Aug 24, 2022 in Research Essays

Jane Elliott’s Exercise

Analysis of the Effectiveness of Jane Elliott’s Exercise

The current research paper discusses Jane Elliott’s classroom exercise to further identify whether it is an effective tool to help people understand the problem of racial prejudice. The video case analysis showed that Elliott’s method had an effective result, and some of the white students decreased their racial prejudice. However, literature review showed that benefits of Elliott’s exercise could not be considered as justifying to the costs to the learners. Furthermore, some studies advocated that this method is not effective since it did not sufficiently affect the racial beliefs of white students who are more likely to identify themselves with their racial group. It was also recognized that reflexivity concept has the potential power to determine effects of negative emotional reactions, and thus, it may increase the effectiveness of Elliot’s exercise by promoting antiracist action that better accomplishes racial equity. Still, Elliot’s classroom exercise can be considered effective only in comparison with conservative methods of teaching, but there are more effective tools through practices of awareness and reflexivity of racial issues.

Video Case Analysis: Brown Eyes/Blue Eyes

The problem of racial inequality has been a subject of numerous studies, but still, it is widespread around the world. The notion of racism includes not only the principle of distinction and a certain attitude to different groups but also social practice in which representatives of a certain race are imposed to subordinate positions. In her “brown eyes – blue eyes” classroom exercise, Jane Elliott presented an illuminating example of racism discrimination by generating social differentiation in a classroom. In this way, there is a need to discuss and analyze Jane Elliott’s classroom exercise to further identify whether it is an effective tool that may help people understand that individuals with diverse characteristics from the society are treated differently.

Video Case Description

The video case by Gruzin (2014) shows how Jane Elliott conducted classroom exercise so-called “brown eyes – blue eyes”. At the beginning of the video, it was mentioned that Jane Elliott was the first one who proposed an experimental way to introduce the problem of racial inequality in the grade school classroom. Further, the video demonstrates how she uses a similar pedagogical strategy to educate college students about racism and discrimination.

The “brown eyes – blue eyes” method began with the introduction of the problem of racial stratification and prejudice. Elliot asked students to perceive eye color as a significant characteristic of biological distinction and treat blue-eyed people as “racially inferior.” She asked brown-eyed learners to accuse the blue-eyed colleagues of not being as smart and clean as they are. Furthermore, Elliot suggested brown-eyed students to force the blue-eyed peers to live down to the expectation of brown-eyed students. The latter were asked to blame the inability of blue-eyed students to perform classroom activities on the color of their eyes (Gruzin, 2014, 02:18 – 3:00). After everyone agreed to behave according to proposed rules, the blue-eyed students entered the classroom.

In the classroom, there were not enough chairs for the blue-eyed students, so they were forced to sit down on the floor. Directly after, Elliot began to form racial intolerance against blue-eyed students. After that, she started abusively treat blue-eyed students by giving them easy tasks (for instance, reading a sentence) and shaming them with their inability to perform it. Few blue-eyed students experienced strong negative emotions and were crying. One of the blue-eyed learners left the classroom due to the stress. However, when she decided to come back, she refused to apologize to every person in color in the classroom (Gruzin, 2014, 16:17 – 18:00). In this way, Elliott succeeded in generating a setting of racial caste distinctions based on “brown eyes – blue eyes” principle. At the conclusion of her exercise, Elliott advocated the problem of racial discrimination and stressed that this is a matter of power and choice of everyone.

In general, Jane Elliott’s exercise convincingly demonstrated that real experience is a powerful tool. Specifically, Elliott showed that based on “brown eyes – blue eyes” distinction, she could affect her students with a virulent pressure of racism. Critically, Elliott’s exercise also underlined the fact that just as she could manipulate the minds of her students with eye color racism, she could also explain to white persons what means racism and discrimination for people of color. In essence, Elliott’s method proves that racism is social in nature, and it addles the judgment of those that it affects. Additionally, Elliot also confirmed that she could affect and change the opinion of white persons regarding the racial issues through the application of social deconstruction.

Concerning the racism problem, the hostility to the others people in color as well as the negative stereotypes are formed in the process of socialization. The process of education and upbringing must include the opposite effect. In particular, it is necessary to instill in students the immunity to racism propaganda and an active civil position in relation to manifestations of intolerance and hostility. Elliot’s approach works in a similar way; however, the way in which she proposed to overestimate the racism issues in society involves negative emotions due to the stressful and artificially created condition.

Analysis of Elliot’s exercise allows to divide it into discrete stages and identify the specific points at which she constructed eye color racism. On the first stage, the learners at the classroom perceive themselves as an undifferentiated group, and there is no visible race bias evident among them. On the second stage, Elliot manipulates her students’ mind with socially constructed ‘racism’ by arbitrarily declaring that blue-eyed learners must be treated as racially inferior, and brown-eyed peers must blame their inability to perform any task on the color of their eyes. As a result, brown-eyed students sign socially contaminated thinking by racially demeaning blue-eyed students. Subsequently, blue-eyed persons suffer, as they are an evidence of signs of racial inferiority and hostility. On the third stage, Elliot deconstructs race by terminating the classroom exercise and informing her students that they are all racially equal but must remember that racial issues are present; thus, they need to know that people of color always suffer from this. Elliot also highlighted that students should treat each other as if they are all part of one undifferentiated group of racial equals.

Consequently, Elliot created the setting of intense race bias that she had invented into existence among students in that classroom, and Elliot showed that racism is curable. However, according to Stewart, Laduke, Bracht, Sweet, and Gamarel (2003), Elliot’s method yielded limited support for its effectiveness. Furthermore, the authors argued that Elliot’s exercise decreased racial bias only among those white students who were less likely to identify themselves with their racial group.

Hence, most forms of racism are to a large extent social constructions, which may depend on different factors. In fact, Elliot’s exercise helped those white students to recognized racial issue and decrease racial prejudice among them. Results provided by Stewart et al. (2003) only indicted the fact that racism is a more complex phenomenon, and some forms of the racial prejudice may depend on the perceptions of own group and group of ‘others’. In other words, racism depends on personal attitudes and perceptions of own race.

From this perspective, Elliot’s exercise may be considered as an effective tool to use to help people understand that people who are different in our society are treated differently, as racism prejudice could also be decreased through similarly progressive social deconstruction processes. Furthermore, its effectiveness is beyond all doubt in comparison with other forms of educational activities such as a lecture. It is due to the fact that the exercise actively affects the consciousness of students through a real example. Moreover, in comparison with the usual forms of educational activities, the students form a specific emotional reaction, and they have the opportunity to understand racial discrimination by the means of being eyewitnesses of this attitude on themselves.

Furthermore, Elliot’s exercise also illustrated that it can be as easy to infect the students’ mind with racist delusions. Even though Elliott’s exercise is related to prejudice reduction; however, its benefits cannot be considered as justifying to the costs to the learners. Besides, Kowal, Franklin, and Paradies (2013) highlighted that Elliot’s exercise is one among those in which teachers are able to invoke strong emotions in an attempt to generate discomfort among students. Moreover, the vast majority of students from the brown-eyed group informed being cheerful that they had participated in the exercise, the blue-eyed students, who received prejudiced treatment, were less likely to recommend contributing in the exercise to others (Stewart, Latu, Branscombe, Phillips, & Denney, 2012). Hence, additional evidence of the emotional costs of the students advocates the fact that this exercise is very stressful for its participants. Thus, the benefits of Elliott’s approach cannot be considered as justifying to the costs to the students.

Due to the created situations where students experience discrimination themselves, they can feel its effects emotionally with the purpose of knowing more about the feeling of being ‘oppressed’ by others. However, Kowal et al. (2013) suggested that this is useful in the short term, as the learners cannot move beyond their negative emotions as themselves to empathy. As a result, these persons are more likely to come back into an even stronger identification with own group and defend their privileges. Therefore, the feelings of being ‘oppressed’ may have an overt effect.

In contrast, Kowal et al. (2013) suggested that reflexivity should be considered as an additional tool when interrogating race prejudice. Additionally, the authors offered a case for how reflexivity can address the drawbacks of racism training. For example, they advocated that reflexivity concept have the potential power to determine effects of negative emotional reactions through focusing on reflexivity. Thus, Elliot’s exercise could be improved through reflexivity and racialization of negative emotional reactions. Furthermore, Kowal et al. (2013) introduced that reflexivity practices should be focused on relation to white antiracist identities. It can be reached through the development of reflexive antiracism, which consists of the following ideas. Firstly, white individuals need to avoid perceiving own group as bad and other minorities as good. Secondly, white individuals should learn and recognize their benefits and privileges without negative feelings, such as guilt or anxiety. Finally, white individuals should learn how to accept the fact of their whiteness. All in all, this approach should be recognized as a potential tool that could increase the effectiveness of Elliot’s exercise by promoting antiracist action that better accomplishes racial equity.

Conclusion

In summary, the current research discussed and analyzed Jane Elliott’s classroom exercise to further identify whether it is an effective tool to help people understand that individuals with diverse characteristics from the society are treated differently. During the analysis, the video case was described in detail, and the stages of the exercise were further examined. Additionally, it was found that Elliott’s exercise had an effective result, and some of the white students decreased their racial prejudice. As a result, it can be argued that Elliott’s approach is an effective tool to use to help people understand that individuals with diverse characteristics from the society are treated differently in comparison with other forms of lectures on racial discrimination. Moreover, Elliott’s exercise was found to be non-ethical due to the fact that it caused a lot of negative emotions among learners. However, some studies have established that this exercise is not effective since it did not sufficiently affect the racial beliefs of white students who are more likely to identify themselves with their racial group. The study also discussed other ways of teaching of antiracism, in particular through a focus on racialization and reflexivity. As a final point, Elliot’s exercise can be considered effective only in comparison with conservative methods of teaching (for example, a lecture), but there are more effective methods of communication through awareness and racialization of the problems associated with racial discrimination.

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