This journal is a reflection on the film “A Class Divided”. The movie describes an experiment performed by Jane Elliot, a grade three teacher concerned by discrimination that existed at the time of Martin Luther King. Through the experiment, Elliot hoped to explore the nature of discrimination. In this journal, I present my reactions to the experiment, lessons learned, and the practical implications of the film. I also highlight memorable scenes and the parts of the film that surprised me.
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I was impressed by Elliot’s brown-eyed/blue-eyed test. She divided her elementary class according to the color of their eyes. At first, the children with blue eyes were made to feel as if they were informed that they were better than their counterparts. Children with blue eyes were given privileges such as eating first during lunch and taking longer recess while the teacher told them how smart and wise they were compared to their counterparts. The brown-eyed children, on the other hand, wore collars for easy identification and criticism. Afterward, children with brown eyes were made to feel special while the blue-eyed pupils were criticized. Elliot observed that children who were kind and cooperative before the treatment became discriminative in fifteen minutes.
Lessons Learned From the Experiment
I learned that it judging people based on innate traits such as skin and eye color or gender indicates ignorance. Having certain traits does not make one more special or talented than other people without similar traits. I also learned that discrimination has negative effects on the victims. Elliot’s experiment showed that the children who were made to feel inferior performed poorly even in activities that they did well before. It is disappointing to know how much discrimination affected individuals on a daily basis.
One of the scenes that I can remember even after several months is where a boy in Eliot’s class tried to tear his collar after the teacher told the group to throw away the collars. He had worn the collar during the day and had felt how unfair it was to be discriminated against. Interestingly, the boy tried to tear the collar to avoid wearing it again because he thought that it was the cause of his discrimination.
Part of the film that surprised me is where the children started discriminating against each other after about fifteen minutes. Although the pupils had been classmates for years, they had never regarded each other as different based on eye color. During the experiment, the children even criticized their friends. This activity showed that discrimination is learned and instilled in people. I think that people of color would not find it surprising because they experience prejudice on a daily basis.
Academic Implications of the Film
The film demonstrates that discrimination can affect the academic performance of children. In the experiment, Elliot discovered that children performed poorly on the day that they were classified as inferior. Some pupils could not solve problems that they had correctly tackled before. On the other hand, children who were classified as superior performed better than they usually did. This shows that discrimination affects even the academic performance of individuals. Cheng et al. (2020) found similar implications of discrimination on academic performance. According to the authors, victims of the vice performed significantly lower than other students. As such, there is a need for schools to create strategies to fight racism.
Applicability of Experiment/Activity
Since Elliot describes the procedure for the activity, any teacher can employ the same experiment. However, she warns that the activity may have implications for children and the experimenter especially if it is done wrongly. Eliot observed they hated her for putting them through discrimination. She also explains that the teachers in the school avoided her. Her children and husband started experiencing discrimination. Consequently, most teachers would avoid such experiments for fear of being criticized. I also think that a teacher should know how to properly carry out the experiment without causing harm to the children.
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The motive for Murdering King
The exercise responded to the question of the motive to kill King by demonstrating how discrimination occurs. The film provided the answer to the question by demonstrating the effects of discrimination. Elliot’s experiment showed how discrimination brought about hate towards people with a certain trait. In the film, children started mistreating others who were perceived to have undesirable characteristics.
Answer to the Question
In my opinion, King was killed due to the consequences of discrimination. The vice creates hatred against individuals with traits perceived as inferior. Since King lived at a time when black skin color was considered inferior, the killer could have developed hatred against him due to his skin color. King was also known for his activism in the American civil rights movement. He had a dream to end racism and inequality in a society that was full of discrimination. People were discriminated against based on the color of their skin.
How Individual Groups Experience Racism
Multiracial people face racism even from family members. People who originate from two races do not know which race to associate with (Roy & Rollins, 2019). Racial identity issues are associated with increased discrimination. People of color such as Asians have faced racism by being suspected of stealing and being stopped by the police for no reason. Additionally, people with black skin and different origins also face racism by being denied opportunities such as jobs.
Suitability of the Experiment to Other Children
I think Jane Elliot’s experiment should be done on all children. The students who had undergone the experiment explained that it shaped their how to view other people. They learned how unfair it was to be treated with discrimination based on eye color. If the students had not participated in the experiment, they would not have known how discrimination felt. I also think that two days of the experiment cannot be as harmful as facing discrimination all your life as some children do base on their skin color.
The reason why Adult Did Not Object to the Experiment
When the experiment was conducted on prison guards, the officers did not object, and the results were the same as those of the children. One of the guards explained that it is a symptom of discrimination. According to him, people naturally tend to accept the situation. The adults also feared being attacked and criticized.
Use of Violence as a Political Strategy
The learner answered that a violent response did not help or stop the bullying. This outcome showed that violence does not have any benefit because it does not eliminate or reduce the problem. Similarly, violence does not provide the solution in political situations. Nothing good comes from violence.
Relationship Between the Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes Exercise and the Sioux Prayer, “Help me not judge a person until I have walked in his moccasins.”
The experiment is similar to the Sioux Prayer because the two emphasize the importance of suspending judgment until you have a similar experience. As demonstrated by the experiment, the participants understood the magnitude of discrimination after experiencing it. When Eliot’s former students met again after a few years, they admit that the activity had changed their lives. According to them, the experiment had shown them to treat people the way they would like to be treated. Evidently, “walking” in discrimination victims’ moccasins had changed their perspective on the issue.
Cheng, H. L., McDermott, R. C., Wong, Y. J., & McCullough, K. M. (2020). Perceived discrimination and academic distress among Latinx college students: A cross-lagged longitudinal investigation. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 67(3), 401. Web.
Roy, N. R., & Rollins, A. (2019). Social constitutionality of race in America: Some meanings for bi/multiracial families. In Webb, F. J., Burrell, J., & Jefferson, S. G. (Eds.), Biracial Families (pp. 9-32). Springer. Web.