In 1968, Jane Elliott, a third-grade teacher in Riceville, Iowa, decided to conduct a daring experiment to demonstrate the effects of discrimination. Her lesson would have a long-lasting impact on the students and prove to be a powerful teaching tool even thirty years later.
Elliott divided her class into two groups based on eye color: blue-eyed and brown-eyed. She then proceeded to treat each group differently with one being treated as superior and the other inferior. The blue-eyed group was given extra privileges while the brown-eyed group was kept separate from the others and subjected to derogatory comments and injustice. This was meant to illustrate how prejudice affects those who experience it firsthand.
The effects of this harsh lesson were both immediate and long lasting for the children involved. Many of them reported feeling confused, embarrassed, and hurt by being treated so unfairly due to something as arbitrary as eye color. For some it was their first real experience with racism or discrimination of any kind, which made it even more difficult for them to understand what had happened.
The documentary about this experiment, “A Class Divided,” has won numerous awards over the years for its honest portrayal of the tragedy of prejudice and its power to shape people’s lives in negative ways. It is an inspiring reminder that even in such small moments throughout history we can make a difference if we are brave enough to stand up for what is right. We encourage everyone to take time out of their day to watch this thought-provoking documentary; you’ll be glad you did!