Earlier this week, a guest on NPR noted that Abraham Lincoln took second (to Jesus) in the number of books written about a modern historical figure. Wow!! It’s clear that he is one of the most remembered U.S. Presidents.
The TSP Reading List suggestion for Presidents’ Day, “History, Commemoration, and Belief: Abraham Lincoln in American Memory, 1945-2001,” explores how Abraham Lincoln is remembered in the U.S. This would be a great article to assign during a unit on collective memory. Before the students read the article, have them each quickly write about how/why they remember Abraham Lincoln. Afterward, survey the class to see if they remember him as the Great Emancipator (the primary memory found in the article), the Savior of the Union, the Man of the People, the Self-Made Man, or the First Frontier American. This article would go well with Gary Alan Fine’s “Reputational Entrepreneurs and the Memory of Incompetence: Melting Supporters, Partisan Warriors, and Images of President Harding.”
The Society Pages’ second Roundtable, Laughter and the Political Landscape, asked media and communication scholars to reflect on political humor and satire. The Roundtable would be a great resource in any class or section on media and politics. I may be outing myself here as a complete addict of The Daily Show, but how can you not use The Daily Show for a section on political humor?!
The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are very lefty (even though Stephen Colbert’s bit is as a staunch conservative), but wherever your students are politically, these shows serve as a great example of using satire in a surface way (focusing on a politician’s physical characteristics, for example), as well as a tool to criticize their character and politics.
The Roundtable poses the question of how political humor works to engage young people in politics. You could use the Roundtable discussion to get a conversation going in your class about how students understand and digest political humor as well as their perceptions of its potential for encouraging political engagement.