Dr. Justin Martin has been blending his faith in Jesus Christ, love for comics and psychology for years. It’s what led him to create R-Squared Comicz – which tells stories from a Christian worldview. Now the Whitworth University psychology professor has published recent scholarship highlighting how the movie “Black Panther” can be used to help primary school educators teach civics.
Martin’s article is entitled “The Many Ways of Wakanda: Viewpoint Diversity in Black Panther and Its Implications for Civics Education.” It is 13 pages long and explores viewpoint diversity in “Black Panther” as a teaching tool. The work was published in “Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy.”
In it, Martin argues that Wakandan society is an “unofficial main character” in the film because it highlights the viewpoint diversity (which basically means having a variety of outlooks and perspectives on things) of its citizens. He details the varying ways the 2018 film can be used to instruct elementary school children in civics.
Martin uses SDT (social domain theory) – which posits that children “try and actively interpret and understand both their own interactions with others and interactions among others” – to make his case.
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“With its emphasis on domain distinctions, diverse social and domain-related interactions, and coordination, SDT (social domain theory) provides a useful lens to examine ‘Black Panther’ (2018) as a potential tool for primary school educators in two respects,” Martin wrote.
“For one, SDT provides a framework by which broad, conceptual parallels can be drawn between situations common to children’s social worlds, the kinds children are expected to engage in and understand through their civics education, and those at the heart of the conflicts and disagreements experienced by Wakandan citizens,” Martin continued. “Second, SDT assumes children are active participants in their social worlds, capable of reasoning in a principled manner, and at times demonstrating an awareness of the unique features of varying situations.”
His latest work remains true to Martin’s belief superhero narratives can teach about morality and overcoming life’s challenges in an exciting way. Whether in elementary school or college, he sees comics as a valuable teaching tool.
“Superhero narratives can provide opportunities for students to engage with and evaluate social and moral concepts relevant to social life,” Martin said. “There’s a big theme of resiliency throughout a lot of superhero movies. They often have very traumatic, difficult origin stories and they have to rise above it. From a scholarly lens, I think there’s a lot of value in that.”
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