Super Teacher

“It doesn’t take a Super Teacher to do this exercise”

-Jane Elliott

I hadn’t seen this before; perhaps many of you have. I find it hard to be cynical about this - nothing to do with teaching English in Taiwan, but perhaps teaching at its best.

Thanks for that Hexuan.

good stuff.

Thats more or less right about most things.


I remember my lecture in University that featured this case. Fascinating. Equally fascinating to me was that you could not get away with doing this today because of the psychological damage that might result in some youngsters. I believe this was the biggest criticism of the experiment. Some guidelines from the American Psychology Association, or something like that, were eventually issued cautioning against this (bloody yanks want to legislate everything)

Apparently, since 1968, others (far less capable teachers undoubtedly) who tried this “experiment” in their own classes encountered disastrous/unfortunate results on some kids (sorry, I have no references, except … ided/talk/)

[quote]Dear Frontline:

Watching “A Class Divided” brought back vivid and painful memories of my experience in 5th grade around 1971/72. Our social studies teacher in Wisconsin implemented this concept, and the brown-eyes were chosen to be segregated the first day because the teacher was blue-eyed.

The experience was degrading and humiliating. At the end of the day, we brown-eyes were asked for our reaction, and some of us expressed anger while others burst into tears.

Because of the violent reaction we had, the experiment was halted, and we brown-eyes never had the opportunity to feel what it was like to “be on top.”

I don’t recall any discussion of what other people might feel like if we discriminate against them. What I remember is the humiliation of that day and the hatred/vengeance that I felt toward the teacher and the blue-eyes, which was never redirected or satisfied.

I realize this may be an unusual reaction when compared to those you normally receive, but I thought you should know about an experiment gone wrong. I would have a difficult time condoning such an experiment because of the psychological damage it can inflict on impressionable children.

Diana Urban
austin, tx[/quote]
My point: as powerful and as truthful as this is, do not try this in your own classes unless you know exactly what you are doing, and are certain you can do it responsibly.

[quote=“hexuan”]“It doesn’t take a Super Teacher to do this exercise”

-Jane Elliott

I hadn’t seen this before; perhaps many of you have. I find it hard to be cynical about this - nothing to do with teaching English in Taiwan, but perhaps teaching at its best.[/quote]
I would go ape shit if I discovered that my son’s language teacher tried to pull this off, and I wasn’t completely aware or didn’t have confidence in the teacher

Ok, I’m stumped. What is this exercise…oh wait, how could I have missed that link…right, I remember that lecture too. Forgot completly about it. Hmmm, might be worth trying in a consulting session or two.


Jane Elliott said if she could do it, anyone could do it. I disagree. A word or phrase wrongly used could clearly do damage. She appeared to have the support of the school and the parents, and was intently focussed on the benefit to the kids, rather than treating it as an interesting psychological experiment for her next teachers’ conference. If it were done casually, without as much thought or care as Mrs Elliott put into it, it could have negative consequences. That’s why I’m so impressed with her - she successfully trod that line. When you see her deal with the prison guards (prison guards for fuck’s sake - these are not librarians!) you can see what a smart cookie she is. And I’m sure she knew she risked being fired the first time she did it. The kids grown up (in 1984) seem to feel it was worth it.

I don’t think kids can or should be shielded from every reality of life. They’ve got to learn about the bad things in life sometime, and better they do it from caring parents and teachers, than their peers, or TV. Pity parents and teachers aren’t always as caring as they could be, but that’s life.

There was another one called The Wave. A long time ago I read a short novel (for young readers) based on this true incident.

A social studies teacher created a fascist movement called The Wave, with salutes, badges etc. It got out of hand when members started beating up on inferiors and stuff.


For the record, I meant consulting at a professional level. Not prison guards but Taiwan’s middle managers. Other than that Hex’s last post about learning from those who care about you is spot on.


Perhaps whoever teaches the Banchiao Foreign Affairs, Taiwan MOFA, CLA etc could conduct a series of roleplays.

Amazing. The way the children changed once they were told they were inferior or superior brought tears to my eyes because that’s how people are once they get that idea into their heads. It’s interesting how quickly the one boy came up with a derogatory term for the brown-eyed children right away. The brown-eyed children’s head dropping was very reminiscent of my own childhood in a small almost all-white town. The prison guards thing, though, was very interesting in how defensive some people, especially the woman, got. She expressed some sentiments that I am sure the minorities had felt in their real lives. I don’t think every teacher could do this, especially non-white teachers who would get more flack from parents, administrators, and even the children. I think it would be a very educational experience for the Taiwanese, though, who do not seem to be aware of their discrimination of other races, cultures, and nationalities.

I also think Elliot is correct that this could not be done in American schools today with the way people have taken over the classroom. She blames conservatives, but I say it’s both sides. Liberal interference with classroom limits on affection and interaction…conservative interference with teaching that America is a utopia and that racism is just a word that liberals use to recruit minorities to their side, but doesn’t really exist.

I wonder how my host family in London would react to this…the husband who thought it was funny to say that blacks deserve to be beaten by the police and the wife who failed to understand how offensive and hurtful the n-word is. I wonder how the average middle-class Christian caucasian would react to this exercise. How much would they retain from it? Sure they say “I understand” after it’s over, but how many of them would still let others use racial slurs without reacting negatively to it or grab their purse tighter when in an elevator with a black person (black women included, from my own personal experience)? How many would still disown their child for dating outside their race?

Wouldn’t some people just take formt his the lesson ‘make sure that you are part of the superior groupdoing the opressing’?


  1. back when i was in military school, each company got issued different colored physed shirts. alpha got red, bravo got green… other than color, they all had the same school crest.

things quickly degraded into gangs. what was suppossed to foster company spirit instead tweaked the other way and tribalism ensued. a good many beatings later, the colored shirts were taken back and everyone was issued a replacement black one. end of problem.

yeah, it is mean to sort people quick and dirty, but we all do it. every teacher identifies more intimately with some students than others. those the teacher bonds with invariably fare better. what are the aspects theat predicate with whom a teacher bonds? well…those students that remind the teacher of themselves often bond more closely. knowing this, in this day of female dominated elementary teachers is it any wonder amped up little boys turn into dissaffected, turned off middle schoolers? the gender gap in higher learning spreads every year. what can be done? outside of mandating the gender of teachers, limiting class size seems a good approach. maybe even 40 kids in a class is too many.

I wouldn’t say that female teachers discriminate against boys per se, skeptic yank. I have had plenty of female teachers that chose boys over girls as their pets. Race does play a big factor in who becomes a teacher’s pet for a lot of American teachers. I remember my French class where I was put in the back of the class with the only other black student and the blue-eyed, blonde hair girls who sat in the front were very obviously the ones the teacher preferred. When the other black student dropped the course, an African student took her place in the back with me. This was only in 1996 in a school that is 40% minority students (30% black). I can’t even begin to tell you what a nightmare the teachers were when I lived in an almost all-white (minus my extended family and two other families with athletic children) Ohio town. My third grade teacher outright disliked me. I think this should be used as a mandatory exercise in teacher training.