Tuesday, September 20, 2011
One picture, myriad themes, one complex narrative
If I were to teach U.S. History again, I would start (and end) with this picture, which I just lifted from this morning's Drudge Report.
In this one picture are themes, not only of race relations in America (such a central issue from the first moments of Spanish and English settlement), but themes of technology (the jet plane), social mobility, optimism (the upward slant of the staircase), the decline of formalism in dress and the arts, the remaining differences of class (note one man's suit, the other's shirtsleeves and body language), the relationship between employer and employee (how subservient, what rights have been achieved, what roles have changed or remained), individualism and individual expression, the stature and limitations of the U.S. Presidency... and on and on.
One picture. One history course. An entire syllabus captured, introduced and summarized in this one evocative image.