Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Lesson on Discrimination

My partner teacher and i taught a lesson about discrimination that proved surprisingly effective. While researching effective ways to teach about discrimination to middle-schoolers, i came across an experiment done by a teacher (Jane Elliott) in the 1960's called Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes Exercise (found at that i decided to try out in my classes. She did her experiment over 2 class periods, but i had to condense it into 1 class period. 

So we started the class by having everyone stand up and instructed all the brown-eyed kids to move to the back of the class for the entire class and all the blue-eyed (or everyone without brown eyes) kids move to the front. 

Then we started our lecture as usual, by giving stickers to those who wrote in their "Grateful Journals" and did their homework...but we ignored all the brown-eyed kids. The brown-eyed kids became very upset, which set the tone for the rest of the class. 

After we gave stickers, we asked for 7 volunteers...and again ignored the brown-eyed kids. The 7 volunteers were each given a different name tag to wear (poor kid, mother without a husband, pregnant woman, black person, Gypsy, gay, doctor). Then we read about 20 statements out and asked them to step forward if they thought the statement applied to the name tags they were wearing or not (for example, "You live in a house with internet access and cable TV"; "You've never been discriminated against"; "You are not afraid to be stopped on the street by police"; "You have the right to vote"; "You can choose your own profession"; etc.). Then we asked why they did or didn't step forward.

Then we defined and discussed what discrimination is, what a stereotype is, different forms of discrimination (race, sexual orientation, age, gender, religion, handicaps). etc. 

After that we handed out the above-mentioned types of discriminations to groups of 4 to have them role play what they might look like. The brown-eyed kids refused to partcipate, saying since they hadn't been included during the whole class, they weren't going to do the assignment. I had mixed feelings about their response. On the one hand i was glad that they were seemingly truly understanding what if feels like to be discriminated against (which was the whole point of the brown-eyes vs. blue eyes), but on the other hand they knew what the class was about and i found it interesting that even though they knew they were being discriminated against for the purpose of the class, that didn't matter, they were still upset and unwilling to participate.

So, after the role-playing, i then spoke to the brown-eyed kids and asked them how they felt after being discriminated for the whole class. They all said they were upset and angry. Then i asked the blue-eyed kids how they felt as witnesses to such discrimination against their classmates and friends. They said it was unfair (but none of them spoke up during the experiment, interestingly). 

Then we ended the class with a demonstration. I had 1 brown and 1 white egg. I asked them what the difference was. They said the colors. Then i cracked them open into a bowl and asked them if there was still a difference. They said they were the same. I said that's how people are too...we may look different on the outside, but we're all made of the same parts. 

Then, because i felt bad for the brown-eyed kids, and because they were still sore about the whole thing, i let them choose from the goody, i ended it by discriminating against the blue-eyed kids...opa! ;op

No comments:

Post a Comment