The Class Divided
The Class Divided
Classic frontline documentary A Class Divided was created by an American Jane Elliot. She was a school teacher and at the same time an anti-racism activist. She designed the blue-eyed/brown eyed exercise for school children in the late 1960s which later became the benchmark in her career and training (Byrnes and Kiger, 1992). Her exercise became the basis for documentary called Eye of the Storm (1971) and A Class Divided (1985). She created this documentary after the assassination of Martin Luther King. This documentary was based on prejudice, racism, and discrimination. Also, the film engaged students and other people in dialogue about the racism, discrimination, and stereotyping in students lives. For example, white eight-year-old students born and raised in a small town in Iowa were not exposed to black people except from those they saw on television. This story was taught to children, and the lesson had impact on their lives. Because of this, anger, frustration, and pain were common responses to being confronted with bias and inequity.
There are many definitions of racism like racism is an unfair judgment based on race. Also, racism is action and systematic discrimination. Also, it can be defined as an institutionalized system of economic, cultural, political, and social relations that ensure that one racial group has and maintain power and privilege over all others in all aspects of life. The United States civil rights movement back in the 1960s was formed to ensure equal opportunity for every citizen irrespective of race. When state civil rights movement began, it gave whites more rights compared to blacks and other minorities
Few days after Luther Kings assassination, Jane Elliot felt bad and angry. It was the reason she could not tell why racism was that rampant taking life of another person. After some time, Elliot made a decision to tell her student about discrimination and racism. In the experiment, she divided her student into two groups according to their eye color (namely, brown eyed and blue eyed). On the first day of the exercise, she convinced her blue-eyed student to look more excellent in their work. All the day long, the blue-eyed children were given more privileges and encouragement words. Blue-eyed students had a longer five minutes of recess than brown-eyed and were praised all day long (Desiree, 2008). The students with brown eyes were seen or identified from a distance because of appealing collar they wore.
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On the following day, their roles were changed. A group of students with blue eyes were given the role of being inferior, and the group of students with brown eyes were superior. In the end, both groups behavior was changed a lot (Williams & Giles, 1992). Due to inferiority, they started to perform poorly in their examination. Due to the superiority, the exercise became hostile; discrimination extended its boundary, and unkind behavior was experienced.
After fourteen years, Jane Eliot managed to meet her former students to check what they learned from the lesson she taught. Verla, one of her former students, replied that she learned that hatred, discrimination against somebody, or teasing is bad in relation to any person. This means the divided class had an impact on their lives. They felt very bad when they were discriminated by their fellow students fourteen year ago.
Jane Elliot carried out the same experiment with adults of the Iowa prison. She organized the lesson with blue-eye and brown- eye to employees. Adults reacted in same way as the small children fourteen years ago. Also, adults were much more violent about racism than children.
My feelings during and after watching the documentary are that the results of racism, prejudice, and discrimination lesson from Jane Elliot lasted as the children grew into adults. Lessons should not be based on arbitrary things like the color of people.
In her experiment, Jane Elliot used praises and encouragement words; she also denied the rights and privileges to her students to make them experience the effects of prejudice, racism, and discrimination. For example, the blue-eyed students were told to be nicer, better, neater, and smarter than those with brown eyes. Micro aggression occurred during the exercise as students were involved in fight and war outside the course.
Students were not in peace because racism, prejudice, or discrimination was being practiced before the exercise. Hence, cultural competence was not on a continuum. For example, white eight-year-old students born and raised in a small town in Lowa were not exposed to black people except for the television. Students were on a continuum after the exercise, because they learned how to stop racism within themselves and promised their teacher to live like a family forever and always.