THE POWER OF LABELS & SEGREGATION

Third grade teacher Jane Elliot wanted to show her class what it felt like to experience discrimination after the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968. So she told them that those with brown eyes had to wear special collars & that those with blue eyes were special; cleaner; smarter. She gave them different sets of rules & privileges. E.g. brown eyes had to use paper cups if they drank from the water fountain.

Children began to act accordingly almost immediately. Blue eyes lived up to their labels, performing better on tests & becoming confident leaders. Brown eyes lacked confidence & started making mistakes they wouldn’t normally.

Children also became segregated & treated each other differently. E.g. two best friends with different eye colours no longer played together.

The next day Elliot said she’d made a mistake & it was actually brown eyes that were smarter etc. The effects were reversed, again, almost instantly.

This study shows the power of labels & the power of the effects of segregation.

What are your thoughts?

Do you think this is relevant today?