Institute News

New IWitness Activity Published: “Skittles, Deplorables and ‘All Lives Matter’

Inspired by the United States’ 2016 presidential campaign, IWitness has just published a new activity that draws on current events to enhance students’ skills in leadership, media literacy and using their voices responsibly on social media.

Skittles, Deplorables and ‘All Lives Matter’: Leadership and Media Literacy is a Mini-Quest activity intended for high school students. It is estimated to take around 2.5 hours to complete and can be done online or offline. The activity addresses both Common Core and ISTE-NETS standards.

In this activity, students learn about leadership and rhetorical styles, including argument, persuasion and propaganda as it pertains to public political discourse. They analyze political commentary, develop critical thinking and media literacy skills. They learn how to differentiate among types of rhetorical strategies employed in political communication and social media and develop their own contributions to the political debate using social media.

The activity includes three testimony clips. Ruth Pearl, survivor of Jewish persecution in the Middle East during World War II and mother of late journalist Daniel Pearl, speaks about why it is so important to build empathy in young people and to help them develop leadership in communication. Dachau liberator Paul Parks talks about why he has always fought for people’s rights. And Holocaust survivor Esther Clifford shares how Nazi propaganda about Jews affected her as a young girl.

Students learn about the difference between argument, persuasion and propaganda and practice identifying real-life examples of each, including Donald Trump Jr.’s tweet about immigrants being like Skittles and Hillary Clinton’s comment that some Trump supporters are “deplorables.” They are then asked to compose their own social media posts about a topic they are passionate about, being sure to back up their argument with facts and respectful language.

“Skittles, Deplorables and All Lives Matter” was developed in cooperation with After School Matters in Chicago, which provides after-school and summer programs for high school students in the form of apprenticeships and internships that cover topics from science, sports and technology to college readiness skills and communication.

In October 2016, USC Shoah Foundation education staff traveled to Chicago to lead a pilot of the activity with students in After School Matters’ C.O.O.L. Communicators program. On a Saturday, the students completed the activity, presented their work in front of the class, and a few even had the opportunity to share their social media posts on the USC Shoah Foundation Facebook page.

Their instructor, Michael Levesque, said the activity built upon his students’ digital literacy skills and reinforced the idea that their voices do matter, and they can make a difference through social media if they are well-informed and think critically.

“The content as presented helped further expand how they think about the world and their place in it,” he said. “The discussions about atrocities, how they happen and how they get resolved put into new perspective of how politicians, public figures, media, communication skills and “regular citizens” matter.”

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