Activity time: 75 minutes
Materials for Activity
- One episode of the MTV program If You Really Knew Me
- Computer with Internet access, projector, and screen
- Handout 1, What Makes a Cult?
Preparation for Activity
- Choose an episode of If You Really Knew Me, an MTV series about Challenge Day, a nonprofit, nationwide effort to break down barriers between segregated groups or cliques at high schools. The episode titled “Colusa High” might work well. Preview material you plan to show; some episodes mention drug use, sexual behavior, and mild violence, though not in a glorified manner. Some episodes deal with suicide and death, which might be difficult for a youth currently dealing with loss to watch.
- Prepare yourself to facilitate discussion of any controversial topics that surface in the episode you have chosen. It may be helpful to browse the Challenge Day website so that you can tell the youth about the program, which is still active.
- Copy the handout for all participants.
- Test any equipment you will be using.
Description of Activity
Youth watch a video about and discuss cliques.
Tell the group that in 2010, MTV ran a series called If You Really Knew Me. Twelve high schools were filmed as they participated in Challenge Day, a program designed to break down barriers between cliques in high school.
Show the episode you chose.
Engage the youth in discussion by posing these questions:
- What did you think of the program?
- How do the stories of these youth reflect your experience?
- What does this program have to do with cults?
Say that though cliques are not the same as cults, there are some similarities. Refer the youth to Handout 1, What Makes a Cult? Discuss these points:
- Often, cliques have one charismatic leader who approves group practices. Clique members may be overly dedicated to this leader, supporting them even when they do something a member believes is morally wrong.
- Asking questions or behaving in a way that does not abide by the rules of the clique, both explicit and implicit, is not tolerated. If you disagree, you may be thrown out of the clique.
- Clique leaders dictate or approve where members sit for lunch, what they wear, whom they associate with, which boyfriends or girlfriends are acceptable, and other details of daily living.
- Group humiliation is a common tool used to keep members obedient.
- Cliques are elitist. Members feel as if special status is bestowed on them by membership. Often, the high school environment validates this idea. Certain cliques feel secure in knowing the homecoming court or the class valedictorian will be chosen from among their members.
Ask the youth if they can identify any of these behaviors from the episode of If You Really Knew Me.
Note that while these points sound destructive, the reality is that some of these points can be made about most groups, just to a greater or lesser degree. What groups do participants belong to that manage to avoid the above behaviors? How do the groups behave instead? What groups exhibit some of these behaviors but use them in a more positive way?
Including All Participants
If any participants have hearing impairments, arrange for closed-captioning or look for a transcript or a subtitled version of the episode you want to show.