This cartoon about our educational system was posted on a group page that I follow on Facebook. It’s clearly an analogy and the touted message is that we are all different, have different strengths, and different talents. It’s an apparent encouragement not to judge others by impossible standards and, rather, to teach people in ways they can actually learn. This seems like a good message doesn’t it? However, when you look more closely at what’s being portrayed the message is quite different and not nearly as honorable as it appears on the surface. The children (in the educational system) are being portrayed as animals. Significantly, all are drawn as different animals (species) rather than a range of possibilities within the same species (breeds or varieties). If all were of the same species (big dogs, small dogs, athletic dogs, sedate dogs) it would have made for a more accurate and constructive analogy. With all children being shown as different species, the underlying message(whether intentional or not) is actually more sinister. The implication, instead, is that all people are not of the same species and some animals (humans) are simply not capable of learning what other animals (humans) can learn. Isn’t the idea that some people are naturally and biologically less intelligent and capable than other people the very foundation of inequity, discrimination, and marginalization? The cartoon, underneath, reinforces the very thing it proposes to be against on the surface.
Depicting people as animals is a powerful tool in propaganda campaigns targeting a specific group of people thus making things like slavery, genocide, and human atrocities possible. A quick internet search of political cartoons targeting specific groups will demonstrate the point (Irish, Jews, Africans, and many more). Believing someone is less than human makes hatred, bigotry, and genocide possible. Take a minute and research what I’m saying here and you will find that African American slaves were dehumanized (portrayed as not human) during slavery as Jews were (as rats) during the Holocaust. The bigger question is whether it’s ethical to nurture seeds of genocide and slavery by promoting cartoons that depict people as animals (especially different animals). It’s not obvious but what most often seems innocent serves to brainwash over time which is why the strategy works.
The backlash to my comment on the post (“I thought all children were human”) further demonstrates my point. Rather than the group reinforcing “we all are geniuses” and “everyone can’t climb a tree” I was subjected to abusive attacks on my intelligence. My experience tells me that if the assertive expression of a differing opinion (on my part) is met with abuse (on the part of whomever I am communicating with), then I am usually right in questioning the motives. If the individuals were really interested in promoting equal opportunity for all to discover and express their innate genius, I would not have been verbally abused for expressing myself differently than the majority.