd find in regular comics. You can tell the writers were more interested in wrapping standards into a narrative than crafting engaging stories. That being the case, it's still a worthwhile resource with chapters like "The Wrath of Genghis Khan," "Galileo's Universe," "The Silk Road" and the standout "Napoleon's Little Empire" with some of the most playful illustrations I've seen of a man and his complex.
I've found a lot of "period" graphic novels but they tend to be better suited to literature classes than history classes - standouts in this category include The Age of Bronze
series about the Trojan War, Marvel's Iliad
(now collected) and Odyssey
series (likely be collected) and Osamu Tezuka's appropriately zen Buddha
series. But finding texts like Maus
, that really explore the major historical issues along with a compelling narrative, are harder to come by. I think Adam Gopnick's Cartoon History of the Universe I, II, II and A Cartoon History of the Modern World
are some of the best history as comic resources I've come across but there must be more out there, right?
Obviously, there are tons of amazing children's books that explore these topics (see the Horrible History Series
and David Macaulay's books
) but it seems like the traditional content of world/global history is not as easy to find in comic form. I've done a lot of global history work around popular films but I have to imagine that there must be more five star graphic novels for history teachers besides Maus
So you may not be a social studies person - but if you know someone who is please ask them to join this discussion - maybe they know about more history comics that live on the DL!
If your inquiry yields fruit please share below.