A Class Divided - Essay

Topics: Eye color, Sociology, Martin Luther King, Jr. Pages: 1 (345 words) Published: April 28, 2013
A Class Divided

Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, teacher Jane Elliott knew she had to do something. Riceville, Iowa, the town in which she lived, was entirely homogeneous and, as a result, she realized that her students had no firsthand experience with discrimination. A Class Divided illustrates Elliott's spirited experiment and the life-altering impact it had on her students. Symbolic interaction theory is illustrated on the day after King's assassination; Elliott segregated her class according to eye color. Students with brown eyes were considered superior to those with blue eyes. They were given extra time at recess, a second helping at lunch and the sense of self-worth that goes along with feeling above everyone else. The blue-eyed students wore collars so that their eye color could be distinguished from a distance. The following day, Elliott turned the tables by giving the blue-eyed students privileges and making the brown-eyed students second-class citizens. Elliott watched with fascination, as her classroom became a microcosm of society. The superior group quickly embraced their elite status and turned on the inferior group. They readily adopted the "propaganda" Elliott spouted about the other group's habits and ethics. Word of Elliott's lesson spread, and in 1970, she found herself with a camera crew in her classroom to document what few other teachers of the day were willing to confront. Functionalist theory is demonstrated in 1984, when the class reunited to watch the documentary and talk about the life lessons they learned fourteen years earlier. Elliott's former students spoke of how they are accepting of others in a town where discrimination still reared its ugly head. They talked about teaching their children tolerance and acceptance in a town where those values were not standard practice. Conflict theory is demonstrated in the documentary as Jane Elliott trained guards, in the Iowa Department of Corrections. The adults...
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