Jane Elliot was a third-grade teacher in Riceville, Iowa when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. The day following Dr. King’s murder, in an effort to make her young, all-white class understand the issue of racism, she divided the students into “blue-eyed” and “brown-eyed” groups. On the first day, blue-eyed people were superior. Brown-eyed students went to lunch last, were not allowed second helpings, had five fewer minutes of recess, could not use the drinking fountain (they could use paper cups), and were forced to sit at the back of the classroom. Students of different eye colors were not allowed to play with one another on the playground (brown-eyed students were not allowed on the playground equipment), and throughout the day Elliot made comments about the shortcomings and inferiority of brown-eyed students. The following day, the roles were reversed, with brown-eyed students prized as the superior group.
- The class that took part in the experiment
She continued conducting the exercise for future classes. In its third year (1970), ABC News profiled the experiment for a documentary called Eye of the Storm. Fifteen years later, in 1985, the TV series Frontline made A Class Divided as a follow-up. In addition to the original footage, it includes a reunion with members of the third-grade class shown in the film, as well as Jane Elliot’s adaptation of the exercise for employees of Iowa’s Department of Corrections. In the years since A Class Divided, Elliot works primarily with adults doing the “blue-eyes/brown-eyes” experiment, albeit in a modified form, as part of workplace diversity training. In it, brown-eyed participants are recruited and encouraged by Elliot to actively participate in the discrimination of their blue-eyed colleagues (while the blue-eyed participants are in another room), and the roles are not reversed.
A CLASS DIVIDED DOCUMENTARY:
Source: CLASS RACE GENDER