Bothered by Blue Eye v. Brown Eye Experiment done in DD's class - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 46 Old 02-28-2008, 12:48 AM - Thread Starter
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and not sure if I want to write letter to her school, how to word a letter if I do or let it go.

If you have not heard of the blue v brown eye experiment here it is:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/divided/



Dd's, grade 8 class did a variation of it:
Purple- the elite group/ upper echelon
Blue- middle class
Green- Lower class/ untouchables

Dd came home describing it and I cringed listening to her. There were kids in tears. The upper echelon were horrible to the other kids. The kids in the middle were ignored. The green were picked on by teachers and kids alike. Everyone played their parts to a "t". I fail to see the point. At least from what I can tell by what dd said, it appears to be nothing more than a Milgram experiment (basically, people will be a$$es if they feel that a higher authority will assume responsibility) The kids have no school for the next few days so I am not sure what sort of wrap up will come if any. Dd guesses that people will not be able to live down this day nor their assigned roles.

I have had amazing conversations with dd about being kind to people, judging people by who they are not how they look and "ism's".

There's making a point but I think this was unnecessary. Or was it?

Or maybe I am just struggling with how to acknowledge ism's without paradoxically reinforcing them. Ds, grade 3, had never considered discriminating against a person of color until he had a civil rights unit in class. He thought it is really strange. He does not discriminate based on race, btw.

I wonder... How would you feel about your kids' class doing this? Worth it?
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#2 of 46 Old 02-28-2008, 08:34 AM
 
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Yikes! I'd be ticked off too. : I can see if they did a type of experiment to research how someone's eyes get to be the color they are. In fact, I did that type of experiment in science class in middle school. But to compare the color of someone's eyes to another color eyes and to say where they stand as far as being middle or lower class is just insane. Perhaps this type of experiment would work better with older children, say middle or high school age. But children in elementary school clearly can't understand this type of thing.

I would most definitely have a problem with it and would contact the school.

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#3 of 46 Old 02-28-2008, 08:49 AM
 
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Stating the obvious, I think the point is to illustrate a few different things mainly that discrimination comes in many different forms and some of it is based on quite simple things like colour. It's about having a true understanding of how actions effect other human beings.

I think it's a good lesson and that it really does illustrate the point on an emotional level in a way that just reading about it never would. I do however think that the teacher who runs a lesson like this does have to be incredibly sensitive to what they are doing and what the goal is.
Also, it's important that the roles get to be reversed and I'm not seeing how that could happen with the three divisions. Also, looking at the divisions, it seems like the idea of racism is lost and it's about social status which seems to miss the point.

I'm sorry it wasn't handled well at your daughter's school.
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#4 of 46 Old 02-28-2008, 09:09 AM
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Sounds like they completely missed the key part of the study, which is you have to reverse the roles at some point to teach how arbitrary discrimination can be.

Doesn't sound well-handled at all.
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#5 of 46 Old 02-28-2008, 09:32 AM
 
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It is absolutely unethical to conduct such an "experiment" without the informed consent of the children and parents.

There are many ways to expose children to the ideas of diversity in a democracy without forcing a psychological experiment on them.

A conference with the teacher and principal immediately seems like a good place to start.
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#6 of 46 Old 02-28-2008, 03:26 PM
 
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Grade school was pretty unenventful/memorable.
The one item I DO remember, though is basically this.

The teacher had a box, and each of us pulled out a 'bracelet'. They were in two colors. One group had special privledges...they had easier tests. The second group had 'harder' tests, no privledges.

I think it took us a bit for us to figure it out, but within 30 minutes we all knew it was a 'lesson' for us to learn by.

The following day.. our groups were reversed....

It was really a great lesson in discrimination, and something we all remembered and were able to talk about.

Honestly, when done 'right', this is a really good lesson. The reversal is necessary, though, in my opinion.
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#7 of 46 Old 02-28-2008, 03:31 PM
 
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Sounds like they completely missed the key part of the study, which is you have to reverse the roles at some point to teach how arbitrary discrimination can be.

Doesn't sound well-handled at all.
That's what I was going to say. It can be a good experience, and it is a very famous "project" that many classes do, but I'd never touch it because I don't trust myself to run it perfectly. The roles have to be reversed (idealy the next day) to show that discrimination based on color is arbitrary and how people will react to power even if they have previously been the powerless. If you don't feel that the project was done correctly, or if you feel you should have been asked for consent, then I'd talk to the prinicipal. Your child is in grade 8? I don't think that is too young if done correctly.
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Yikes! I'd be ticked off too. : I can see if they did a type of experiment to research how someone's eyes get to be the color they are. In fact, I did that type of experiment in science class in middle school. But to compare the color of someone's eyes to another color eyes and to say where they stand as far as being middle or lower class is just insane. Perhaps this type of experiment would work better with older children, say middle or high school age. But children in elementary school clearly can't understand this type of thing.

I would most definitely have a problem with it and would contact the school.
She said it was her daughter's 8th grade class. Those kids are 13 and 14 years old. I think it's certainly old enough to handle a lesson like this.

I wish they did it everywhere. It seems like a far deeper lesson than books or parents could ever teach you.

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#9 of 46 Old 02-28-2008, 04:35 PM
 
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I think these types of things are outdated and a poor match for today's society.

Last year, when my daughter was in 6th grade, her school did some sort of Hammurabi's Code experiment where they suddenly implemented a bunch of new, harsh rules and told the kids that any child who transgressed them would be kicked out of school. They did this for 3/4 of a day before explaining to the kids what it was all about.

It was horribly stressful for the kids. Two kids left the school over it. My own daughter was traumatized by it and it bothered her for months. There is so much diversity in kids' experiences these days, and, imo, schools should not be going out of their way to make kids feel unsafe.

I (and a bunch of other parents) really took the school to task over that one.

dm
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#10 of 46 Old 02-28-2008, 05:07 PM
 
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I wonder how these things get approved. I do research for a university. If I want to survey students--a voluntary survey about their experiences--I have to get the approval of an institutional review board (IRB). I mean, I know this isn't strictly research, but it seems like best practices to adopt some common IRB protocols, such as informed consent (subjects have a right to know what's going on, for example).

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#11 of 46 Old 02-28-2008, 10:24 PM
 
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I wonder how these things get approved. I do research for a university. If I want to survey students--a voluntary survey about their experiences--I have to get the approval of an institutional review board (IRB). I mean, I know this isn't strictly research, but it seems like best practices to adopt some common IRB protocols, such as informed consent (subjects have a right to know what's going on, for example).
I don't think of it as an experiment. We know what is going to happen and it isn't for anyone's research. We do less intense types of these activities quite often in class-- like have the kids try to come to an agreement about something, but then rig it so one group has different information to show (something). Our history curriculum has a lot of these kind of experiential activities. This one just happens to be more intense and emotional.
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This makes me so mad. Especially, and no offense intended to you Flor, that teachers seems to have been taught that this lesson/experiment is somehow "effective."

Learning requires a general feeling of security, for the most part. When I took adult education classes they talked a lot about setting up a learning environment, respecting the adults, letting them know what would happen, and being sensitive to people who don't want to participate, etc.

It's funny how with CHILDREN who have fewer emotional defenses and are much more dependent on the adults around them, it's just fine to create this kind of tense emotional atmosphere in the name of "learning" about discrimination. As if there are any children in the classroom that haven't experienced something similar enough to engage them.

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#13 of 46 Old 02-28-2008, 10:52 PM
 
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This makes me so mad. Especially, and no offense intended to you Flor, that teachers seems to have been taught that this lesson/experiment is somehow "effective."

Learning requires a general feeling of security, for the most part. When I took adult education classes they talked a lot about setting up a learning environment, respecting the adults, letting them know what would happen, and being sensitive to people who don't want to participate, etc.

It's funny how with CHILDREN who have fewer emotional defenses and are much more dependent on the adults around them, it's just fine to create this kind of tense emotional atmosphere in the name of "learning" about discrimination. As if there are any children in the classroom that haven't experienced something similar enough to engage them.
Well, I haven't personally done this, but in my teacher ed program we watched a movie about it and in the interviews with the children they seemed to feel that they learned a lot and that it made a big impression on them. I think it is true that teachers have been taught that this is effective. I've read about it and it seemed to have positive results. Did you click on the PBS link? I think you can actually watch the movie there and the children talk about the "lasting impact" of the lesson. It seems to me that there are teachers who have used it effectively. However, the OP's daughter's teacher doesn't seem to have pulled it off.
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#14 of 46 Old 02-28-2008, 11:05 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by dharmamama View Post
I think these types of things are outdated and a poor match for today's society.

Last year, when my daughter was in 6th grade, her school did some sort of Hammurabi's Code experiment where they suddenly implemented a bunch of new, harsh rules and told the kids that any child who transgressed them would be kicked out of school. They did this for 3/4 of a day before explaining to the kids what it was all about.

It was horribly stressful for the kids. Two kids left the school over it. My own daughter was traumatized by it and it bothered her for months. There is so much diversity in kids' experiences these days, and, imo, schools should not be going out of their way to make kids feel unsafe.

I (and a bunch of other parents) really took the school to task over that one.

dm

Bolding mine. I think that is what I feel too.

Dd did have me sign the ok for it. I was not aware (my mistake) how it would be carried out.

and


Quote:
Originally Posted by GuildJenn
This makes me so mad. Especially, and no offense intended to you Flor, that teachers seems to have been taught that this lesson/experiment is somehow "effective."

Learning requires a general feeling of security, for the most part. When I took adult education classes they talked a lot about setting up a learning environment, respecting the adults, letting them know what would happen, and being sensitive to people who don't want to participate, etc.
:


Thanks for all the input so far. There does seem to be a few people who favor using it as a lesson in discrimination. I value those opinions too
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#15 of 46 Old 02-28-2008, 11:11 PM
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I also think that if it's done correctly, it can be a very valuable lesson. I actually think it's better done with younger children rather than older, though.
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we watched a movie about it and in the interviews with the children they seemed to feel that they learned a lot and that it made a big impression on them.
I haven't seen the movie, so I don't know what its slant was, but is it possible that they handpicked those interviews that seemed to support the experiment and left out the ones that didn't?

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Wow I would be ticked. Glad they dont do stuff like that in the schools here.

 
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#18 of 46 Old 02-29-2008, 12:04 AM
 
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Well, I haven't personally done this, but in my teacher ed program we watched a movie about it and in the interviews with the children they seemed to feel that they learned a lot and that it made a big impression on them. I think it is true that teachers have been taught that this is effective. I've read about it and it seemed to have positive results. Did you click on the PBS link? I think you can actually watch the movie there and the children talk about the "lasting impact" of the lesson. It seems to me that there are teachers who have used it effectively. However, the OP's daughter's teacher doesn't seem to have pulled it off.
I'm very aware of the experiment and have seen the movie. I personally believe that the children were told that it was a great lesson and they responded by believing that too. Alice ******'s writings give a lot of insight into why children NEED to believe in the goodness of the adults around them, even as old as grade 8.

When I was a child I certainly believed the way the adults around me ran things were how they should be run, and that was the 70s. Of course that included use of the strap for discipline.

And sure, I do believe the kids might have learned about discrimination. By that token we could teach a lot of "life lessons" the hard way. Isn't that what forcing kids to submit to authority is all about? Do you think we teach empathy by treating people badly and ignoring their needs for a time and then assuring them that it was "just a lesson" in how to be kind?

I'm frankly surprised to see this approach supported on a AP/NFL site.

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There is a reason why valid research must be approved, and conscent forms must be signed.

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When I was in fourth grade our discrimination lesson was to take a type from the list (age, race, etc.) and act out the problem with a resolution. I still remember the one on age discrimination where a girl whose mom worked at Friendly's did her play on a child not being allowed to pay the bill without her mommy.

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Maybe with kids who are old enough to understand how arbitrary these sorts of divisions are, it could be very good. I think it would be very valueable for kids to realize how easily they could end up on the other side of such a divide. But it doesn't sound to me like it was handled well at all.
8th grade is old enough IMHO, but obviously something wasn't done right.

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#22 of 46 Old 02-29-2008, 02:18 PM
 
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It seems nuts to do this kind of experiment right before a weekend or school vacation- I'd think there's a need for lots of followup discussions, along with switching around the groups (which is more complicated than a simple reversal with 2 groups).

I understand why the blue eye/brown eye experiment was first done- to illustrate racism in an exclusively white community, back when the Civil Rights movement was just getting started and the kids were honestly clueless about racism.

But I'm not so sure that this is still needed today, when there are so many stories from the Civil Rights Movement to talk about- how various people are living today, compare laws from the 1950's and now- read blogs written by kids and teens of various races living in various communities- there are just SO many more resources today that I don't see the value in this particular experiment, which can cause harm to the kids if it's not approached with extreme sensitivity.

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#23 of 46 Old 02-29-2008, 05:12 PM - Thread Starter
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I understand why the blue eye/brown eye experiment was first done- to illustrate racism in an exclusively white community, back when the Civil Rights movement was just getting started and the kids were honestly clueless about racism.
That's another thing that makes me scratch my head. Her class is almost a perfect 50% white and 50% of a mix of asian, aa, na or biracial kids. They've grown up together since kindergarten as friends. They are living diversity. It's like trying to explain water to a fish. The teachers are very caring and wonderful. It just surprises me how it all went... and the pointlessness of it.
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#24 of 46 Old 02-29-2008, 05:27 PM
 
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I'm very aware of the experiment and have seen the movie. I personally believe that the children were told that it was a great lesson and they responded by believing that too. Alice ******'s writings give a lot of insight into why children NEED to believe in the goodness of the adults around them, even as old as grade 8.

When I was a child I certainly believed the way the adults around me ran things were how they should be run, and that was the 70s. Of course that included use of the strap for discipline.

And sure, I do believe the kids might have learned about discrimination. By that token we could teach a lot of "life lessons" the hard way. Isn't that what forcing kids to submit to authority is all about? Do you think we teach empathy by treating people badly and ignoring their needs for a time and then assuring them that it was "just a lesson" in how to be kind?

I'm frankly surprised to see this approach supported on a AP/NFL site.
I haven't watched the movie in a couple of years, but aren't the children interviewed as adults? Aren't they adults reflecting on the project? I do agree that children may assume that the adults in charge are doing good (though as an 8th grade teacher myself, I don't really see that), but I do trust an adult's reflection on the past. Maybe I need to watch it again.

to the op, did you ask the teacher why she felt this lesson was necessary? Maybe she is seeing something in the classroom, even though they've all grown up together. I do see a lot of racism in my very diverse school.
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I understand the reasoning behind it and have seen the movie referenced here, but I do beleive the girl I rememeber interviewed doesn't speak for every child in the class. The woman who came up with this is very hateful in my opinion, to hear her speak. Perhaps she has reason to be from what she's seen in her life, in her town, but to generalize humanity like she has is discrimination and hate too.
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Google it, cause I have to go pick up dd.
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#27 of 46 Old 03-01-2008, 09:59 AM
 
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I think these types of things are outdated and a poor match for today's society.
I agree.

I wonder where does it end. Why does there "have" to be something like this to make kids see the differences in race? Why not just teach that we all have blood running through our veins and move on in this day and time. I believe there's enough focus on racial tension in our country as it is, why bring it in to the schools? All kids will react differently to it anyway.

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Perhaps she has reason to be from what she's seen in her life, in her town, but to generalize humanity like she has is discrimination and hate too.
I agree.

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#28 of 46 Old 03-01-2008, 02:58 PM
 
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I'm not really sure how I feel about this. I was a psychology major as undergrad - and majored in research. I was involved as a research assistant in many experiments/trials especially in deception studies. Debriefing was REALLY important for the subjects - and these were subject who were adults and had willingly signed up to be subjects in the deception studies. And since our subjects and studies were videotaped from start to finish, on review you could see when some of the subjects were debriefed, but needed additional time to process the deception of the study. Again, these were adults who had signed up to be a part of this, and the debriefing occurred IMMEDIATELY after the experiment (which lasted no more than 1 hour,) so they were not allowed to go home to stew over what had happened to them. We also gave phone numbers for the subjects to call in case they had additional questions/concerns.

I guess if I were a teacher doing this experiment during the day, I'd split up the day to reverse the roles and not allow a child to go home at night to wonder about the point or to just plain be confused by it all, or worse, raise other issues that these experiments often do -- power, control, abuse, etc.
But I'm not so sure that I'd even feel comfortable doing this - period.

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I'm not sure I understand what the teacher was thinking. It's one thing to separate brown/blue eyes and then reverse for a simple lesson in "it's not the outside that counts". Why did they complicate it so much? And why did they use the three groups? Did the teacher "intend" to teach class differences? I'm quite sure this couldn't be good for the kids. Whether you feel okay with the initial brown/blue eyed experiment doesn't matter in this case. The point was totally lost and most likely damaging to some students. I would definitely speak up. They will need to do some damage control with the students.

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It is not necessarily a bad experience to give to kids. HOWEVER, most teachers (myself included) are not adequately equipped to debrief this activity and do the intense, emotional work that needs to occur for this to be properly facilitated.

Doing this poorly is far more detrimental than not doing it at all.

And, it is definitely not an experience that is obsolete or no longer needed. Just read the news on any given day and see what occurs in schools and communities across the country.
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