"A class divided"

Sarah - posted on 09/23/2010 ( 20 moms have responded )

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Has anyone ever seen the documentary made in 1970's where a teacher named Jane Elliot taught her pupils a very real lesson in discrimination??



For those of you who haven't, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/...

here's a brief synopsis of what she did.



Basically she split the class into blue eyes and brown eyes and told the children that people with blue eyes were "smarter, cleaner and better" than those with brown eyes. She basically treated the brown eyed kids, as a black person would have been treated back then (and unfortunately, still to this day sometimes)



The results of her experiment were (IMO) amazing, the blue eyed kids became nasty and cruel to the brown eyed kids.



The tables were then turned.



Another interesting thing was that when a group of kids were in the "superior" group, they preformed better in tests than when they were in the "inferior" group.



Your thoughts? Should lessons like this be implemented in more schools, are lessons like this needed any more? Was it a good way to teach against discrimination?

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Jessica - posted on 09/23/2010

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I think its an excellent example of one of the darker sides of human nature- that is, our tendency throughout history to act this way. Its sad yet brilliant that it was able to "work" on such a simple and small scale as a classroom of children. My only question is, how old were the children? Were they old enough to be able to put it behind them and to understand the concept when it was all over? If so then it could be a very good way to teach about discrimination.

I may sound like a total pessimist but I don't think humans will ever outgrow the "need" for such lessons. Like I mentioned before, acts of discrimination like that have been a part of human history for as long as there have been civilization- I really think its a base part of our nature, unfortunately. Maybe it will take more "drastic" lessons like that to nudge us in the other direction.

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I think it's great. Kids learn by example and that is concrete and efficient. "Walk a mile in my shoes."

Sarah - posted on 09/23/2010

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I watched some of it on my course I'm doing at college, I watched some of the bits with them as adults at home on YouTube.
I was going to post the YouTube links, but there's LOADS of them. lol.

It's a REALLY good watch though, I'd recommend it!!

I thought it was amazing how those few days where they had these lessons has had a lifelong effect on those students, and in a really positive way. I think it's great that they were all saying how they will be teaching those lessons to their own kids. That's the most important thing I think, to pass down acceptance through the generations.

I was reading on the link I posted at the top though, that Jane Elliot has experienced some really negative feedback and times, she's even been threatened and punched!! So sad that people can react that way.

Jennifer - posted on 09/23/2010

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i saw the video in psych class last semester,,,i think its a great idea. i don't know if it was included in your link, Sarah, but our teacher also showed us a video of the students from her class getting together as adults and talking about their experience...they were all very happy to have been a part of it, and they all said that it was a lesson that stuck with them ever since.

Rosie - posted on 09/23/2010

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yes i would fully support this happening in my childs class, in fact i want there to be something like this in his class. absolutely brilliant if you ask me. :)

[deleted account]

Ah Dana I'm of Polish origin too a few generations back for me though :-)

Back to the topic, I think it is a great learning tool, however, I saw a tv programme where they replicated the experiment with adults and some of them out and out refused to discriminate or be discriminated against and had to leave the experiment. That being said I would allow my son to take part in one if his school decided to do something similar.

[deleted account]

I fully support this.....not that it matters but I thought it was interesting that you guys mentioned it, my dad is Polish. They immigrated to Canada in 1949, when my dad was 8-9 years old.

Tah - posted on 09/23/2010

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Maybe i am bias since my son has been diescriminated against by some students, little comments and name calling, and it has changed his views a bit and i can tell him whatever i like but in reality i know how he feels. I def support the experiment and if they did it in his school i would allow him to be included, he already knows how it feels to be him but i want him to see the full picture

[deleted account]

This is something we studied in both education and psychology classes at my university. Very interesting. The idea for the lesson came from Ms. Elliot's students not understanding what the Martin Luther King Jr. Day was all about. She pulled off the lesson brilliantly. She also did the experiment with adults in a workplace. That was just as revolutionary to the participants in the lesson.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/...

Isobel - posted on 09/23/2010

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huh...I must have you confused with somebody else...my sisters are in Calgary though

Petra - posted on 09/23/2010

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@Laura - Let me know when you find this class and I will split the travel costs with you :-)

I would definitely support my boy being subjected to a controlled discrimination lesson to enable him to live with empathy & compassion & understanding for all other people rather than just practicing what I preach.

Isobel - posted on 09/23/2010

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not only would I allow my children to be a part of a class like this...I would travel and spend money to have it happen. A little hurt is good for the character, and I don't think that anything you read or hear can make you understand discrimination like being the victim of it.

Louise - posted on 09/23/2010

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Cathy I agree that the Polish people are willing to do the low paid jobs for little pay and stay in accommodation that is below par and yes they are willing to educate themselves in the language whilst they do so. But when they arrive in the UK there are few employers that will take them on if they can not speak english. There are some really well educated Polish people out there that are in meanial jobs because they are treated differently because of there accent. I suppose this is true all over Britain because people are judged by the accent they have. For example a broad Bristolian is presumed thick, people from Birmingham with a strong accent are thought the same. You only have to look at local tv to prove that point. How many tv presenters have a pronounced accent....none! You will never get rid of discrimination all you can do is educate the next generation to be mindful of what is going on.

Sarah - posted on 09/23/2010

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The parents of the kids involved had all given consent to it.
Also, they got the kids back some years later when they were adults, and none of them had anything negative to say about the lesson overall. Although obviously it had been upsetting at the time, they all looked back on it as a really valuable life lesson for them.

You're right about the way the Polish are treated too!

Louise - posted on 09/23/2010

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I think bringing attention to discrimination in all it's ugliness is great but I am not sure as a parent how I would feel about my child taking part. I think as the experiment has already been done maybe the video could be shown in small groups so they could discuss there feelings towards the children that were taking part. Discrimination comes in many forms not just black and white as in England at the moment we have a massive population of Polish speaking people who are white but tend to be treated like black people were years ago. The Polish seem to be taking the low paid jobs and live in low grade accommodation. So it seems in England at the moment the discrimination is to do with accent. People will always find things to pick on others for it is human nature but it dose not make it right. Highlighting discrimination in schools is a great start to raising awareness to the next generation.

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