Sunday, November 29, 2015

World War 2 Study: DIY Propaganda Posters

Other than our trip to Pearl Harbor or the live-action trench warfare from our preparatory study of World War 1, I'm reasonably confident that making their own propaganda posters has been both children's favorite activity of our World War 2 unit study.

We began, of course, with a discussion of propaganda, and the viewing of other propaganda materials--Google Image is a great one for this. Note together, as you go through the propaganda, the overarching themes, themes such as self-denial on the home front being equated with bravery on the battlefront, or the tendency to animalize the enemy, or the portrayal of the victimization of women and children as the likely consequence for one's failure. This is a great time to discuss what racism does to a society, as racism is rife in propaganda posters.

After we had defined propaganda, and analyzed propaganda, I really wanted the children to create their own propaganda. Luckily, I didn't have to completely invent that activity--here is an incredibly cool online program that allows you to do just that! You choose from a selection of existing World War 2 posters, delete the text, and write your own:
Fangirl is one of my current favorite novels. I am currently waiting VERY impatiently for my turn in the library hold queue for its follow-up, Carry on.

The kids LOVED this activity! I had planned on asking them to each create a couple of posters, so that they could get the general idea of constructing propaganda, but they both spent most of the evening on this, making a poster, asking for a parent to read/admire/laugh at their effort, and then repeating the entire process again, to great happiness and hilarity.

On the whole, Syd's efforts remained sincere and focused on my original prompt, although their creation still brought her great pleasure. They were freaking adorable, as well, and showed excellent understanding of how propaganda works, as well as how to rewrite a slogan in her own words. Alas, she worked on the oft-wonky children's computer, and if she saved them, I can't figure out where she put them. The ether, undoubtedly, or someone's email inbox whose name is one letter off from my own, perhaps. Maybe she'll make me some more sometime, if I ask her nicely.

Will's posters, now... Well... Do you ever read my words about this feral, willful, impossible child and wonder what she's like when she's not stubbornly refusing to do her math, or put on pants, or look up from her book? If so, I can assure you. 

THIS is exactly what she's like:
It's meant to continue with "local crime board," I believe. The text box only supports a certain number of characters, and both children sometimes struggled with that.








Some of her posters were just random funniness, of course, but, as both her history and her rhetoric instructor, I also noted a pleasing mix of humor made from unpacking the connotation of a piece of propaganda and rending it overt, and the use of irreverence to replace the usual sincerity that propaganda pretends, again highlighting propaganda's inherent half-truths.

The following piece, however, hit my funny bone so hard that I laughed for minutes. I cried. Hell, I practically peed myself! I still crack up about it (get it? Crack?), and every now and then, when we're someplace where we're supposed to be serious, like in the line at the bank or waiting for a concert to start, I'll lean over and whisper the following slogan softly into her ear:



Here is the follow-up campaign:


Seriously, I can't even. It's too funny.

One of the worrisome benefits of homeschooling is that it gives you a nearly unopposed license to espouse your own worldview to your children. I find it unfortunate that this is so often used to espouse worldviews that I personally don't approve of--Creationism, for example, or the Young Earth myth--but I feel that I must tell you that one of the main points that I emphasized in this lesson is that we must be watchful for propaganda in our daily lives, and we must be highly suspicious of any organization that uses it for any reason. Product manufacturers, of course, but also our military. Also our government. I instruct my children that whenever we recognize a piece of propaganda, we must ask ourselves, "Why are they trying to manipulate us? What are they not telling us?"

And now you need never wonder why my feral, impossible, willful child is also prone to making off-the-cuff belligerent political rants. She comes by it honestly, at least.

If you're interested in also raising children who are prone to political rants, embarrassingly often in public, here are most of the other resources that we used and enjoyed during this unit on World War 2 propaganda. I highly suggest that you preview, in its entirety, every single item before you give it to your children, and even then permit them to explore it only with you there to provide context and discuss its moral and ethical concerns--I also used only isolated excerpts of many of these items, and many aren't suitable for younger kids at all:

World War 2 propaganda poster examples



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