Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

March 19, 2012

Teaching with the Kony 2012 Video in Schools

Odds are good that your high school students have already seen the Kony 2012 video. It went viral in the first week of March being viewed roughly 80 million times in only five days. In fact it is now considered to be the most viral video in history defeating the likes of Lada Gaga, Justin Bieber, and Miley Cyrus.

Social justice teachers will see this as an incredible opportunity, but all theology classes should jump at the chance to ignite the passion for social justice that many teens have within them.

Kony 2012 in School

About the Kony 2012 Campaign

The Kony 2012 campaign is an effort by a non-profit organization called Invisible Children. Invisible Children, Inc. organizes programs in Uganda in opposition to the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army). They "use film, creativity, and social action to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony's rebel war and restore LRA-affected communities in central Africa to peace and prosperity."

It is clear from the video that Invisible Children has been at work for years leading up to the Kony 2012 campaign and in a large part the video tells their story.

The Invisible Children launched the Kony 2012 campaign as a worldwide effort to fight against the LRA and Joseph Kony. The video outlines a vision for a campaign that will inspire many teens, young people, and adults to join a movement.

The Controversy Over the Viral Video

As with any viral piece of content, there comes controversy. Critics of the campaign quickly pointed out that Invisible Children only dedicated 32% of their $8.6 million in funds to services in northern Uganda. It is unclear at this point what the organization will do with the $5 million dollars in funds it raised just 48 hours after the film's release.

Others have pointed out that the problems in Uganda and many other parts of Africa extend far beyond one individual. Kony is just one man and to pin all of Africa's problems on him is to do an injustice to the cause. Some even say that there are worse criminals than Kony and worse threats than the weakening Lord's Resistance Army. The fact that the LRA does not actually reside in Uganda anymore is a big point of contention.

The following articles help illustrate these points:

Still others point out that the issues are much more complicated than they appear in the video. ForeignPolicy.com cleared up some of the facts in their recent article.

The Invisible Children Response

Showing their wisdom in the digital age, Invisible Children were quick to respond to criticisms with a prominently displayed webpage addressing their critiques. There they respond to all the criticisms in this article as well as many others that have been circulated around the web.

How to Teach with the Kony 2012 Video


Activity 1: Watch the Video as a Class

So that all of your students are on the same page, set aside 30 minutes to watch the video either on YouTube or Vimeo.

Questions to answer while they watch the video:

  1. According to the video, why wouldn't the government get involved in the conflict in Uganda?

  2. According to the video, what did Invisible Children do to help people in Uganda?

  3. Even though the United States authorized forces to be sent to Uganda, why did Invisible Children decide to start this new Kony 2012 campaign?

  4. What are the goals of the Kony 2012 campaign?

  5. What strategies are the Invisibible Children using to make Joseph Kony famous?

  6. According to the video, what would motivate the government to act?

  7. What will happen on April 20, 2012?

  8. What three things can you do right now to support the campaign?

Activity 2: Class Discussion

Discussion questions to raise after watching the video:

  1. Do you think this campaign can work? Why or why not?
  2. Why would the United States government be so resistant to helping people in Africa? Can you justify this type of foreign poicy?
  3. If you could make a similar video for another cause, what elements of the video would you repeat?
  4. Why is it so much easier today to spread an idea like Kony 2012 than it was years ago? Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Activity 3: Take Action

The video proposes three actions you can take right now to help the campaign. What other actions can we take to fight this or another social issue?

Activity 4: Research the Claims of the Video

The Kony 2012 video has been criticized for a number of reasons. Research the criticisms floating around the web and read the Invisible Children's response. What critiques are legitimate and which are unfounded? Divide a piece of paper into two halves. On the left write "Critiques" and the left write "Response." Use this sheet to take notes on at least 3 critiques of the campaign.

Activity 5: Debating the Reliability of the Video

If there is time in class, hold a class debate. Assign each of the critiques to one group of students and the responses to another group of students. Have the student sit on opposing sides of the room and debate the issues. Give the students a ball to hold when they talk. When they are finished making their points, they may lightly toss the ball to a student on the opposing side who would like to respond.

Activity 6: Research the Catholic Perspective

There is a rich history of the Church's teaching on social justice. Have students find quotes from Church documents that relate to the fight against Joseph Kony and the LRA starting with the following websites:

http://www.osjspm.org/page.aspx?pid=441

http://www.educationforjustice.org/catholic-social-teaching/encyclicals-and-documents

http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catholic-social-teaching/

Other resources:

The Work of Catholic Relief Services in Uganda

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