Learning about DiscriminationPosted: October 19, 2011
BY TATIYANA SMITH
Lasell College offers a class on social problems, taught by an amazing professor Karen Lychinski. She speaks about many problems around the world that still exist, allowing students to view them in many different aspects. One of the social problems I found to be the most interesting was discrimination and how it still exist today. We watched an experiment video that was dated, from 1968, but interesting because it showed how children behaved. I believe everyone that has time should watch it.
Jane Elliot, a third grade teacher in Iowa, wanted to teach her students what discrimination was and how it felt to be discriminated against. She did an experiment with her class. Elliot divided her class in two separate groups by their eye color. One group was with those who had blue eyes and the other group had brown eyes. On the first day, the blue-eyed children were told they were smarter, nicer, neater, and better than those with brown eyes. Throughout the day, Elliott praised them and allowed them privileges such as a taking a longer recess and being first in the lunch line. In contrast, the brown-eyed children had to wear collars around their necks and their behavior and performance was criticized and ridiculed by Elliott.
On the second day, the roles were reversed and the blue-eyed children were made to feel inferior while the brown eyed peers were designated the dominant group. What happened over the course of the unique two-day exercise surprised both students and teacher. On both days, children who were chosen as inferior took on the look and behavior of genuinely inferior students, performing poorly on tests and other work. In contrast, the “superior” students, students who had been sweet and tolerant before the exercise became unfair and seemed to like discriminating against the “inferior” group. I believe that dividing the students into two groups was a helpful lesson for the children. However, I also believe that there are other ways to teach children about discrimination and racism. I think that having the children become mean to each other can cause long term issues. I don’t think it’s fair to experiment on children. During the experiment the children became people they actually weren’t. Even though it was all pretend, a teacher shouldn’t make third grade students feel like there are less than someone else.
Over the years Oprah Winfrey has also conducted the same experiment with people of her audience, it’s so interesting to see how people act even when knowing that it just an experiment. They get so into character they forget their morals and how to respect. Here is a video from one of her shows:
Discrimination still exists everywhere in this world. I’m happy to say that here at Lasell College I have never been put into a situation where I have felt discriminated against. I think it would be amazing if Lasell College held an event in which they conducted this experiment as well, to see how people in our own community would react within certain limits.