A Classic Lesson About Bigotry

Wikipedia has a lot of information on this experiment and its legacy here. Adapting this experiment for others, Jane Elliott went onto become the “foremother” of diversity training.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • f_galton

    Child abuse.

  • skyblue

    A teacher did a small version of this to us when I was a kid, she just gave out candy in unequal amounts based on eye color.

    We were old enough to know that the unfair treatment was wrong, but not old enough to realize that she felt the same way, and had made a mistake in lesson choice. I remember being shocked that the teacher didn’t realize she was wrong! My friends and I had liked this teacher, but changed our opinions quickly that day. I thought she was mean for years after that based on those couple pieces of candy.

    I don’t think it was a very effective lesson. I don’t envy the kids who went through such an extensive, nasty version of it.

  • 3lemenope

    It’s one of those lessons that is actually difficult to execute properly, and so I’d say it is really only a good option for very experienced educators. A debriefing at the end, so the kids realize that it is a lesson and not actually the teacher judging them based on eye-color, is a particularly crucial bit that has to be handled just right, else the kid might get the wrong idea and think the teacher actually intends to normalize different treatment based on eye color.