On this recent mailer from her campaign:
Re: Comics and Classrooms
Dear State Senator King,
Let me start by saying I’m sure we have far more in common than we disagree about. But as a former educator and current comic book writer and artist, I felt compelled to correct your campaign’s mistaken impression that education and comics are at odds.
Contrary to your mailer’s implication that children reading comic books is somehow the result of a loss of teachers, comics and graphic novels can be a vital tool in getting children to read, rather than spending all of their time watching television and playing video games. You’ve made the error so many have, of missing the words “reading” and “books” because of the word in the middle.
Attacks on my industry have always come from those who haven’t picked up a comic, and the policies that have damaged our educational system always come from those who haven’t set foot in a classroom in decades. So let me recommend to you the anthology Reading with Pictures, part of a non-profit effort to offer students and teachers comics specifically suited to lesson plans on variety of subjects. Comics combine art and literature to create an incredible new art form. And in fact, telling stories in pictures predates the written word and is used in safety instruction labels precisely because of its ability to simply convey ideas and actions. Your offensive mailer is just another wrong-headed generalization, attacking a genre that gives children heroes that don’t kill (like Superman, seen in the image you used, likely without the rights to do so) and fight against intolerance (like the X-Men, also featured in your mailer, presumably without permission), as well as a medium that anyone, including children, can tell stories in with tools as simple as a pencil and paper.
I hope to see a public apology from your office for your thoughtless attack on a vital part of the artistic industry in our country. You probably didn’t realize this, but like jazz, comic books are one of the few truly American artforms, and deserve more recognition and respect than to be conflated with our country’s failing schools. As someone who has taught youth ages from 2 to 20 at daycares, summer camp, nature centers, middle school, and church groups, I know better than most how important comics can be in getting kids interested in social issues, science, reading, and art.
I’m sure you’re getting letters from other writers, artists, and educators who feel the same way. It was No Child Left Behind that forced the cancellation of my middle school art class (and my job teaching it) from a school whose students desperately needed it. That’s what needs reform. Attacking comics isn’t the answer. Ditching the thoughtless, “one size fits all” policies coming out of Washington is.
The students of Maryland deserve better than “No Teachers = Kids Reading Comics” as an answer to the problems facing their educators and institutions. I applaud your efforts to find solutions for your constituents. But my industry isn’t the arch-nemesis of education.