a class divided
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join the discussion: What are your thoughts on the daring eye-color lesson in discrimination which Jane Elliott first taught her students over thirty years ago?

Dear FRONTLINE,

Your documentary has spawned an entirely new industry.

Now I know why they make colored contact lenses.

As alway, GREAT JOB FRONTLINE. Thank God for people like Jane Elliott.

John McGrath
Toronto, Ontario

Dear FRONTLINE,

i watched this program today 10-13-04 at a diversity meeting for where i work. i have NEVER been so impacted by something as i was with this. what a wonderful teacher! every child should have the chance to be educated by such a woman.

to see the way the children turned on each other, trated people who the day before were their friends, the sad, broken looks in their little faces literally made me cry! how easy it was to turn them against someone was eyeopening! i would encourage eveyone to use this as a wonderful life teaching skill.

susan aldridge
bradley, illinois

Dear FRONTLINE,

"Frontline:A Class Divided",was one of the best programs that I had the opportunity to see in quite some time.I am from Brooklyn,New York,and,as strange as it may sound,not one of the schools that I had attended as a child had even discussed this daring eye-color lesson.I had always been a faithful "Frontline" viewer,and,I had always been compelled to experience as much as I could to open up my mind to new and bold ideas.

The lesson that my husband and I have taught our teenage daughter was to never look at what a person's skin color is.Look at how they are as people,and,always remember that when we expose ourselves to different cultures,we are able to grow.Thank you so much for this program.I enjoyed it tremendously.

Brooklyn, New York

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a "white" girl taking two African-American History classes in college. My teacher showed the video of "A Class Divided" in class and gave us an extra credit assignment to write our views on the video.

This led me to the PBS site on which I watched the video again with my 9 year old daughter who was apalled by what was going on in the classroom. She does not understand racial discrimination as she has not been brought up that way, and neither was I. But I have had a glimpse of it through the interview, with Jane Elliott, done in December 2002, and learned some things about myself that I didn't know. While I go to a church that is predominantly black, and am engaged to a black man, there are still some thoughts and attitudes that I didn't realize were "racist" and the root of them. Thankyou for this project; it is truly valuable for all people everywhere.

Susie Lewis (Faber)
Bakersfield, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

It was a pleasant trip down memory lane for me to watch the follow up program. I copied the original program and showed it many times in both the undergraduate management ane graduate Urban Politics classes I taught in the 1980s. Our Sociology instructor heard about it from one of my students and copied it for her classes as well. I have since retired but always think of that brave teacher and school district. I don't know if that could be done today.

No text or lecture could produce the results that film did.

Peter Lorenzo

Roseville, CA

peter lorenzo
roseville, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear Frontline:

Watching "A Class Divided" brought back vivid and painful memories of my experience in 5th grade around 1971/72. Our social studies teacher in Wisconsin implemented this concept, and the brown-eyes were chosen to be segregated the first day because the teacher was blue-eyed.

The experience was degrading and humiliating. At the end of the day, we brown-eyes were asked for our reaction, and some of us expressed anger while others burst into tears.

Because of the violent reaction we had, the experiment was halted, and we brown-eyes never had the opportunity to feel what it was like to "be on top."

I don't recall any discussion of what other people might feel like if we discriminate against them. What I remember is the humiliation of that day and the hatred/vengeance that I felt toward the teacher and the blue-eyes, which was never redirected or satisfied.

I realize this may be an unusual reaction when compared to those you normally receive, but I thought you should know about an experiment gone wrong. I would have a difficult time condoning such an experiment because of the psychological damage it can inflict on impressionable children.

Diana Urban
Austin, TX

Dear FRONTLINE,

The great thing about Jane Elliot's program is that it forces active participation in the exercise.

Although there is an accepted agreement that predjudice is bad, and acceptance is good, we often as a society take this for granted and do not address it conciously. We assume that our kids will not become racists because we are not, and we bend a little as we tolerate seemingly small harmless gestures of racism.

Next time you watch TV try to notice the undertones of racism that live just below our conciousness. Its presence can be smelled in corny sitcom plots and the language used by journalists. Chris Rock, whom I love, said in a routine, "Not one white man in this room would want to trade places with me - and I'm RICH!" We laugh and let comments like these slide, owing them up to minor incidents not worthy of noisy disapproval.

I submit that to bend our integrity by forgiving small but repetitive insults to one race or another, is as great a violation to the equal rights philosophy as there can be. Horrible racists have been created by seemingly tolerant societies. As primates inately concerned with our pecking order, we are incredibly sensitive to subtle cues to our worth in society, and to that of others.

We have no idea how many messages our children receive while growing up which reinforce these subtle rules of inequaltiy - but if you want to wake up to it, try finding one single American 10-year old who could not tell you what races have it better today.

We cannot just not teach racism; we have to actively teach acceptance. Kudos to Miss Elliot. Her pupils actively earn the lesson.

Louis Landman
Indianapolis, IN

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a child raised in New York City, as well as rural environments, I remember Jane Elliott's experiments--especially in later years when I was studying sociology in college.

I am now living in Israel, and this site has reminded me of how to bring the message of brother and sisterhood to my students and my own child. Jane Elliott's model is one with international significance. I encourage classroom teachers and parents--and even leaders--around the world to work with these lessons. Thank you, Jane.

Shalom!

Ellen Hoffenberg-Serfaty
Jerusalem, Israel

Dear FRONTLINE,

I found the CLASS DIVIDED show quite interesting and very compelling. However, I must say that I found it more of an example of OPPRESSION and not discrimination.

Minority and race issues are far more complex and subtle than could be expressed in the exercise. There are so many components as part of the minority American experience that it may be unfeasible to truly expect to convey this to White America, however, it should be noted that much of the discrimination that minorites experience are not overt and not expressed as were shown in the classroom though, to be fair, in 1968 it very likely was.

For example, being a non-oppressed minority is far different than being an oppressed HALF. If the experiment had been to have 1 blue-eyed out of a class of 20 brown eyes then we might have a small idea what minority expereince is like.

One last item: Minority experience and race-relations does not mean Black-White. This simplification occurs quite often and the other minorities often get only slight mention or as often with Asians or Native Americans ignored entirely.

Edward Monroe
Phoenix, AZ

Dear FRONTLINE,

I think that material could be used in today's classrooms with the inclusion of discrimination based on age and physical and mental infirmaties too. Thank you for the supurb presentation.

WGBH, in Boston is one of the last stations that I can turn on to watch quality, informative shows at any time of day.

pelham, nh

Dear FRONTLINE,

I well remember the first time I learned of that terrible thing...prejuidice. I was a third grader in 1964 and was told by a teacher that I couldn't have a gumball my friend who gave it to me because she was a --. I had no idea what she meant, only that it must have been something awful because of the way she said it.

I am now forty-seven years old and get to be an example to the thousands of students I have come in contact with. I was born with neurofibromatosis, a very visible and disfiguring disorder.

Having often been the victim of being discriminated against because of the body I was born "into" I share the same story with them. Prejuidices hurt. They can demoralize you, even when you have a healthy dose of self-respect.

Tolerance is often too brutal. Acceptance never is.

Have race relations changed? You tell me.

Fredericka Pfaff
Winston Salem, NC

Dear FRONTLINE,

i thought it was great as a person who has a disability ,i know all to well about prejudice and being discriminated aganist also i'm a minority .so i think this would be great in all schools .i know how it feels. My friends who are black say that because i have face things in a similar way .i underdstand what they go through

peabody, mass

Dear FRONTLINE,

I think that the lesson presented by Jane Elliott was amazing. It shows that sometimes people need to be placed in certain situations to really feel the impact of their actions or the actions of society. I myself am a teacher of a much younger age group but feel that sometimes doing exercises that allow children to think and really experience the goal anticipated allows them to take more in and make it a much more memorable experience rather then listening to a lecture that can be interpreted in so many ways or lost in the shuffle.

I think that this should be expossed to every teacher not only to repeat Jane Elliott's lesson but also to allow them to become more creative in their lesson plans and think beyond the chalk board and over head projector.

Amy Kinart
London, Ontario

Dear FRONTLINE,

The instructor's method relied on overt segregation, beligerance, and denegration. In real life, segregated bathrooms and drinking fountains no longer exist in this country, and most racial injustice is more subtle than heaping contempt on someone overtly due to a physical trait.

I found the lesson overly simplistic and extremely insulting towards the participants. We don't allow verbal abuse and personal attacks in the instruction of CPR, even though that's a lesson which could save lives. Even the military has policies against singling people out for abuse.

The central lesson I saw is that many people find it OK to use cruelty to teach about cruelty.

Christopher Gregerson
Minneapolis, MN

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you! Thank you! The "Class Divided" special solved a 32 yr. old mystery for me! I was a first grade student in a parochial school in the inner-city of NYC in 1970 - 1971. My very young, inexperienced, harsh, and psychologically disturbed first grade teacher attempted the "Class Divided" lesson on my class and it completely backfired.

For years, I have wondered

what prompted her to undertake such an unconventional method to teach a lesson on discrimination. Now, I have the answer and I am very grateful for that.

As Jane Elliott said in the special, if a teacher does not conduct this lesson in just the right way, a child can be damaged from it. Although I'm not aware of any of my classmates being permanently damaged by this experiment, it is a day that some of us do NOT remember fondly.

Our teacher gave us no indication of what was about to happen. She walked around the classroom and picked out all the "blue-eyed" children. We were scolded, belittled, made to do all the classroom chores, and even prevented from having our snack break AND going to the restroom. Several children broke down in tears and others were crossing their legs in fear of having an

accident.

I don't recall there being any animosity between the "blue-eyed" and "brown-eyed" children during the lesson. In fact, I remember one or two trying to help us by giving us some of their snacks. They were afraid to make a move, though, for fear of retaliation. Near the end of the day, the teacher angrily said, "How did you feel today? Did you like it? Well, that's how it feels to suffer discrimination!" She said little else. We were bewildered. Yes, this teacher botched the lesson and took it to the extreme.

For many of us, this was our first time in a formal classroom setting. We were scared to death. I remember fearing that this was what school was all about. Thank goodness, it wasn't. I'm convinced this situation was actually part of a much bigger problem for this teacher. As I said earlier, I think she had psychological problems.

I hope this woman has gotten help for her problems. She left the school in the early 1970's...As for me, I was a top honors student for my entire school career. Today, I am a professional in the computer software world. Yes, I've had a very happy, productive, and successful life in spite of a bad "Class Divided" experience.

It is such a shame that what should have been a positive learning experience turned out to be a fiasco in the hands of an ill-prepared person. After watching the "Class Divided" special, I feel that this lesson can have a positive effect if done properly. The true intention is very admirable. Thank you so much for airing this special and helping me to put my bad "Class Divided" experience into its proper context. Mystery solved!

Patricia Cash
Charlotte, NC

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a 38 year old black conservative male in the US. I vividly remember the night that Dr. King was assassinated and the riveting effects that trembled in our God fearing country. My father was in Vietnam and he called us the next day to see if we were safe away from the riots.

I saw your program last evening and I was very delighted at what I viewed. I don't beleive in race mixing and support limited integration not public schools but what a program. It instilled in white Americans what discrimination and seclusion are about. Being targeted because you are diffrent than others. I've been watching Frontline for 15 years and love it. Keep up the great work PBS>

Maurice Sarts
Tacoma, Washington

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