Jane Elliott taught in a small and all-white town in Riceville, Iowa. The day after Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered, all her students came to class disappointed because they recently declared King as their “Hero of the Month”. They were so confused about what had happened so Elliot decided to run an experiment that would teach her class a valuable lesson about discrimination. Her goal was to make people realize how people feel if they are discriminated against and how it can destroy people.
The class was divided into two groups. One consisted of students with blue-colored eyes and the other were those with brown. The blue-eyed children were treated nicely and given special privileges during the first day of the experiment. On the other hand, the brown-eyed children were told to wear collars around their necks and Elliott constantly scrutinized them. The next day Elliott reversed the roles and she treated the brown-eyed students better than those with blue eyes did.
This two-day exercise revealed incredible results to those involved. Those who were assigned to the inferior group acted like inferior students and performed poorly on school activities and exams. As for the students in the superior group, they mistreated the members of the inferior group even if they were all kind students prior to the experiment.
“A Classroom Divided” is the gripping documentary that was first released by Frontline in 1985 and was rebroadcast in 2003 as a part of their 20th Anniversary celebration. It presents the mini-reunion of the students who took part of the experiment which was again done to other students in 1970.