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Summary of “A Class Divided”

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The day Martin Luther King Jr. was killed she planned an exercise that wouldn't just show her students what racism is - rather, it would give them first-hand experience of what it felt like to be oppressed for something out of their control

Elliott divided her class by the color of their eyes, marked them with armbands and proceeded to treat one group as if superior in capabilities to the other. The superior students performed better than they ever had before, while the inferior students' performance dropped.

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Soon, the children took to this opinion of blue eyes and brown eyes, the blue eyes quickly turning on the brown eyes, leading to interclass violence. The next day, the brown eyed people were placed higher on the social pedestal, being given longer recess times and better privileges. She equated the actions of brown eyed students in the classroom higher than those of blue eyed students. Later in the film, the students from the 1968 study (now adults) came back to comment on what they had learned from that study, showcasing that they had become aware of the effects of discrimination, and the same experiment was run on a group of adult educators in order to show them how the students are to feel throughout the experiment. In the end, each group of students behaved in discriminatory ways – teasing, bullying, punching – towards the lower group. It was concluded that, when certain societal and disciplinary measures were levied against one group, even classmates who knew and befriended each other before the experiment became nasty towards each other. Discrimination and stereotyping are two things that I learned more about as a result of this video, and how it can happen due to societal pressures, as well as the influence of peers and authority figures. The results of this experiment revealed an incredible amount of insight into the behavior of people toward others when one group is marginalized. Learned behavior and indoctrination are some attributes that were commonly observed within the experiment, as children were led to believe by an authority figure (Ms. Elliot) that one group was better than the other, and were given societal advantages as a result. The resentment that stemmed from these advantages came from this indoctrination. There was also an extent of learned behavior, in that much of the aggression and hostility is similar to what the students had heard of or experienced based on instances of racism

I believe that the video teaches a very poignant lesson about discrimination that I can apply to my life. It cements for me the importance of tolerance, as well as how people can act when they are indoctrinated into believing one group is better than another. I can definitely understand the minority group’s feelings of helplessness and despair against an uncontrollable situation, and understand that it is what someone (unfairly) feels when they are discriminated against.

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Elliot’s control over the members of the groups plays a very important role and proves that those, who have certain power, can easily impose different ideas on people and make these people change their minds within short periods of time (A Class Divided, 2008). The main idea of Jane Elliot’s experiment is to teach people about racism and prejudice, and demonstrate how stereotyping may change people’s lives once and forever. The members of the group, who are called superior, have to behave and feel like they are superior in everything. Those members, who are defined as inferior, have to behave in the inferior ways. The results of this experiment demonstrate how simple words without proper grounds, but told by powerful people, may influence people’s behavior and attitudes to other people. In both experiments, secondary social groups were chosen. These groups were later divided into two out-groups, where one social group felt opposition to another. However, the difference that lies between these two social groups of young students and adults is their relations to each other. When young students got to know that some of them were superior above the others, they could use power to prove their ideas and convict the “inferiors”. And the adult group of people used mostly words and superior tone to demonstrate their higher positions. Jane Elliot used formal organization according to which she created groups, which had to achieve certain goals and prove their positions and the rights, the members of the groups had. They were normative formal organizations because each member of those groups joined voluntary in order to achieve a worthwhile aim and comprehend that racism was the problem to solve immediately

When the sizes of the groups are huge enough, it is necessary to clear up the type of leadership.

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On the whole, humans get confused by sensation and perception all the time, but our minds play tricks on us

It’s hard to overcome stereotyping and discrimination when these illusions are hard-wired into our minds due to our everyday lives. And these falsehoods and ideas are actually physically rewiring how our brains work and perceive. These stereotypes damn black people from the start, only fulfilling the low expectations society has placed on them and letting that act as a mental barrier.

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A Class Divided. Pt.2 4 Aug. 2008. Web.

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