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When civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, grief and frustration erupted in America's cities. A third grade teacher in Iowa decided to try a controversial experiment.
Former classmates gets together to watch footage of an experiment in race relations that was performed in their third grade class by teacher Jane Elliott. The plan was to identify children with blue eyes as better than those with brown.
After the students were introduced to the idea that blue eyed kids were better than brown eyed, it took only a few hours for them to become judgemental and abusive against fellow students who were deemed "less than" by their teacher.
On the second day of the experiment the teacher tells the children brown eyed people are better than blue eyed people. Jane Elliott noted that the children who felt superior out performed the other children. She introduced the idea of discrimination.
The experiment ends and Jane Elliott has a discussion with her students about racism. She asks, "Should the color of a person's eyes or the color of their skin change the way they are treated". The children agree it should not.
Jane Elliott explains that she began conducting her eye color experiment, because of the racist attitudes she observed in adults after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. She wanted her children to walk in the shoes of another.
A group of Jane Elliott's former students gathers and discusses how they felt on the day of the eye color experiment. One man explains that he felt all his inhibitions disappear when he was told he was better than others.
The lesson taught 17 years ago still resonates with the former students. They explain how the experiment has affected the way they raise their children and react to racism in society. They all agree the lesson should be widely taught.
Jane Elliott observed that the children performed better on the days they were "superior" worse on the days they were "inferior" and consistently higher overall after the experiment. A review by Stanford explains these changes.
The film documenting Jane Elliott's third grade students has been widely used by many organizations that are concerned about human relations. A group of prisoners who have viewed the film share their thoughts.
A prison in Iowa hired Jane Elliott to conduct her experiment on its employees to promote sensitivity to the minority population in the prison. She starts the workshop and explains what is happening to the "superior" group.
The "inferior" blue eyed group is berated upon entry to the workshop. Jane Elliott explains the "differences" between blue eyed and brown eyed people. The brown eyed "superior" group begins to treat the "blue eyes" poorly.
Jane Elliott picks out one blue eyed man and connects his lack of preparedness with his eye color. Being labeled inferior starts to affect the minds and performance of the blue eyed people.
Brown eyed people share what they have "learned" about blue eyed people over the course of the day. There is an argument between a blue eyed person and the instructor over how the blue eyed people are being addressed.
A student questions Jane Elliott about why she thinks she is better than other blue eyed people. Jane Elliott accuses a blue eyed person of contributing to sexism through her "ignorant" behavior. One student brings up Nazi Germany.
Jane Elliott helps the corrections officers analyze their experience. Students of the workshop express feelings of anger and helplessness at being discriminated against.
Jane Elliott admits that her exercise is not for everyone but would like to see a group of teachers trained to perform it properly. The social experiment has made a family out of her students.
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