Blog 2 Making Brown Eyes Blue

Blog #2: " Making Brown Eyes Blue " I believe it was 1968 when Jane Elliott tried her experiment, and here we are almost 50 years later still fascinated by the results. What did you learn from her experiment? Share with us how you felt
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  Terrell Davis HUM 106 401 November 5, 2017 Blog #2: “Making Brown Eyes Blue”  I believe it was 1968 when Jane Elliott tried her experiment, and here we are almost 50 years later still fascinated by the results. What did you learn from her experiment? Share with us how you felt watching the experiment? Did you feel empathy for the “girl” that cried or not? How relevant is Elliott’s research today? Do you think if we tried the experiment today that we would get much different results? Share your thoughts. (500-word minimum)  Jane Elliott is an American former third-grade schoolteacher, anti-racism activist, and educator, as well as a feminist and an LGBT activist. She is known for her "Blue eyes –  Brown eyes" exercise. She first conducted her famous exercise for her class the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. When her local newspaper published compositions that the children had written about the experience, the reactions formed the basis for her career as a public speaker against discrimination. Elliott's classroom exercise was filmed the third time she held it with her 1970 third- graders to become “The Eye of the Storm”. This in turn inspired a retrospective that reunited the 1970 class members with their teacher  fifteen years later in “A Class Divided”.  On the evening of April 4, 1968, Elliott turned on her television and learned of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. She says that she vividly remembers a scene in which a white reporter pointed his microphone toward a local black leader and asked, "When our leader; John F. Kennedy was killed several years ago, his widow held us together. Who's going to control your people?" Shocked that a reporter could feel that Kennedy was a "white people's leader", she then decided to combine a lesson that she had planned about Native Americans with a lesson that she had planned about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  for February's Hero of the Month project. To tie the two lessons together, she used the Sioux prayer "Oh great spirit, keep me from ever judging a man until I have walked in his moccasins. She wanted to give her small-town, all-white students the experience of walking in a "colored child's moccasins for a day." On the first day of the exercise, she designated the blue-eyed children as the superior group. Elliott  provided brown fabric collars and asked the blue-eyed students to wrap them around the necks of their brown-eyed peers as a method to easily identify the minority group. She gave the blue-eyed children extra privileges, such as second helpings at lunch, access to the new jungle gym, and five extra minutes at recess. The blue-eyed children sat in the front of the classroom, and the brown-eyed children were sent to sit in the back rows. The blue-eyed children were encouraged to play only with other blue-eyed children and to ignore those with brown eyes. Elliott would not allow brown-eyed and blue-eyed children to drink from the same water fountain and often chastised the brown-eyed students when they did not  follow the exercise's rules or made mistakes. She often exemplified the differences between the two groups by singling out students and would use negative aspects of brown-eyed children to emphasize a  point.  At first, there was resistance among the students in the minority group to the idea that blue-eyed children were better than brown-eyed children. To counter this, Elliott lied to the children by stating that melanin was linked to their higher intelligence and learning ability. Shortly thereafter, this initial resistance fell away. Those who were deemed "superior" became arrogant, bossy, and otherwise unpleasant to their "inferior" classmates. Their grades on simple tests were better, and they completed mathematical and reading tasks that had seemed outside their ability before. The "inferior" classmates also transformed into timid and subservient children who scored more poorly on tests, and even during  Terrell Davis HUM 106 401 November 5, 2017 Blog #2: “Making Brown Eyes Blue”   recess isolated themselves, including those who had previously been dominant in the class. These children's academic performance suffered, even with tasks that had been simple before. The next Monday, Elliott reversed the exercise, making the brown-eyed children superior. While the brown-eyed children did taunt the blue-eyed children in ways like what had occurred the previous day, Elliott reports it was much less intense. At 2:30 on that Wednesday, Elliott told the blue-eyed children to take off their collars. To reflect on the experience, she asked the children to write down what they had learned.  Academic research into Elliott's exercise shows moderate results in reducing long-term prejudice but is inconclusive on the question of whether the possible psychological harm outweighs the potential benefits. Measured results of the diversity training for adults are moderate. The outcomes of a 1990 research study by the Utah State University were that virtually all the subjects reported that the experience was meaningful for them. However, the statistical evidence supporting the effectiveness of the activity for prejudice reduction was moderate; and virtually all the participants, as well as the simulation facilitator, reported stress from the simulation.  Another program evaluation in 2003, conducted by Tracie Stewart at the University of Georgia, showed that white students got significantly more positive attitudes toward Asian-American and Latino individuals, but only marginally more positive attitudes toward African-American individuals. In some courses, participants can feel frustrated about "their inability to change" and instead begin to feel anger against the very groups to which they are supposed to be more sensitive. It can also lead to anxiety because people become hyper-sensitive about being offensive or being offended. There are not very good measures of effects on long-term outcomes of these training initiatives. Because of the 1990 research, Murdoch University did not include the Blue-Eyes-Brown-Eyes exercise in their list of successful strategies to reduce racism. Such anti-racist policies can create divisions where none had existed by turning an every-day playground into 'race issues'. There are a small number of cases of sustained targeted bullying, and schools certainly need to deal with those. But most of these 'racist incidents' are just kids falling out. The "oppressed" don't want to be oppressed and their "oppressors" show little appetite for oppressing. They don't need re-educating out of their prejudice. The division is not random but instead largely racial. Part of the  problem is that the blue-eyed group is exclusively white, while the brown-eyed group is predominantly non-white, so that eye color is no longer an analogue or metaphor for race but a direct referent. In truth, no one plays their roles particularly convincingly, and the experiment ends in ill-feeling and confusion. Elliott puts the failure down to the presence of TV cameras and says she won't allow the exercise to be filmed again, but perhaps the real problem is that all the participants are genuine, and role-play works best when there is some form of coercion. In that circumstance, Elliott wields some real  power and, as footage shows in the documentary, she can be savage, reducing grown men and women to tears, all along in the certain conviction that it is good for them. "Many people go away knowing a whole lot more than they did when they came in. It's how we perpetuate our power. Leaving aside exactly why this self-perpetuating white power structure would institute diversity training and employ people such as Elliott, it still doesn't explain why she needs to target individuals with such  Terrell Davis HUM 106 401 November 5, 2017 Blog #2: “Making Brown Eyes Blue”    ferocity in her exercises. Elliott is keen on verbal watchfulness. She believes that racism is in the eye of the beholder and therefore one needs to be ever-sensitive to the possibility of giving offence. There's an unforgiving quality to Elliott's approach, a puritanical zeal that, for all its good intentions, is hard to warm to. I am reluctant to agree at first when I say that the situation has improved. After all, no one could imagine an African-American president 40 years ago but, we didn't have the technology we have today, or the man of that caliber who was used to using the technology. We don't make history, history makes us however, there been progress and more to continue. I found the documentary to be insightful and extremely relevant to the current state of our society. With transformation being such a hot topic and ignorance being a constant plague on social media, I think many of us need a bit more Jane Elliott in our lives.
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