A Class Divided

One day in 1968, Jane Elliott, a teacher in a small, all-white Iowa town, divided her third-grade class into blue-eyed and brown-eyed groups and gave them a daring lesson in discrimination. This is the story of that lesson, its lasting impact on the children, and its enduring power 30 years later.

AIRED: March 26, 1985 | 0:53:05

(sirens wailing)

>> NARRATOR: 27 years ago,

when civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

was assassinated,

grief and frustration erupted in America's cities.

And far away in Iowa,

one third-grade teacher knew she had to do something.

>> The shooting of Martin Luther King could

not just be talked about and explained away.

There was no way to explain

this to little third graders in Riceville, Iowa.

I knew that it was time to deal with this in a concrete way,

not just talk about it, because we had talked about racism

since the first day of school.

>> This is a fact.

Blue-eyed people are better than brown-eyed people.

>> NARRATOR: It was a daring experiment in prejudice.

>> I watched wonderful,

thoughtful children turn into nasty, vicious,

discriminating little third graders.

>> NARRATOR: Can one teacher

in one day change the lives of her students forever?

Tonight, "A Class Divided."

>> August 1984.

A high school reunion brings some 50 former students

to Riceville, Iowa.

Eleven of them, some with their spouses and children,

arrive early for a special reunion

with their former third-grade teacher, Jane Elliott.

>> Oh...


>> And this is my husband.

This is my husband Tom.

>> Tom... Brian?


>> How are you?

>> Oh, fine, I'm just... Roy Wilson!

>> I made it!

>> You darling, oh, Roy!

>> Haven't been here in 14 years.

>> I'm so glad to see you.

(all talking at once)

>> How are you doing? >> Fine.

>> Long time since I've seen you.

>> Yeah, it has been.

>> Where are your little ones?

>> They're at home with Mama.

>> And this is your husband?

>> Yeah, that's Greg. Greg Rollins.

>> Greg Rollins, nice to meet you.

>> NARRATOR: Fourteen years earlier,

when they were students in her third-grade classroom,

ABC News filmed a two-day exercise for a documentary,

"The Eye of the Storm."

Now, at their request, they will see that film again

and relive the experience of her unique lesson in discrimination.

>> ♪ God bless America, my home sweet home ♪

♪ God bless America, my home sweet home. ♪

>> This is a special week.

Does anybody know what it is?

>> National Brotherhood Week.

>> National Brotherhood Week.

What's brotherhood?

>> Be kind to your brothers?

>> Okay, be kind to your brothers...

>> you would like to be treated.

>> Treat everyone the way you would like to be treated.

Treat everyone as though he was your...

>> Brother... >> Brother.

And is there anyone in this United States

that we do not treat as our brothers?

>> Yeah... >> Who?

>> Black people. >> The black people.

Who else? >> Indians?

>> Absolutely, the Indians.

And when you see, when many people see a black person

or a yellow person or a red person,

what do they think?

>> Look at that... dumb people.

>> Look at the dumb people.

What else do they think sometimes?

What kind of things do they say about black people?

>> They call them Negroes, niggers...

>> In the city, many places in the United States,

how are black people treated?

How are Indians treated? How are people

who are of a different color than we are treated?

>> Like they're not part of this world.

They don't get anything in this world.

>> Why is that?

>> Because they're a different color.

>> Do you think you know how it would feel

to be judged by the color of your skin?

>> Yeah... >> Do you think you do?

No, I don't think you'd know how that felt

unless you had been through it, would you?

It might be interesting to judge people today

by the color of their eyes... would you like to try this?

>> Yeah! >> Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Since I'm the teacher and I have blue eyes,

I think maybe the blue-eyed people

should be on top the first day.

>> And up here?

>> I mean the blue-eyed people are

the better people in this room.

>> Huh-uh.

>> Oh yes, they are... blue-eyed people are smarter

than brown-eyed people.

>> Huh-uh.

>> My dad isn't that... stupid.

>> Is your dad brown-eyed? >> Yeah.

>> One day you came to school

and you told us that he kicked you.

>> He did.

>> Do you think a blue-eyed father would kick his son?

>> My dad's blue-eyed, he's never kicked me.

Ray's dad is blue-eyed, he's never kicked him.

Rex's dad is blue-eyed, he's never kicked him.

This is a fact.

Blue-eyed people are better than brown-eyed people.

Are you brown-eyed or blue-eyed? >> Blue.

>> Why are you shaking your head?

>> I don't know.

>> Are you sure that you're right?

Why? What makes you so sure that you're right?

>> I don't know.

>> The blue-eyed people get five extra minutes of recess,

while the brown-eyed people have to stay in.

>> Ooh.

>> The brown-eyed people do not get to use

the drinking fountain.

You'll have to use the paper cups.

You brown-eyed people are not

to play with the blue-eyed people on the playground,

because you are not as good as blue-eyed people.

The brown-eyed people

in this room today are going to wear collars.

So that we can tell from a distance

what color your eyes are.

On page 127... one hundred twenty-seven.

Is everyone ready?

Everyone but Laurie.

Ready, Laurie?

>> She's a brown-eye.

>> She's a brown-eye.

You'll begin to notice today that we spend a great deal

of time waiting for brown-eyed people.

The yardstick's gone, well, okay.

I don't see the yardstick, do you?

>> It's probably over there.

>> Hey, Mrs. Elliott,

you better keep that on your desk so if the brown people,

the brown-eyed people get out of hand...

>> Oh, you think if the brown-eyed people

get out of hand, that would be the thing to use.

Who goes first to lunch?

>> The blue eyes.

>> The blue-eyed people.

No brown-eyed people go back for seconds.

Blue-eyed people may go back for seconds.

Brown-eyed people do not.

>> Why not the brown-eyes?

>> Don't you know? >> They're not smart.

>> Is that the only reason?

>> ...afraid they'll take too much.

>> They might take too much.

Okay, quietly now... not a sound.

>> And it seemed like when we were down on the bottom,

everything bad was happening to us.

>> The way they treated you,

you felt like you didn't even want to try to do anything.

>> It seemed like Mrs. Elliott was taking

our best friends away from us.

(playground whistle blows)

>> What happened at recess?

Were two of you boys fighting?

>> Russell and John were.

>> What happened, John?

>> Russell called me names and I hit him.

Hit him in the gut.

>> What did he call you?

>> Brown eyes.

>> Did you call him brown eyes?

>> They always call us that... all the blue eyes call us that.

>> They say (taunting): "Come here, brown eyes"...

>> They were calling us blue eyes.

>> I wasn't.

>> Sandy and Donna were... >> Yeah.

>> What's wrong with being called brown eyes?

>> It means that we're stupider and... well, not that but...

>> Oh, that's just the same way

as other people calling black people niggers.

>> Is that the reason you hit him, John?

Did it help?

Did it stop him?

Did it make you feel better inside?

Make you feel better inside?

Did it make you feel better to call him brown eyes?

Why do you suppose you called him brown eyes?

>> Because he has brown eyes?

>> Is that the only reason?

He didn't call him brown eyes yesterday

and he had brown eyes yesterday.

Didn't he? >> We just started this...

>> ...yeah, ever since you put those blue things on.

>> They kind of tease him.

>> Oh, is this teasing?

>> No... when he did it, it was.

>> Were you doing it for fun, to be funny,

or were you doing it to be mean?

>> Mean?

>> I don't know, don't ask me.

Did anyone laugh at you...?

I watched what had been marvelous,

cooperative, wonderful,

thoughtful children turn into nasty,

vicious, discriminating,

little third-graders in a space of 15 minutes.

>> Yesterday, I told you that brown-eyed people

aren't as good as blue-eyed people.

That wasn't true.

I lied to you yesterday.

>> Ooh boy, here we go again.

>> The truth is that brown-eyed people are better

than blue-eyed people.

>> (laughter)

>> Russell, where are your glasses?

>> I forgot them.

>> You forgot them.

And what color are your eyes?

>> Blue. >> (laughter)

>> Susan Ginder has brown eyes.

She didn't forget her glasses.

Russell Ring has blue eyes and what about his glasses?

>> He forgot them. >> He forgot them.

Yesterday we were visiting and Greg said,

"Boy, I like to hit my little sister as hard as I can,

that's fun."

What does that tell you about blue-eyed people?

>> They're naughty... in fact, they fight a lot...

>> The brown-eyed people may take off their collars.

And each of you may put your collar on a blue-eyed person.

The brown-eyed people get five extra minutes of recess.

You blue-eyed people are not allowed to be

on the playground equipment at any time.

You blue-eyed people are not to play with the brown-eyed people.

Brown-eyed people are better than blue-eyed people.

They are smarter than blue-eyed people

and if you don't believe it, look at Brian.

Do blue-eyed people know how to sit in a chair?

Very sad. Very, very sad.

Who can tell me what contraction should be in the first sentence?

Go to the board and write it, John.

Come on, let's do it again, loosen up.

Up, up, up! Come on.

That's better. Now, do you know how to make a W?

Okay, write the contraction for "we are."

Now that's beautiful writing!

Is that better? >> Yes.

>> Brown-eyed people learn fast, don't they?

>> Yeah.

>> Boy, do brown-eyed people learn fast.

Very good.

Greg, what did you do with that cup?

Will you please go and get that cup

and put your name on it and keep it at your desk?

Blue-eyed people are wasteful.

Okay, want to be timed this morning?

>> Yeah.

>> I use Orton Gillingham phonics.

We use the card pack, and the children,

the brown-eyed children were in the low class the first day

and it took them five and a half minutes

to get through the card pack.

The second day it took them two and a half minutes.

The only thing that had changed was the fact that now

they were superior people.

>> You went faster

than I ever had anyone go through the card pack.

Why couldn't you get them yesterday?

>> We had those collars on.

>> You think the collars kept you...

>> We kept thinking about those collars.

>> My eyes kept rolling around.

>> Oh, and you couldn't think as well with the collars on.

Four minutes and 18 seconds.

>> I knew we weren't going to make it.

>> Neither did I.

>> How long did it take you yesterday?

>> Three minutes. >> Three minutes.

How long did it take you today?

>> Four minutes and 18 seconds.

>> What happened?

>> Went down. >> Why?

What were you thinking of?

>> This.

>> I hate today.

>> You do? I hate it too.

>> Because I'm blue-eyed.

>> See, I am too.

>> It's not funny, it's not fun,

it's not pleasant.

This is a filthy, nasty word called discrimination.

We're treating people a certain way

because they are different from the rest of us.

Is that fair? >> No.

>> Nothing fair about it.

We didn't say this was going to be a fair day, did we?

>> No. >> And it isn't.

It's a horrid day.

Okay, you ready?

What did you blue... people

who are wearing blue collars now find out today?

>> I know what they felt like yesterday.

>> I do too. >> How did they feel yesterday?

>> Like a dog on a leash.

>> Yeah... like you're chained up in a prison

and they throw the key away.

>> Should the color of some other

person's eyes have anything to do with how you treat them?

>> No. >> All right,

then should the color

of their skin? >> No.

>> Should you judge people... >> No.

>> By the color of their skin? >> No.

>> You're going to say that today.

And this week and probably all the time you're in this room.

You'll say, "No... Mrs. Elliott..."

>> No... >> Every time

I ask that question. >> No, Mrs. Elliott.

>> Then when you see a black man

or an Indian or someone walking down the street,

are you going to say,

"Ha ha, look at that silly-looking thing"?

>> No, Mrs. Elliott.

>> Does it make any difference

whether their skin is black or white?

>> No. >> Or yellow?

Or red? >> No.

>> Is that how you decide

whether people are good or bad? >> No.

>> Is that what makes people good or bad?

>> No. >> Let's take these collars off.

>> Here, Mrs. Elliott, you can have it.

>> What would you like to do with them?

>> Throw them away.

>> Go ahead!

Now you know a little bit more than you knew

at the beginning of this week.

>> Yes... a lot...

>> Do you know a little bit more than you wanted to?

>> (in sing-song): Yes, Mrs. Elliott.

>> This isn't an easy way to learn this, is it?

>> (in sing-song): No, Mrs. Elliott.

>> (teasingly): Oh, will you stop that!

>> (laughter)

>> Okay, now let's all sit down here together,

blue eyes and brown eyes.

Does it make any difference what color you are?

>> No. >> Down, girl...

>> (laughter)

>> Oh, you found your friend, huh?

>> Okay, ready to listen now?

Okay, now are you back? >> Yes!

>> Does that feel better? >> Yes!

>> Does the color of eyes that you have make any difference

in the kind of person you are?

>> (mockingly): No, Mrs. Elliott.

>> Does that feel like being home again, girls?

>> (mockingly): Yes, Mrs. Elliott.

>> (teasingly): Oh, will you stop it?

>> (laughter)

>> CHARLIE COBB: This was the third time

Jane Elliott had taught her lesson in discrimination.

The first, two years earlier, was in April of 1968.

>> On the day after Martin Luther King was killed,

I... one of my students came into the room

and said "They shot a king last night," Mrs. Elliott.

"Why'd they shoot that king?"

I knew the night before that it was time

to deal with this in a concrete way,

not just talking about it, because we had talked about

racism since the first day of school.

But the shooting of Martin Luther King,

who had been one of our heroes of the month in February,

could not just be talked about and explained away.

There was no way to explain this

to little third graders in Riceville, Iowa.

As I listened to the white male commentators

on TV the night before, I was hearing things

like "Who's going to hold your people together?"

as they interviewed black leaders.

"What are they going to do?"

"Who's going to control your people?"

As though this was... these people were subhuman

and someone was going to have to step in there and control them.

They said things like, "When we lost our leader,

"his widow helped to hold us together.

Who's going to hold them together?"

And the attitude was so arrogant

and so condescending and so ungodly

that I thought if white male adults react this way,

what are my third graders going to do?

How are they going to react to this thing?

I was ironing the teepee... we studied an Indian unit,

we made a teepee every year.

The first year the students would make the teepee

out of pieces of sheet, we'd sew it together.

And the next year we'd decorate it with Indian symbols.

I was ironing the previous year's teepee,

getting it ready to be decorated the next day.

And I thought of what we had done with the Indians.

We haven't made much progress in these 200, 300 years.

And I thought this is the time now to teach them really

what the Sioux Indian prayer that says,

"O great spirit, keep me from ever judging a man

until I have walked in his moccasins," really means.

And for the next day I knew that my children were going to walk

in someone else's moccasins for a day.

Like it or lump it,

they were going to have to walk in someone else's moccasins.

I decided at that point that it was time

to try the eye color thing,

which I had thought about many, many times but had never used.

So the next day I introduced an eye color exercise

in my classroom and split the class according to eye color.

And immediately created a microcosm of society

in a third-grade classroom.

>> COBB: Riceville hasn't changed much

in the 17 years since then.

It's still

a small farming community surrounded by corn fields.

Its population is still under a thousand.

And it's still all white and all Christian.

And though Jane Elliott has continued to teach

her lesson in discrimination,

there has been little outward local reaction:

no objections from school authorities or the parents

of the 300-odd students who have by now been through it.

>> Okay, let's... let's get in a circle.

>> The reunion of her former third-graders was

Jane Elliott's first chance to find out how much

of her lesson her students had retained.

>> All right, now, Raymond.

Why... I want to know why you... were so eager

to discriminate against the rest of these kids.

At the end of the day, I thought,

"the miserable little Nazi."

>> (laughter)

>> Really, I just... I couldn't stand you.

>> It felt tremendously evil.

You could... all your inhibitions were gone.

And no matter if they were my friends or not,

any pent-up hostilities or aggressions

that these kids had ever caused you,

you had a chance to get it all out.

>> Yeah, I felt like I was... like a king,

like I ruled them brown-eyes,

like I was better than them, happy.

>> And you did it all day. >> Yeah.

>> How did you feel when you were the out-group?

>> Boy, that day, after we went home...

(laughs) ooh,

you know, talk about hating somebody.

>> Yeah. >> It was there.

>> You hated me.

>> Yeah... of what you were putting us through.

Nobody likes to be looked down upon.

Nobody likes to be hated, teased or discriminated against.

And it just boggles up inside of you... you just get so mad.

>> Were you just angry or was there more than that?

>> I felt demoralized, humiliated.

>> Is the learning worth the agony?

>> Yeah, it is. >> Yes.

>> It made everything a lot different than what it was.

We was... we was a lot better family altogether,

even in our houses we was probably,

because it... it was hard on you;

when you have your best friend one day

and then he's your enemy the next,

it brings it out real quick in you.

>> Some of the remarks were the kinds of things

I would have wished I could have programmed into them,

if I had been able to program them.

They are the things I would have wanted them to say.

Some of the things were just mind blowing.

>> You know you hear these people talkin' about, you know,

different people and how they're, you know,

different and they'd like to have 'em out of the country:

"I wish they'd go back to Africa," you know an' stuff.

An' sometimes I just wish I had that collar in my pocket.

I could whip it out an' put it on and say,

"Wear this, and put you... put yourself in their place."

I wish they would go what I, you know, do what I went through.

>> We was at a softball game

a couple weekends ago and there was a black guy,

"Hi Verla," you know...

and we hugged each other and everything,

and some people really looked just like,

"What are you doin' with him?" you know.

And you just get this burning feeling...

sensation... in you that you just want to let it out

and put them through what we went through to find out;

they're not any different.

>> I still find myself sometimes when I see some people together

and I see how they act... you know,

I think, "Well, that's black."

And then right in the next second...

I won't even finish the thought,

I'm saying, "Well, I've seen whites do it.

"I've seen other people do it.

It's not just the blacks."

It's... everyone acts differently.

It's just a different color is what hits you first.

And then later, as I said,

I don't even finish that thought before I remember back

when I was like that and then I remember not,

you know... everyone acts the same way;

it's just your way of thinking is the difference.

>> Like when my grandparents or somebody

and they start talkin' about old times and they say,

"the Japs" and all this an' that, and they start,

you know, holdin' that against them.

I think, "How'd you like to have been them?

"Japanese-Americans get thrown into these camps

just because they happen to be part Japanese."

You know, I... I just said,

"You, you calm down and think about it,"

but when they get older they're set in their ways

and they're not gonna change.

>> When you get older?

>> I'll be set in my ways

but they're different than their ways.

>> I was absolutely enthralled.

Sandy Dohlman's statements that "When my son comes home

"with the word 'nigger' and the other things

"that he hears downtown, I say to him, 'Listen,

"that isn't the way we judge people.

"You don't judge people by how they look.

"You judge them by what's on their inside,

not their outside.'"

>> I'm glad that she's teachin' them not to hate

because even though he does hear this from the other people,

he... if he goes home and he thinks,

"Well, Mom and Dad like the black people;

I'm gonna like 'em too,"

so I don't think he's gonna pick nothin' bad up out of it.

>> You chose your husband well.

>> (laughter)

>> He chose me.

>> You chose her well.

>> (laughter)

>> Little kids'll take it...

you know, they'll listen to a lot of other people too,

so they're gonna end up kinda confused over it.

>> But if she keeps on telling him.

>> Yeah. >> Is he going to be

the kind of person you kids are?

Or is he going to be the kind who judge people by the...

>> Well, he'll know right... somewhat right from wrong.

>> He'll know that. >> He'll know that he will....

>> ...but he'll have the, the ideas.

He won't be judging 'em by their color but he won't know

what we know fully, having been through it.

>> He won't learn the collar thing.

>> The prejudice from us.

>> He won't... he won't learn prejudice first-handed.

>> Yeah. >> He won't learn

to be prejudiced from us, I mean,

they won't learn to discriminate between people from us.

They may... he might hear it from others but never from us.

>> Okay, what's it like to be married to somebody like that?

>> (laughter)

>> When I was gonna marry Sheila,

I knew I... for my future that I was going into the military.

At first I thought, "Is she gonna be able

to handle being with all the different nationalities?"

And then I read "The Storm"... read the book.

>> "A Class Divided."

>> "A Class Divided" before we got married

and before I joined the Army,

and I said, "Hey, she's not gonna have any problems."

>> Should every... should every child

have the exercise or should every teacher?

>> Everybody.

>> Everybody, not just... >> Everybody who has...

>> I think every school ought to implement something

like this program in their early stages of education.

>> COBB: If Jane Elliott's lesson in discrimination

changed the way these young people feel

about discrimination and racism,

it also had a totally unexpected result.

>> The second year I did this exercise

I gave little spelling tests,

math tests, reading tests two weeks before the exercise,

each day of the exercise and two weeks later and,

almost without exception,

the students' scores go up on the day they're on the top,

down on the day they're on the bottom and then

maintain a higher level for the rest of the year

after they've been through the exercise.

We sent some of those tests to Stanford University

to the Psychology Department and they did

sort of an informal review of them,

and they said that what's happening here is kids'

academic ability is being changed in a 24-hour period.

And that isn't possible but it's happening.

Something very strange is happening to these children

because suddenly they're finding out

how really great they are and they are responding

to what they know now they are able to do.

And it has happened consistently with third graders.

>> COBB: The film made of Jane Elliott's third graders

in 1970 has been widely used with students

and teachers... and by government,

business, and labor organizations

concerned about human relations.

Perhaps the most unusual use of it is here,

at Green Haven Correctional Facility,

a maximum security prison in Stormville, New York.

Here, in a sociology course taught

by Professor Duane W. Smith of Duchess Community College,

his almost exclusively black and Hispanic classes

have been seeing the film for more than ten years.

>> What I'd like to do is introduce the subject

of prejudice and discrimination

through this film called "The Eye of the Storm."

>> Blue-eyed people are smarter than brown-eyed people.

>> Huh-uh.

>> They are cleaner than brown-eyed people.

>> Huh-uh.

>> They are more civilized than brown-eyed people.

>> FILM NARRATOR: Sandra and her brown-eyed friends

didn't like that day, but Raymond did.

>> I felt like I was a king, like I ruled them...

>> Do you think the children,

by this process, really learned the meaning of discrimination?

>> Most of the children, before the film started,

they had played and lived together in harmony

and a certain action coming from the teacher and seeing

the teacher as an authoritarian figure and someone to respect,

they accepted the views that was being given to them.

But I think that at the end of the lesson they could

clearly see that prejudices and other forms of discrimination

are things that people build within their minds.

They are not actual physical barriers that say,

"Yo, you can't cross the street."

>> The one kid I could really agree with was, at recess,

he was a brown-eyed kid.

He had this inner turmoil against this feeling of being

divided or prejudiced against

where he would hit another kid that he's known

for so many years in the gut.

Whether... he also stated that it didn't help any,

so that automatically should be a lesson

to every adult in the world.

Violence doesn't help any, and, you know,

this is a film that I hope my children get to see.

>> COBB: Unlike New York, Iowa is 98% white Anglo-Saxon;

yet even here, minority groups

account for more than 20% of the prison population.

To make sure its prison system employees are sensitive

to the concerns of this large minority,

the Iowa Department of Corrections last fall

hired Jane Elliott to give her lesson to some of them.

The group, which included prison guards and parole officers,

was told only that it would be attending a day-long workshop.

David Stokesbery.

>> Most of our training you go to,

people give you information and you learn that way.

>> Blue-eyed?

>> When I first came

with the sign-up and such and got put in the group,

I didn't know... when I started

seeing the signs around, you know,

"brown-eyes only" and such,

I figured they were the better group because they had a lot

of spaces available and there were none for the blue-eyes.

So when I got put in the blue-eyes group

and put the collar on,

I knew then that I was going to be

in the deprived group, I guess.

>> Okay, now you can stay in this area...

>> The workshop was supposed to begin at 9:00.

They took the brown-eyes in about 9:00

and left us standing in the hall.

I literally stood because there weren't enough chairs and I

didn't know whether I wanted to fight to take a chair down,

I didn't know if somebody would come and take

the chair away from me if I did.

>> COBB: While David Stokesbery and the other

blue-eyed people waited,

inside the meeting room, Jane Elliott prepared

the brown-eyed people for what was going to happen.

>> Now this is not something I can do alone.

This exercise won't work without your cooperation.

Blue-eyed people aren't allowed to smoke,

blue-eyed people aren't allowed to sit in these empty chairs.

Do not let a blue-eyed person sit next to you.

You know you can't trust them

and besides which they don't smell good.

Everybody knows that about blue-eyed people.

You don't know what you can catch from a blue-eyed person.

>> By 9:20, I felt some antagonism.

I'm stuck out here for 20 minutes standing, waiting.

>> I still say we ought to see what kind of a reaction

we'd get by everyone just simply going in.

Anyone who wants to do it?

>> Nobody seems to have courage in their conviction.

They do a lot of talking but nobody takes any action.

>> Maybe we should oppose it by all singing a song or doing

something really loud, you know.

>> "We shall overcome"?

>> Yeah. All right (laughter).

>> I need to have you keep it down.

I don't know how many times I need to give that instruction,

but you need to keep it down so you don't bother

the people in the, in the workshop.

>> I was pretty well ticked off

by the time we got taken in there.

>> ...purses and overcoats in the corner.

I need to have you put your purse and your coat

in the corner.

>> It would be to your advantage in the future, people,

if you'd get to meetings on time.

It would also be to your advantage

if you'd put your gum away.

>> I'll leave.

>> Put your gum away. >> I'll leave.

>> Do you want to get paid for today?

>> Uh-huh.

>> Well, then stay, but put your gum away.

>> I don't have a purse,

so I don't have any place to put my gum.

>> I'm sure that you are inventive enough

to find a place for the gum.

Now I'd like for you to notice where she put her gum.

You have this problem with blue-eyed people.

You give them something decent, and they just wreck it.

You'll also notice that blue-eyed people spend

a lot of time playing "Look at me,

"see how cute I am, I can be funny.

"I can make a joke of this.

This is amusing, I'm amused by this."

Another thing that is obvious about blue-eyed people

is that they are poor listeners.

The first thing you have to do when you get... when

you are teaching in a segregated situation,

when you're working in a segregated situation,

is teach the listening skills.

The listening skills are:

number one, good listeners have quiet hands, feet and mouths.

Everyone needs to write these down.

I'd like for you to

look at the man in the back, in the black jacket.

The game we're playing is, playing it cool.

This is a favorite blue-eyed game, playing it cool.

"Nobody can bother me, man.

"I can handle this. I don't have to do this.

I'm gonna ignore this whole thing."

Number two, good listeners keep their eyes on the person who

is speaking.

I take it you don't have a pencil?

>> No. >> Nor you?

>> No. >> Perhaps you could borrow one

from one of your neighbors.

Sir, I realize that you feel

that you don't need to write it down,

but whether or not you write it down,

perhaps you could remember it. >> I'll borrow a pen.

>> Good listeners have quiet hands,

feet and mouths.

Do you know what that means?

>> I'm not sure.

>> I believe that.

Do you want me to explain it to you?

>> No, that's okay. I'll get a pencil

and write this down directly.

>> Look, blue-eyed people, all... many of you have pencils.

Will one of you please lend him a pencil?

Or don't you trust him?

Which I can understand.

From the last ten minutes,

what have you observed about blue-eyed people?

>> Blue-eyed people are very stubborn,

very self-centered,

and wish to control as much of their surrounding as possible,

people-wise I mean.

Very inconsiderate people.

I don't even know why you have them here in the first place.

>> We have them here because we are required

to have them here.

>> We, we have to, huh?

>> This is one of the things you have to put up with.

>> Oh. >> Number three,

good listeners listen from the beginning to the very end.

Okay, good listeners decide to learn something.

And this is the thing you'll have

the most difficulty with with blue-eyed people.

They decide not to learn something.

Some of you have had trouble with blue-eyed people

in your home environment.

Some of you have had trouble

with blue-eyed people in your workplace.

Does anybody have an example of that

that they'd like to talk about?


>> Yeah. I have two nephews, and one is blue-eyed,

and one's brown-eyed.

And the blue-eyed one, like,

he never cleans his room, and he's real lazy.

And the brown, you know... and he doesn't seem to

have a lot of energy, the blue-eyed one.

But the brown-eyed one, he's real outgoing,

and he plays in sports and he's pretty good at it.

And, he just seems like a better kid.

So if I have kids, I hope they have brown eyes.

>> You, are you married? >> No.

>> Then it's a good thing you don't have kids, isn't it?

>> Right.

>> Then you will know what to do when,

when you choose a mate. >> Right.

>> Would you like to read that first listening skill to me?

>> I haven't got it on my paper yet.

>> Oh, why is that?

>> I haven't borrowed the pencil to write it down as yet.

>> And you think it's unnecessary?

>> Well, at this particular point, yes, I do.

>> Why?

>> Well... I, I have it in my head for the most part.

>> There's a lot of space up there for it,

isn't there, friend?

Do you suppose you could tell me what it is?

>> It has something to do with keeping

your hands and feet still, as I recall.

>> Has something to do with that.

>> (laughter)

I find it interesting that you're amused

by our having to stand here and wait for this man to do

something that everybody else has already done.

I find that highly interesting.

Stupid, but interesting.

If, if you are in a situation where someone is constantly,

constantly refusing to do what the people

in authority ask them to do, what do you know about them?

What do you know about that person?

>> Well, I think it's a game with them.


>> Has it gained anything for this gentleman?

>> Disrespect from, I think, the brown-eyed people.

>> Has it proven anything to brown-eyed people?

>> Yes. It, this is a typical trait of a blue-eyed person.

>> Now read the second one.

>> I don't have the second one. Can I read it off hers?

>> You don't have the second one, either?

>> No.

>> You have, you were keeping it in your head.

What happened to that plan?

>> Just the, just the first one

I had in my head, not the second one.

>> Oh, the other three aren't important?

>> Well, they're probably important.

>> But not important enough for you to write down, right?

>> Well, they're important.

I should've written them down, most probably.

>> Most probably?

Does anybody back there know?

You don't have it written down either?

I want you to take a look at these two so-called gentlemen.

Now, we need to hear the good listening skills from you.

I don't want you to think that I'm badgering you boys.

But on the other hand... >> I don't think that.

>> On the other hand, you're here to learn something.

And if you learn nothing else today,

it would be nice if you would learn the listening skills.

What do you know now about brown-eyed people

that you didn't know before... about blue-eyed people

that you didn't know before you came in here?

>> I'm finding I'm gonna have to

explain things a bit more explicitly to a blue-eyed person

than I would to a brown-eyed person.

>> How many times did I have to repeat

the listening skills for Roger?

>> Well, brother Roger is having a rough time today, isn't he?

It was about six or seven different times.

>> You think that's amusing, Roger?

>> Apparently somewhat amusing.

>> COBB: As part of the lesson,

the Corrections Department employees took a written test.

>> All right, I need these names and the scores.

>> I have K.R., eleven.

>> I'm sorry I can't hear you.

>> K.R., just initials, eleven.

>> K.R., just an initial?

No last name? >> No names.

>> How many? >> Eleven.

>> And Churdin, or Charles, I'm not sure.

>> Thank you, sir.

>> Tell me the name again. >> Uh... Churdin?

>> You can't read the name? >> No, I can't.

>> It's probably mine.

>> What's your name?

>> My name is Chambers.

>> First name? >> Jeanine.

>> And what was her score?

>> Six. >> Next?

>> E. Riley, with a five.

>> E? >> E. Riley?

>> Will E. Riley please stand?

>> It's mine.

>> You know, it's... what you do to the image of blues

with your behavior is unfortunate.

What you three people do to the image of women,

with your behavior, really makes me angry.

The fact that you do this kind of thing

and this kind of sloppy work reflects badly on women.

I resent that doubly.


>> Ma'am, I'd really appreciate it if you'd call us by name.

When you say "you three people,"

we don't know who you're speaking to.

It could be anyone here.

>> My dear, if you wanted me to call you by name,

you'd have put your name on your paper.

>> It's on my coat. >> It was to be on your paper.

>> You didn't see my papers, ma'am.

>> I didn't get your name either,

because it wasn't on your paper.

>> That's right. >> All right.

Now how could one call you by your name if you don't

care enough about your name to put it on your paper?

Don't expect me to... >> You don't know how to read?

>> Don't expect me to worry about it

if you don't put it on your paper.

Don't sit here and say "My name is important to me"

after you have just deliberately not put it on your paper.

>> I don't remember saying my name was important to me.

I remember saying, "I'd like to know who you're speaking to,"

when you say "you three." >> Then what should you do?

>> Ask you to use my name, which I did.

>> And where should your name have been?

>> Right where it is... >> On your paper?

>> ...and on my birth certificate.

>> Is it on your paper? >> No, ma'am.

>> Where'd you get a birth certificate?

>> Same place you got yours.

>> Out of a slot machine, same as you did, lady.

>> I think you're probably right about your own.

>> At least I know who my parents are, ma'am.

>> Is she being rude? >> Yes.

>> Is she being inconsiderate? >> Very.

>> Is she being uncooperative? >> Very.

>> Is she being insultive? >> Yes.

>> Are all those the things

that we've accused blue-eyed people of being?

>> Yes.

>> Is she proving that we're right?

>> Yes.

>> Does anyone have any comments to make at this point?

>> Do you feel that there are important blue-eyed people?

>> There are exceptions to every rule.

>> And what are those exceptions?

>> There are a few important blue-eyed people.

>> Very few.

>> You said that.

>> Do you think that you are one of them?

>> No. >> That's good.

>> Then why are you up there then?

>> I'm blue-eyed.

The difference between you and me is,

I have a brown-eyed husband and brown-eyed offspring,

and I've learned how to behave in a brown-eyed society.

And when you can act brown enough,

then you, too, can be where I am.

>> I wouldn't want to be where you are.

>> Are you certain?

>> Absolutely positive.

>> You like where you are?

>> I love where I am.

>> You like it so much that you don't even

identify yourself on your paper.

>> I don't need to, lady.

>> Her using the term "lady" where I'm concerned,

what do you think she's trying to do?

Is it ignorance, or is it deliberately insulting?

>> I would say it was deliberately insulting.

>> If it's ignorance,

she needs to be taught that to many of us,

the word "lady" is a pejorative.

I don't appreciate it.

It is, it's a put-down.

And it's used to keep women in their place.

>> I promise in the future to call you by the correct name.

>> I'm sorry. >> I will call you

by the correct name after this. I won't be kind.

>> That was kindness on your part?

>> Yes, I think to call someone a lady is a kindness.

>> Then your problem is ignorance.

>> You can call me "lady" any time you like.

>> I wouldn't do that to you. >> No, I know you wouldn't.

>> I really wouldn't.

I, I think that, and that's part of the problem.

Is a total lack of awareness

at what sexism amounts to and how much you contribute

to the sexism that keeps you where you are.

>> I like where I am, lady.

I did it again, didn't I.

>> Yes.

>> I'm getting kind of fed up with this

whole bunch of garbage. >> Why?

>> Brown-eyed peoples are no different than we are.

I hate to tell them that.

They have these false delusions and such.

>> Are they being disruptive?

>> No, you trained them very well.

I think that's what they did with the storm troopers

in Germany, also.

You guys do a real good job sitting up there.

>> You think that what's happening here today

feels like it would have felt

to be in Nazi Germany? >> Yes.

>> Where, where do you think you are in that then?

>> Where do I think I am? >> Who are you?

If you're in Nazi Germany, who are you?

>> Ah, the Jews?

>> COBB: After a break for lunch, Jane Elliott helped

the Corrections Department employees

analyze what had happened.

>> Did you learn anything this morning?

>> I think I learned from the experience a feeling

like I was in a glass cage and I was powerless,

there was a sense of hopelessness...

I was angry, I wanted to speak up and yet I...

at times I knew if I spoke up,

I'd be back in a powerless situation, I'd be attacked.

A sense of hopelessness.


>> Had you experienced that before?

>> I realized this morning that there were very few times

in my life that I've ever been discriminated against.

Very few.

>> And you were this uncomfortable

in an hour and a half?

>> I was amazed at how uncomfortable

I was in the first 15 minutes.

>> Can you empathize at all then with blacks,

minority group members in this country?

>> I'm hoping better than before.

>> If we tried to argue with you you would use

just the mere argument as reason for us being lesser than

the brown-eyed folks, you know, you couldn't win.

>> Yeah, but don't we do that every day?

>> I think some do, yeah,

but I would hope that I never get so unreasonable.

I... you know, the statements you were making

were groundless and such,

and yet we couldn't argue with them because

if we argued then we were argumentative and you know,

not listening and getting out of our place and all that stuff.

And that was frustrating to me.

And then frustrating to me was the other...

the little green tags who were sitting on their hands.

My group here was... I didn't think boisterous enough

in our opposition to the whole thing.

>> Why didn't you people support one another?

Why didn't the blue-eyed people... the blue-eyed people

on this side just sat there.

And let's face it, you covered your asses.


Why did you just sit there?

>> I think that's symptomatic of the problem as a whole.

We see that, you know, in society in general.

We see a few people who are making a lot of noise

and the rest of the people sitting back waiting

to see what they're going to do.

>> Okay, as long as I was picking on him,

I was leaving you alone, right? >> Right.

>> I'd say a lot of people accept that.

They let... have a few people do their fighting for them

and they stand back and if this person's going to win,

then they'll get on this side.

But if that person's not going to win,

they'll stay back over here, you know.

That's just how it works.

>> If you were in a real situation

where you had to do something about racism,

would you stand up and be counted?

>> What I would do I don't know.

It would depend on... >> But you would do something.

>> I would have to do something.

I couldn't go home tonight and face my kids if I didn't.

>> How did you brown-eyed people feel while this was going on?

>> A sense of relief that I wasn't a blue-eyed person.

>> Sense of relief that you had the right color eyes.

>> Right. >> Absolutely.

>> I really understood, at least I felt

that I understood what it was like to be in the minority.

>> Why were you angry?

>> First of all, because it was unreasonable.

Secondly, because I felt discriminated against.

Thirdly, I think that all of us,

everyone in this room has dealt

with discrimination on both sides.

You don't have to be black or Jewish or Mexican

or anything else to have felt discrimination in your life,

and as you become an adult you learn to deal

with those feelings within yourself

and you learn to handle those.

And when you feel yourself

in a situation that you can't get out of,

which we couldn't... we were a captive audience and it was

not a normal situation because normally you aren't badgered.

>> What if you had to spend the rest of your life this way?

>> I don't know how to answer that.

>> You don't wake up every morning

knowing that you're different.

You wake up as a white woman who is going to her job

at 8:00 or whatever.

Where a black person is going to wake up knowing from the minute

they get up out of the bed and look in the mirror,

they're black and they have to deal

with the problems they've had to deal with

ever since they were young and realize that

I am different and I have to deal with life differently.

Things are different for me.

And I don't think you can really say that you have felt...

maybe you have felt some sort of discrimination,

but you haven't felt what it is like

for a black woman to go through the daily experiences

of arguing and saying, "Listen to me,

my point of view is good," you know,

"what I have to offer here is good."

And no one wants to listen because white is right,

that's the way things are.

>> I think the necessity for this exercise is a crime.

No, I don't want to see it used more widely,

I want to see it... the necessity for it wiped out.

And I think if educators were determined that we could be

very instrumental in wiping out the necessity for this exercise.

But I want to see something used.

I'd like to see this exercise used with all teachers.

All administrators.

But certainly not with all students unless,

unless it's done by people who are doing it

for the right reasons and in the right way.

I think you could damage a child with this exercise

very, very easily, and I would never suggest

that everybody should use it.

I think you could have training classes for teachers,

bring them in, put them through the thing,

explain what happened, do the de-briefing

and then practice doing this until teachers...

until a group of teachers were able to do it on their own.

And I... teachers are not disabled learners.

They could learn to do this obviously.

If I can do it, most anyone can do it.

It doesn't take a super teacher to do this exercise.

>> COBB: What began in a third-grade classroom has spread

from students to teachers to corrections officers.

At the center is still a single teacher

determined to inoculate her students,

both young and old, against the virus of bigotry.

>> After you do this exercise, when the de-briefing starts,

when the pain is over and you're all back together

and you're all one again, you find out how society could be

if we really believed all this stuff that we preach.

If we really acted that way,

you could feel as good about one another as those kids feel

about one another after this exercise is over.

You create instant cousins.

I thought maybe that lasted just while they were

in my classroom because of my superior influence,

but indeed these kids still feel that way about one another.

They said yesterday... over and over the remark was made,

"We're kind of like a family now."

They found out how to hurt one another and they found out

how it feels to be hurt in that way

and they refuse to hurt one another that way again.

And they said, "We're kind of like a family now,"

and indeed we were.


  • ios
  • apple_tv
  • android
  • roku
  • firetv