Blue Eye Brown Eye Discussion
I am extremely familiar with the A Class Divided film and a huge advocate for Jane Elliott. Elliott made a controversial decision by creating a unique lesson plan for her third grade class to partake in after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. Her lesson in discrimination pulls at viewers emotions and is even more effective on the actual participants. We also viewed scenarios in which Elliott used the same exercises on adults and college students with the same results. Racism and prejudice are still issues that minorities, women, and elderly people must deal with on a daily basis. Elliot’s exercise not only puts Caucasian individuals in an uncomfortable position, but it forces them to feel the negative effects of unwarranted prejudice. These films can and should be used in college and high school classrooms to educate America’s youth about discrimination and how our society can rid itself of this problem.
Participants in the film became extremely expressive and typically ended up breaking down emotionally and crying. Personally, the wrap-up discussion amongst the adults in the office setting was the most memorable scene. It seemed as if the White individuals suddenly realized how evil and hateful racism can be. The badgering and disrespect that Elliot showed towards the “blue eyed” participants was relentless and completely degrading. She was disrespectful towards these White individuals in a way that they had never experienced before in society. Hearing some of the testimonies from the Black participants was also extremely enlightening. One father spoke of his experiences raising children and the difficulty in keeping their confidence high will trying to teach them to ignore racism and “work the system” in order to be successful. Many minorities must work twice as hard in life just to stay at a normal pace in society, and Elliot’s exercise focuses on the constant injustices that underrepresented individuals face their entire lives.
It is obvious that Elliot’s blue eyed/brown eyed exercise has an effect on individuals off all ages. One must consider what age is appropriate to employ such a powerful experience for students. Personally, I believe high school or college classrooms are more appropriate settings to view this film. Jane Elliott was an exception in the sense that she was teaching during the Civil Rights era in America, and there weren’t as many defined regulations in the school systems back in 1968. Unlike elementary students, older adolescents have the ability to have a more thoughtful and educating discussion about the overall messages behind this film. Although I advocate that our youth be constantly educated on how to be open minded and forward thinkers, Elliot’s film may be a bit too intense for today’s average third grade class in America. Our “round table” setting in our Tuesday evening class is a perfect example of how this film should be viewed and discussed in an educational setting.
Jane Elliott should be regarded as an innovative educator who has bravely stood up against racism her entire life. After her blue eyed/brown eyed exercise received national attention, she was the victim of countless hate mail and ridicule. Despite this horrible treatment, Elliott has continued to educate individuals of all ages in America ab out discrimination and why it must be erased from our society. She suggests that people speak out against racism when they witness it in their daily lives, whether it’s in an office setting or to another family member. I agree that individuals must take steps to rid prejudice from their own lives and try and influence others to do the same for the betterment of all of society.