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?


About 20 years ago, I taught a lesson on women's suffrage in my high school U.S. history class using a similar technique. The homework assignment for the day was to read about the suffrage movement.

I started the class as I would any other but had a colleague bring me a note. I pretended that the note announced yet another outrage by the school administration. I told the class that I needed to have them vent about what we could do to make the school better. After about 5 minutes, I asked for suggestions. I called on the boys who had their hands up and ignored the girls. The boys got their comments written on the board.

When that was done, I called on the girls and politely listened to their suggestions but did not write them down. I then asked the class to vote on which of the suggestions on the board they wanted me to forward to the administration. Of course, only the vote of the boys counted. By this time the girls and some of the boys were outraged and feeling what the suffragettes had.

It was probably the most effective lesson I taught during my 14 years in the classroom. Whether it is racism or sexism we are fighting the technique is a good one if handled with care.

Washington, DC


Has anyone considered nominating her for the Nobel Peace Prize? This is a simple yet incredibly effective method for bringing home the impacts of discrimination that has by now probably influenced millions of people.

Jeff Surfus
dexter, mi


I am a 43 year old woman. When in the 4th grade here, in a Catholic School.The Nun who was our teacher at the time did this exersise with us as a class.

This was somthing I have never forgot! It taught me to not discriminate,and to put myself in an others shoes. However,our teacher was not as cruel during the exersise as Jane Elliot was in hers.As Jane Elliot said at the end of the PBS broadcast.If not carfully done this exersise can destroy.

The only difference of how our class was done vs hers,Is that in our class there were no personal attacks on anyone.This lesson can be taught without such feelings of despire or inadequacy imposed on any individual.

Sincerely,Joann C. Pierce

Special Needs Assistant/Jr. High

ECE Certified

Joann Pierce
Derry, NH


The program "a class divided" was outstanding and I could not help calling Ms. Elliot a Saint. She is an outstanding american who, despite being member of the majority, was able to soul search her humanity and skillfully address the crucial issue of race in America. I think that this program should be mandatory implemented in all american public schools.

My Christianity has been a critical force in preventing me from hating America and the many whites who arrogantly think of themselves being superior or being empowered to dictate the future of anyone of noneuropean origin. The program was refreshing in bringing hope that we can indeed function as human beings rather than to hide behind the deceiving labels that society presses upon us. Job well done and please do continue airing these types of responsible programs all year long. God bless.

Edouard Noisin
Louisville, ky


It was chilling to watch a program expose a truth of our present living condition and also show our possabilities. I want to believe mankind will last long enough to realize them.

Ryan Doke
Lawrence, Kansas


In reference to this quote from a letterwriter here,

""The end rarely justifies the means, and however noble Elliott's intentions or salutary her results, some mention must be made of the fact that the initial groups of children in Iowa had their rights violated."

Michael Raynor

toronto, ontario, ""

With all due respect to Mr Raynor, I don't think any "rights" were violated ...Don't you think the very day that any parent left their child into the school system, they already have given consent to the teachers and educators for them to teach and give lessons?

Besides, the lessons taught by Jane are lessons that anybody, not just children, can learn from and use them to apply to their real life situations, wherever and whatever they may be. Those lessons are more valuable, in my opinion, than any of the conventional subjects schools teach nowadays because the full understanding of how to deal with others in an uncorrupted, unbias manner or just a healthy etiquette of social enlightenment is a life-long wisdom that anybody can take from the cradle to the grave.

If a mere lesson on eye-color can wake up one more child, man or woman from the dark cloud of racism, I say well done! ....and a miracle really.

Richmond, CA


Wow, the approach that she undertakes is really intense and educational. America has a race problem and this may very well be a key factor in the fight agianst bigotry.

steve so
davis, ca


think it was one of the most inspiring programs I've ever seen in my life. I hate to be critical of one of the other letters you published, but really, to be concerned about those children's rights being violated? Violated, how? They learned something, and they were glad to learn it, and were violated by that?

Yes, it was a hard lesson to learn, and I tend to think that to the contrary, the children who never learn that lesson are the ones whose rights are being violated by timid, fearful or worse teachers and administrations that won't teach it.

If I could pass on any comment to Mrs. Elliott it would be my thanks to her. She is one person that can truly be said to have made the world a better place because she is in it. A hero in every single sense of the word.

Ron Robertson
Fresno, CA


We have continued to facilitate the brown eye blue eye experience for our third graders at The College School for nearly twenty years.

I have helped to facilitate the experience for nine years. We share an overview, rationale, and reflections on our website of the brown eye blue eye experience as experienced by third graders of today. A search on Google.com for brown eye blue eye experience will lead you to these reflections. We hope there is a day when we do not need to do this excercise and we do not reccommend that all teachers attempt to facilitate the experience. For those who do, we hope that insights can be gained from our website.

third grade teacher, Matthew Diller

Matthew Diller
Saint Louis, MO


I am a typical american. My mother is creole and the first to leave her area of the US since the early 1700's. My father is of German/Hungarian descent. His family came here during WWII. Though I was raised in a typical "caucasian" setting,I was legally black and proud of it and the associated heritage. We were always taught by our parents not judge a book by its cover. W

. Growing up I was exposed to predjudice not only between blacks and whites but between the blacks because of the shade of black and also between whites because of social or intellectual ranking. I grew up to be one of the women who was a glass cieling breaker. I never used affirmative action to my benefit because to me that was a form of predjudice.

I can tell you that predjudice is alive and well in the hearts of most americans in one form or another. It is sad that this is true. I do not feel it will ever be eradicated just molded and varied. It is innate to be predjudiced and it goes back to survival of the fittest. There will always be those that are the fittest and those that appear fittest and then the rest. It is a trait innate to our evolution as one of the species of animals that walks this earth.

The lesson provided by a class divided is so pertinent. It needs to be branded on everyone's heart. Jane Eliot's methodology may be somewhat extreme and initially possibly illegal but it is effective and I applaud her. I hope what I have done with my life has affected some people to the extent that she affects people. We all want our lives to be meaningful and worthwhile. And we hope to leave the world a little better than when we entered it. She definitely made her life worthwhile.

Christine Bainbridge
Bend, OR


In 1976 I was a caucasian 3rd grader in a classroom in Iowa and I had to email my mother after the show and thank her for raising me in a discrimination-free environment! And thanks to Jane Elliott too for having the creativity and integrity to start this way back in 1968. It's a big, big world, but I think if this kind of education continues the tides will turn.

Kelly Pimentel
Sonoma, CA


Twenty-three years ago I borrowed a little film from our county office of education to preview for a 7th grade social studies class. To say I was surprized by Eye of the Storm would be an understatement! Who knew one little film could have such an impact on a class of students. The discussions we would have after viewing the film were remarkable and when I discovered the FRONTLINE retelling of the story I could not wait to use it in my classroom.

Today I teach 12th grade government and I use this program as part of my lesson on Civil Rights. It's impact today is especially important and the lesson continues. Students have done senior projects using part of the video to teach a lesson on discrimination in literature and a variety of other topics. Thank you for continuing to air this program and make it available to others.

lillian griffiths
carmel, CA


I watched this with my son, and was blown away. Such an incredibly powerful film, and such an incredibly effective way to explain and explore racism.

I burst into tears when I saw that the book about the lesson was called "A Class Divided". At the tender young age of 40, I decided last week to return to college and obtain my degree. The first class I'm registered for: Ethics, politics and the law, lists just that book as required reading. I took it as a sign that this is indeed my time to expand my thinking.

and this from a former Marine

Teena Hubbard
Bend, Oregon


I am a firm believer that children today are even more hateful towards one another than ever before. I go to the elementary school my daughters attend and am shocked to see the way the kids treat one another. It goes beyond race now and is totally out of control. I don't see parents or teachers teaching children respect.

The program should be discussed more in elementary schools and taught at an early age. How one teacher thought of this alone and has not been praised more I cannot figure out. This is a wonderful person who has a big heart and I'm happy I was able to view it.

Shannon Parker
Anaheim, California


I first saw this program when I was in high school. Now that I am a social studies teacher, I am amazed by the consistent reaction that students have to this program. If anyone is interested here is a link of Jane in a more recent excercise in a film called "The Angry Eye". It is amazing how this lesson continues to be provocative, generation after generation.

Jane Elliot, like Zimbardo or Milgram, has developed an amazing case study of how supple human nature can be. She is a true pioneer in education and the study of racism.


Gregory Harshfield
Portland, Oregon


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