Jane Elliot’s Experiment: Compare and Contrast

A Class Divided is one of the most popular documentaries, which discuss the ideas of discrimination among people. It is an experiment, conducted by Jane Elliot, an American 3rd Grade students’ teacher, is about the division of the group into two subgroups according to the color of their eyes: blue eye group and brown eye group.

Mrs. Elliot’s experiments with 3rd grade students and with adults have lots in common and certain differences, which may be classified according to such concepts like social groups, their sizes, leadership styles, and formal organization.

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Elliot’s control over the members of the groups plays a very important role and proves that those, who have certain power, can easily impose different ideas on people and make these people change their minds within short periods of time.

The main idea of Jane Elliot’s experiment is to teach people about racism and prejudice, and demonstrate how stereotyping may change people’s lives once and forever. The members of the group, who are called superior, have to behave and feel like they are superior in everything. Those members, who are defined as inferior, have to behave in the inferior ways. The results of this experiment demonstrate how simple words without proper grounds, but told by powerful people, may influence people’s behavior and attitudes to other people.

In both experiments, secondary social groups were chosen. These groups were later divided into two out-groups, where one social group felt opposition to another. However, the difference that lies between these two social groups of young students and adults is their relations to each other.

When young students got to know that some of them were superior above the others, they could use power to prove their ideas and convict the “inferiors”. And the adult group of people used mostly words and superior tone to demonstrate their higher positions. Jane Elliot used formal organization according to which she created groups, which had to achieve certain goals and prove their positions and the rights, the members of the groups had.

They were normative formal organizations because each member of those groups joined voluntary in order to achieve a worthwhile aim and comprehend that racism was the problem to solve immediately. When the sizes of the groups are huge enough, it is necessary to clear up the type of leadership.

In both cases, the teacher performed the functions of an instrumental leader: she created a goal, and, by means of the orders and rewards, controlled the situation. When the 3rd grade students were under the experiment, the teacher gave an order that blue eye students had priorities, and brown eye students did not have the right to command or express personal discontent.

In general, there were not leaders within the groups, this is why the teacher was the only one leader and performed her instrumental leadership functions in a proper way.

To my mind, during students’ experiment, the teacher used authoritarian leadership style, because she gave orders and students had to obey, because of her high position. In the case with adults, the teacher took laissez-faire style and provided the members with a chance to run the situation and communicate.

In general, the experiment, conducted by Mrs. Elliot, helped to comprehend how unfair and prejudiced people of any age could be. These experiments proved that words have unbelievable power over people; and if these words are told by a person with certain authority, people may obey them in different ways and even use power over the others.

In any case, the control mechanisms did not actually vary in experiments for adults and for young students. Mrs. Elliot made a right decision to use words as the main controlling means over people and was successful with her experiments.

Works Cited

A Class Divided. Pt.1 4 Aug. 2008. 11 Oct. 2009.

A Class Divided. Pt.2 4 Aug. 2008. 11 Oct. 2009.

A Class Divided. Pt.3 4 Aug. 2008. 11 Oct. 2009.

A Class Divided. Pt.4 4 Aug. 2008. 11 Oct. 2009.

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