Blue eyes / Brown eyes - a class divided

Discussion in 'Too Hot for Swamp Gas' started by lacuna, Sep 20, 2013.

  1. lacuna
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    lacuna Well-Known Member

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    I was going to post this material on the the thread about slavery but it has apparently been deleted. Don't know why it went bad or the reason it was eliminated, but it reminded me of an exercise a teacher in Iowa had her 3rd grade students participate in after the assassination of Martin Luther King. She divided her all white classroom and had the children of one eye color discriminate against the other eye color. It was *ahem* eye opening.


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Elliott#Origin_of_the_idea

    While there are variations of the story, the exercise Elliott developed for her third grade class in Riceville, Iowa was a result of Martin Luther King’s assassination. According to one biographer, on the evening of April 4, 1968, Elliott turned on her television to find out about the assassination. One scene she says that she remembers vividly is that of a (white) reporter, with the microphone pointed toward a local black leader asking "When our leader (John F. Kennedy) was killed several years ago, his widow held us together. Who's going to control your people?" She then decided to combine a lesson she had planned about Native Americans with the lesson planned about King for February’s Hero of the Month. To tie the two, she used the Sioux prayer "Oh Great Spirit, keep me from ever judging a man until I have walked a mile in his moccasins."[1]

    The following day she had a class discussion about the lesson, and about racism in general. She later said: "I could see that they weren’t internalizing a thing. They were doing what white people do. When white people sit down to discuss racism what they are experiencing is shared ignorance." She states her lesson plan for that day was to learn the Sioux prayer[clarification needed] about not judging someone without walking in his/her moccasins and "I treated them as we treat Hispanics, Chicanos, Latinos, Blacks, Asians, Native Americans, women, people with disabilities."

    The original idea for the exercise came from Leon Uris's novel Mila 18, published in 1961, about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. One of the ways the Nazis decided who went to the gas chamber, according to the novel, was eye color.

    Because most of Elliott's 8-year-old students were, like her, born and raised in a small town in Iowa, and were not exposed to black people outside of television, she felt that simply talking about racism would not allow her all-white class to fully comprehend racism's meaning and effects.[1]

    The first exercise

    On April 5, 1968, Steven Armstrong was the first child to arrive in Elliott’s classroom, asking why "that King" (referring to Martin Luther King, Jr.) was murdered the day before. After the rest of the class arrived, Elliott asked what they knew about black people. The children responded with various racial stereotypes such as ignorance, unemployment, and other labels commonly given to Native Americans and Blacks.[citation needed] She then asked these children if they would like to try an exercise to feel what it was like to be treated the way a person of color is treated in America, mentioning that it would be interesting if there was segregation based on eye color instead of skin color. The children enthusiastically agreed to try the exercise.[1]

    On that day, she designated the blue-eyed children as the superior group. Elliott provided brown fabric collars and asked the blue-eyed students to wrap them around the necks of their brown-eyed peers as a method of easily identifying the minority group. She gave the blue-eyed children extra privileges, such as second helpings at lunch, access to the new jungle gym, and five extra minutes at recess. The blue-eyed children sat in the front of the classroom, and the brown-eyed children were sent to sit in the back rows. The blue-eyed children were encouraged to play only with other blue-eyed children and to ignore those with brown eyes. Elliott would not allow brown-eyed and blue-eyed children to drink from the same water fountain, and often chastised the brown-eyed students when they did not follow the exercise's rules or made mistakes. She often exemplified the differences between the two groups by singling out students, and would use negative aspects of brown-eyed children to emphasize. Elliott observed that the students' reaction to the discrimination exercise showed immediate changes in their personalities and interaction with each other as early as the first 15 minutes.

    At first, there was resistance among the students in the minority group to the idea that blue-eyed children were better than brown-eyed children. To counter this, Elliott used pseudo-scientific explanations for her actions by stating that the melanin responsible for making blue-eyed children also was linked to their higher intelligence and learning ability. Shortly thereafter, this initial resistance fell away. Those who were deemed "superior" became arrogant, bossy and otherwise unpleasant to their "inferior" classmates. Their grades also improved, doing mathematical and reading tasks that seemed outside their ability before. The "inferior" classmates also transformed – into timid and subservient children, including those who had previously been dominant in the class. These children’s academic performance suffered, even with tasks that had been simple before.

    The following day, Elliott reversed the exercise, making the brown-eyed children superior. While the brown-eyed children did taunt the blue-eyed in ways similar to what had occurred the previous day, Elliott reports it was much less intense. At 2:30 on that Wednesday, Elliott told the blue-eyed children to take off their collars and the children cried and hugged one another[citation needed]. To reflect on the experience, she had the children write letters to Coretta Scott King and write compositions about the experience.[1]



    **************************************

    Elliot conducted this exercise in her classroom yearly between 1968 and 1984. More than 450 children participated. It was quite controversial and attracted a good deal of national attention. It was documented in 1970 with film from that year's exercise later combined with a 1985 reunion of 11 students who had participated in the 1970 exercise.

    I found it on youtube. It's 55 minutes long but worth your time to watch it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bf0zfMl5KSA
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  2. Emmitto
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    Emmitto VIP Member

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    Wow, good stuff Lacuna. I'm not sure what to think about it yet. I'll have to digest. But I already know that this is teaching.
  3. chompalot
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    chompalot Well-Known Member

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    Very famous and excellent study.

    Uses the same logic that the pubs use concerning a individual mandate: they were for it before they were against it with no apparent reason for such a visceral reaction against it other than the fact that there is a different promoter.
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  4. g8trjax
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    g8trjax Well-Known Member

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    I always hated those damn blue-eyed kids.
  5. g8orbill
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    g8orbill Gators VIP Member

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    I was one of those blue eyed kids
  6. icequeen
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    icequeen Well-Known Member

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    Gee...this exercise would've posed almost the same conundrum I had as a child. I'm a "white Hispanic" (yeah, I know - beyond explained it in some of the TM threads) and my eyes tend to go from blue-green to emerald green, especially when I'm mad :laugh: So, like in real life where I got it from all sides, where would *I* have fit in? :huh:

    The sad thing is, this is a great exercise. In today's media/pussified America, this exercise is stopped and lawsuits are filed and she gets disciplined/fired because "you can't treat kids that way".
  7. LittleBlueLW
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    LittleBlueLW Well-Known Member

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    You are full of it if you really think this has anything to do with pubs, crats, or party in general.
  8. Dreamliner
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    Dreamliner Well-Known Member

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    Blue-eyed people have feelings too.
  9. chompalot
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    chompalot Well-Known Member

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    It has to do with conditioning. You can use the typical FNC viewer instead of a pub as an example, if you like.
  10. QGator2414
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    QGator2414 VIP Member

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    The irony...

    I am sure you could not use a msnbc viewer... :roll:
  11. chompalot
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    chompalot Well-Known Member

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  12. QGator2414
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  13. lacuna
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    lacuna Well-Known Member

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    The role playing scenario employed at the Blue Ridge facility that generated the disgust and condemnation this past summer is in theory not all that different from Jane Elliot's blue/brown eyed exercise. The mistake made in Georgia was in not being more sensitive and selective by taking into account the demographics of the students involved in a harsh slave scenario.

    That was not a concern for Elliot in her overwhelmingly white Iowa community. To make the discrimination real for her students she chose to divide them by eye color. The second day their roles were reversed. It was even handed and each group came away having experienced exactly the same aggressive hostility.

    What was done in Georgia generated fear and resentment in unwilling participants who bear the legacy of cruel treatment and unfair discrimination against their ancestors. There was no need for them to be subjected to such callous treatment. It was a story better left to history books rather than becoming a nightmarish experience.

    I don't know how common role playing has become but I came across another similar account of an incident that occurred in Connecticut last year. The spokesman for this program defended it as an activity that also addressed bullying.

    http://article.wn.com/view/2013/09/20/Student_Conn_class_forced_to_reenact_slavery_t/#/related_news

    Jane Elliot conducted her exercise in the classroom for more than 15 years before she expanded and adapted it into a diversity program for adults. If you watched the video in the OP who would have seen the second half was filmed at one of these sessions. She still divided the participants into blue/brown eyed groups but assigned the blue eyed the role of the discriminated. All the brown eyed people - which included all non-white people present - became the privileged class. She did this out of sensitivity. She knew they had no need to learn that day what it was like to experience prejudice as it was likely already something with which they were familiar.

    Elliot was steely and rough with the blue eyed group. She played her role well and got a hostile reaction that was not entirely unexpected. She visibly softened during the latter part of the workshop when the role playing was dropped and the experience was discussed among all the participants. I noticed the one blue eyed woman who was angry with Elliot during the exercise had taken off the identifying scarf where as other blue eyed individuals had not removed theirs.
  14. northgagator
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    northgagator Well-Known Member

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    i can see that the objective of this teaching experience went right over your head.

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