|Photo by Charlotte Button|
When I was in college, we learned about the famous Jane Elliot's Blue Eyes/ Brown Eyes Experiment conducted on her 6th grade class in 1968. After the shooting of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Jane Elliot, a school teacher was struggling to explain the concept of "Racism" to her students, when she came up with the idea of the Blue Eyes/ Brown Eyes exercise for her classroom of 8 year old children. Little did she know she was making history and her classroom exercise would be studied in classrooms for years to come and would be the foundation of many future experiments.This experiment has always intrigued me since hearing about it, because it shows how easily children can be swayed into becoming racist. I decided to share the exercise with my readers, because it is a great example of how easily our children can be influenced. Not only into racism, but across the board with many of the issues our children are faced with today. Such as; racism, bullying, drugs, and etc. It shows an example of how children will ban together against another child or race, because that is what is acceptable. They will disassociate themselves from another child or children who are considered undesirable.
The Neatorama Blog quotes Jane Elliot on her experiment.
With King shot just the day before in Memphis, Elliott encouraged her third-graders to discuss how something so horrible could happen.
"I finally said, ‘Do you kids have any idea how it feels to be something other than white in this country?’ "
The children shook their heads and said they wanted to learn, so Elliott set the rules. Blue-eyed children must use a cup to drink from the fountain. Blue-eyed children must leave late to lunch and to recess. Blue-eyed children were not to speak to brown-eyed children. Blue-eyed children were troublemakers and slow learners.
Within 15 minutes, Elliott says, she observed her brown-eyed students morph into youthful supremacists and blue-eyed children become uncertain and intimidated.
Brown-eyed children "became domineering and arrogant and judgmental and cool," she says. "And smart! Smart! All of a sudden, disabled readers were reading. I thought, ‘This is not possible, this is my imagination.’ And I watched bright, blue-eyed kids become stupid and frightened and frustrated and angry and resentful and distrustful. It was absolutely the strangest thing I’d ever experienced."