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A Class Divided - Movie Review

Essay by   •  November 18, 2012  •  Book/Movie Report  •  1,956 Words (8 Pages)  •  1,913 Views

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"A class divided" is a film which has a greater impact on the society we are living in. It was released on 26th march, 1985 and was produced and directed by William Peters. It is a documentary of a third grade teacher who tried to teach her students a lesson on prejudice and discrimination. Teacher, Jane Elliott, decided to teach her student a practical lesson on discrimination following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968. Teacher Jane Elliott knew she had to do something although she was living in a homogenous town of Iowa. This documentary covers an exercise in discrimination based on eye color with two groups of children in the third grade classroom and adult employees of the Iowa state prison system at a daylong workshop on human relations. In 1970 when Jane Elliott conducted her experiment, PBS filmed a documentary, "Eye of The Storm" which was based on her experiment on blue eyed and brown eyed children in her classroom.

This film is an expanded edition of William Peters's classic study of the unique eye-color lesson in prejudice and discrimination taught by Jane Elliott. This new film continues the story of teacher Jane Elliott and her sixteen third graders of 1970, eleven of whom returned to their home town in 1984 for a reunion with their former teacher. Peters reports on that meeting and its evidence that the long-ago lesson has had a profound and enduring effect on the students' lives and attitudes.

Sociological Analysis

Several sociological topics demonstrated in this film include racial, ethnicity and minority groups, local and global stratification and social inequality. The topic of racial, ethnicity and minority group was clearly demonstrated by the prejudice and discrimination experienced in this film. Local and global stratification and social inequality is portrayed by the social classes emerging in this film.

In this film all the people appear to beat risk to the spiteful effects of racial prejudice and discrimination. The children in the third grade classroom and the adult prison employees in the state prison reacted similarly when judged and treated unjustly on the basis of the eye color. Those who were treated as inferior in the film became uncomfortable, frustrated and disoriented and felt rejected and dehumanized. When asked to perform a simple task those in the inferior position had problems in doing the right things and following directions. Those who were treated as superior performed these tasks easily and then boasted to the others how smart they were, accusing them of inferiority because of their eye color. Those who were treated as superior started creating new ideas of harassing and dehumanizing their alleged inferiors.

As portrayed in this film, racial prejudice can exist in the absence of minority group members. Teacher Jane Elliott portrayed this by first asking the third grade pupils what they knew about the blacks before she started conducting her experiment. These children expressed negative ideas which I do think were clearly received from the significant adults in their all-white, all Christian community. The only minority group members in their environment were only those seen on the television yet you could hear them express negative things concerning the minority. This clearly shows how racial prejudice can occur in the absence of the minority group. Prejudice mostly occurs as a result of discrimination, but not its cause. In this film, teacher Jane told her student that possession of a specific physical characteristic was an indication of inferiority. Students possessing certain characteristic soon began to act as though the negative traits she attributed to were real. Children in the superior position saw this as proof that her statements were fact and real. A trend was thus created, with the superiors discriminating and dehumanizing against the inferiors and the inferiors acting more and more negatively.

The part of the film which was showing adult employees of the state prison clearly shows that they behaved the same way as the children of the third grade. From this part, we can learn that people tend to live according to what others expect from them. When these adults were placed in a powerless position and accused of a physical condition over which they had no control, they behaved the same way as the children. They became confused, helpless, passive, resigned and fatalistic and lost their natural orientation toward goals and success. This happened even though it was an exercise to last for a short while. The superior groups continued to harass and dehumanize their alleged inferior groups.

This film clearly portrayed that racial prejudice is a learned response. Both the third grade children and the adult employees were manipulated by teacher Jane into accepting and basing their behavior on the totally irrational idea that one should evaluate oneself and others by the authority given by the teacher. After seeing those designated as inferior began to behave in an inferior manner, it became increasingly easy to believe that the eye color was the cause, since that was the only difference between the two groups. Within a short period of time one could clearly see that these groups had believed the myth of their teacher and they were behaving according to this myth.

A class divided is portraying how the social inequality is practiced in our societies. This is clearly shown by the way social

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