A Class Divided
Third grade teacher Ms. Elliott decided to perform a study after the shooting of Martin Luther King Jr., and the effects discrimination has on the society. With the segregated groups of “brown eyes” and “blue eyes” you observe the how the actions change these studious kids into nasty, vicious, discriminating little third graders. After exposure to theoretical and experimental illustrations of the roots of formation of prejudice, it is apparent that no matter what age, we all discriminate. But perspectives change once you’re the one in the others persons “moccasins”. Whether you are brown eyed or blue eyed, black or white, we’re all equal. But what is it that makes us discriminate, and why do we do it?
It’s something called prejudice; unjustifiable (usually negative) attitude towards a group of people. Whether we know it or not, we all perform it. On the first day of Ms. Elliott’s experiment, blue eyes were better than brown eyes. Blue eyes were smarter, cleaner, learned quicker, and over-all better than the brown eyes; vice-versa. These are called stereotypes; over generalized idea about a group of people. Stereotypes appear everywhere in every day life. Suppose an African American and a Caucasian, were suspects for a shooting. Many of statistics show that more people will assume that the African American did it solely based on their color; because the color of their skin links them to the bad act. Even the kids were creating stereotypes saying that the ‘brown eyes’ couldn’t go back for seconds because they might take too much.
The purpose of this paper is to reflect upon and react to the exercise “Blue-eyed/Brown-eyed” conducted by Jane Elliot in relation to the ideas of diversity, race, and privilege. The objective of this exercise was to give white people an idea of what life is like to be something other than white. Elliot’s exercise pointed out both blatant and indirect ways that prejudice ...
Ms. Elliott played the role as a huge authority figure. Before the study began, the kids played in harmony together. But being seen as the bigger figure, and someone to respect, the children accepted the views that one eye color was better than the other. Prime example is the Milgram study. People obeyed the “man in the lab coat” because they viewed him as an authority figure. Although no one was actually hurt, the results were shocking when many participants went to the extremes of obeying orders and hurting the innocent people.
Once the collars were put on the one group, immediate in-groups and out-groups were made. In-groups are the people who share a common identity. Therefore the first day when the blue-eyes were superior, they got all the freedom such as 5 extra minutes at recess. Then there were the brown eyes, who where the out-group. Out-groups are the ones perceived as different from ones in-group. The brown eyes weren’t allowed to play with the blue eyes, they weren’t allowed to get seconds for lunch, and they weren’t even allowed to drink out of the water fountain. Russell, who was a blue eyed with brown hair and glasses, and John, a brown eyed boy with blonde hair got in a fight at recess. This demonstrates discrimination; an action based on prejudice, because before the out-group was established the two boys were friends. But once John was put in the less superior group, Russell was better than him, and had the right to call John ‘brown eyed’ because ‘blue eyes’ were better. John admits though, that punching Russell did not help anything nor make him feel better. Which correlates with the real world today, that violence really DOESN’T solve anything. You notice that in “A Class Divided” each group both days treated the out-group terribly. On the first day the ‘blue eyed’ kids mentioned that Ms. Elliott could use a ruler to beat the ‘brown eyed’ kids when they acted up. Or that one student was taking to long to get out her homework because she was ‘brown eyed’. Collars were put on the kids to make it easier to tell the two groups apart; just like in real life when it’s obvious who belongs to what race; name calling such as “niggers” and the stereotypes such as African Americans “being dumb people”. I, myself, can relate to such discrimination and stereotypes. People will automatically look at my blonde hair color and more than likely assume that I am “dumb” when in fact, none of those people actually know who I am.
The Veil of the Minister and Goodman Brown Nathaniel Hawthornes short stories The Ministers Black Veil and Young Goodman Brown are two stories that are thick with allegory. Young Goodman Brown is a moral story which is told through the perversion of a common townsperson. In Young Goodman Brown, Goodman Brown is a Puritan who lets his excessive pride in himself interfere with his relations with the ...
Once the children were forced to wear the collars around their neck, they’re academics and attitude when downhill. Ms. Elliott had asked the kids to go through a pack of flashcards. The day the ‘blue eyes’ didn’t have their collar on they went through the whole deck in 2:30 minutes. But the next day, with the collars on, it took them 4 minutes. When Ms. Elliott asked why, the kid’s response was, “because of the collars”. This is an example of the scapegoat theory; finding someone to blame and can be caused by frustration or when someone feels powerless to change their situation. When the kids noticed that they did progressively worse they blamed it on the collars around their neck.
Being put in the out-group and discriminated causes a lot of anger and you almost feel powerless. A brown eyed during recess said, “It seems like when we were down at the bottom everything bad was happening to us… we felt like we didn’t even want to try to do anything.” This is called self-serving prophecy; prediction that causes itself to be true. When the kids already felt like they didn’t have anything good going for them, they thought that the work they do wouldn’t be good enough either. They were already in the state of mind that everything bad was going to happen to them. One day I wake up and think to myself, “Today is going to be a bad day.” Once I find one thing go wrong I automatically think that I was right, today actually is a bad day. When you have the mindset of one thing the outcome will usually be the same.
Even when the adults were being studied, they showed in-group bias; the tendency to favors one group. The adult ‘brown eyes’ would continue to agree how low class ‘blue eyes’ were. And in one case, a man from the blue eyes confronted Ms. Elliott defending his ‘blue eyed’ group saying, “brown eyed people are no better than we are.” Even among the little kids, each was remaining cliquey and creating names to call the less superior group.
It was constantly 98 degrees. It was dirty and hot. There was no running water or electricity. It was infested with huge mosquitoes that left baseball sized bumps. I would not have wanted to be anywhere else that summer. During the summer of 2001 I traveled to Honduras on a mission trip, but my preparation for the mission started during the winter. Every unpleasant, cold Saturday morning, I woke ...
Once the collars were removed and everyone was equal, you notice that the kids are all hugging and best friends again. Feeling like they were down at the bottom made a huge impact on the little kids towards discrimination. I’ll remember the most when the third graders came back 30 years later, as grown adults. When they talk about how to this day, they still look at people who are different than them as equals; it’s a real eye-opener. Once you step into the other persons shoes, experience what it feels like to be less of a person than someone else, your world is open up to a whole new perspective. From then on you have empathy for the ones who suffer from discrimination. Ms. Elliott made a wonderful study on the effects of prejudice and how it affects our social world today.