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Jane Elliott Essay

This was one of the most inspirational and educational documentaries that I have ever personally watched. A third grade teacher, Jane Elliott divides her class by blue and brown eyes to teach about discrimination and how it affects people in our society. People in society are taught many things in their lifetime, but when it is experienced first handedly they have a different perspective about it.

When speaking with the class about Brotherhood week and what it meant I was shocked when Jane Elliott asked the class “If there was anyone that we did not treat like a brother” the classes first instant response was black people. There was no hesitation in answering this question. They even used the word “Nigger”. This is a prime example of how prominent discrimination was at that time, and it is just as prominent in our society today.

African Americans currently score lower than European Americans on vocabulary, reading, and mathematics tests, as well as on tests that claim to measure scholastic aptitude and intelligence. This gap appears before children enter kindergarten, and it persists into adulthood. It has narrowed since 1970, but the typical American black still scores below 75 percent of American whites on most standardized tests. On some tests the typical American black scores below more than 85 percent of whites (Jencks, 1998). African Americans scoring lower on test could possibly be the results of discrimination. Jane Elliott proved this point in her documentary.

On both days, children who were designated as inferior took on the look and behavior of genuinely inferior students, performing poorly on tests and other work. I feel that this experiment would be beneficial and should be performed in our school systems to help children experience discrimination, and the feelings of demoralization on a first

Page 2 hand basis by using the same method Jane Elliott used by segregating children by eye color. I believe if this experiment was performed in schools today that there would be positive effects, such as improvements in student attitudes, elevated general testing scores, higher standardized test scores and less racial fighting between students. “A Class Divided” is a documentary that I feel everyone should view no matter what race or ethnicity a person might be. Whether we realize it or not, everyone is prone to some form of discrimination and prejudice.

The United States is such a diverse country, so most Americans are not part of the dominant group; therefore due to being a minority, we undergo a feeling of inferiority. This documentary presents us with a different view on the color of someone’s skin. After viewing this, a person will hopefully be less likely to focus on the differences they have with other people and see people all as equals. This topic was of great interest to me due to the fact that I witness discrimination many times a day.

Even I, as a white American woman, who is married to someone of a different nationality, faces discrimination. This documentary will help those who do not face discrimination and prejudice in their everyday life, realize what it is like to be on the other end. I believe that racism, discrimination and prejudice are more explained through sociological theories. This does not make it acceptable, but it gives better understanding. Scapegoat theory, holds that prejudice springs from frustration among people who are themselves disadvantage (Dollard et al., 1939).

The culture theory, some prejudice is found in everyone (Macionis, pg 281) This was proven by Bogardus (1925, 1967; Elsner, & McFaul, 1977) with the social distance studies that found that people felt much more social distance from some categories than from others (Macionis, pg 279). The conflict theory, this theory relates Page 3 to today’s society.

Shelby Steele (1990) explained that minorities themselves encourage race consciousness in order to win power and privileges. She also stated that this strategy may bring short-term gains, that such thinking often sparks backlash from whites or others who oppose special treatment on the basis of race or ethnicity. I believe that there is a lot of hostility and discrimination in society today between white and blacks due to the conflict theory.

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