“A Class Divided” takes a look at a two-day experiment conducted by a third-grade teacher, Jane Elliot, in Iowa. The day after Martin Luther King Jr. was shot, Jane Elliot knew that merely telling and preaching to her third-graders against discrimination wasnt enough. 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. . . .
It was Tuesday during National Brotherhood Week and the teacher asked her students What is brotherhood? The students answered with the golden rule and also said its about treating everyone like theyre your brother. She then asked her students: Is there anyone in this United Stated that we dont treat as our brothers? The children answered “Black people and the Indians.” The students responded to the teachers next question: What kinds of things do people say about these people? One of the students answered, Look at the dumb people, and another said something about “calling Black people ni**ers.”
Mrs. Elliot then asked her third-graders if they think they could understand what it felt like to be discriminated against. The students could be heard saying yes and no. That’s when she suggested to the class that maybe separating the classroom based on eye color would help them to better understand what people of different skin colors go through; the students agreed.
After watching the film, answer the following questions integrating at least three readings into your discussion:
What scene or scenes do you think you’ll still remember a month from now, and why those scenes?
Did any part of the film surprise you? Do you think someone of a different race, ethnicity, or religion would also find it surprising?
How did Elliott’s discrimination create no-win situations for those placed in the inferior group? How did she selectively interpret behavior to confirm the stereotypes she had assigned?
From what you’ve seen in this film, who do you feel is responsible for the existence and elimination of racism in our society?
What implications does this study have for contemporary social work practice?