Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Class Conflicted

In my Educational Psychology class, we have been talking about social development and race relations in the classroom. During two previous classes, we watched Jane Elliott's film: A Class Divided. In this film, Jane Elliott took a class of elementary school children and invoked prejudices within them. On the first day, the blue-eyed children were told that they were smarter and better than the brown-eyed children. On this day, blue-eyed children had exceptional performance on vocabulary and academic tasks, while brown-eyed children showed less progress. The next day, Elliott flipped the script. This time, she told the brown-eyed children that they were smarter and better than the blue-eyed children and that she had made a mistake the day before. It was amazing how quickly the blue-eyed children lost confidence in themselves, while the brown-eyed children did much better than they had done the day before. Jane Elliott taught the children through role play that prejudice is not nice. It was really cute, at the end, how the students promised over and over again that they would never treeat anyone different because of the color of their eyes, or even their skin. Now, it became even more interesting when Elliott replicated this experiment with adults. A group of adults were told that they would be going to a company workshop. So, they signed in and they were given a tag to wear that said brown-eyed or blue-eyed. The brown-eyed people were let into the conference room immediately after sign in while the blue-eyed people were told to stand outside and wait. There was such a large build up of anticipation and anger that the blue-eyed adults were justa bout ready to forcibly storm into the room with everyone else. When Elliott finally let them in, she spoke using discriminatory messages towards the blue-eyed people. This really got them upset. Not to mention the fact that before ever entering the room, they had to adhere to the "Brown-eyes Only" signs on water fountains and sitting areas in the front area of the building.

I would have never imagined, initially, that adults would have such radically defensive behavior in an activity like this as compared to children, but when I thought about it, I figured, "Why Not?!" Adults have seen, experienced, and overcome a lot more than children. What elliott did was that she took the problems with the "American System" and manifested them within a small room filled with the "majority," who had probably never paid enough attention to it or even knew that it existed or what it felt like. Of course being put in the position of the minority and having no choice but to experience the sociocultural shock that Blacks experience everyday is going to be disturbing to middle/upper class white adults.

I think that Jane Elliott's "Class Divided" activity/experiment really goes along with what we talked about in class. "There is nothing wrong with democracy. We just need to make sure we're being democratic." The adults in the study realized that they were not allowed certain privileges and were being looked down upon (or privileged) just because of the color of their eyes. This made them see the larger picture, and one woman in the brown-eyed group even said, after the study, "We couldn't possibly imagine how it is, even from this experience, to wake up the next morning adn still be Black...To wake up everday and know that you are less than..." This study was performed well after the Civil Rights Era. So, isn't this a disclaimer for Conflict Theory within itself??

1 comment:

  1. This experiment further proves the point that racism is still present in today's society. It may not be as prevalent as during the Civil Rights era, but it still exists nonetheless. Black people in various instances are still being forced to prove their worth and fight for equality. Yes, Black people have made tremendous gains, but the fact that racism still exists shows that there is work to be done. The experiment she enacted proved to be essential because many people in today's era are blind. The fact that the white group got offended with the mistreatment they received places the shoe on the other foot. This is good because the way that Blacks were oppressed all of these years should be illustrated to whites. They should undergo some of the rigors that Blacks have been forced to and realize the extent of what they have done to us. The white group realized it wasn't fair and hopefully this will serve as a model to change mindsets so that racism can be demolished one group at a time.