A Class Divided is an encore presentation of the classic documentary on third-grade teacher Jane Elliott's "blue eyes/brown eyes" exercise, originally conducted in the days following the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. This guide is designed to help you use the film to engage students in reflection and dialogue about the historical role of racism in the United States, as well as the role of prejudice and stereotyping in students' lives today.
Because the film deals with racism and prejudice, it may raise deep emotions for both you and your students. Some students may be confronted with privilege for the first time while others may see an affirmation of a lifetime of discrimination. As you see in the film, frustration, anger, and pain are not uncommon responses to being confronted with bias and inequity. To prepare yourself, plan to spend some time viewing and reflecting on the film by yourself or with trusted colleagues, family, or friends before bringing it in the classroom. That way you won't be processing your own raw emotions while also trying to help students deal with their own potentially intense reactions.
For additional tips on how to help students engage in productive dialogue about bias-related issues, here are some tips on facilitating discussions on racism, prejudice, and discrimination.
This teacher guide was developed by Simone Bloom Nathan of Media Education Consultants. It was written by Faith Rogow, Insighters Educational Consulting. Advisers were high school teachers Ellen Greenblatt and Patricia Grimmer and Peter Kiang, director of the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.