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09/11/08: Speaker Jane Elliott Discussed Tolerance, Unity

Sep 05, 2008

Jane Elliott, internationally-known teacher, lecturer and diversity trainer spoke at Delaware Valley College at 7 p.m., on Thursday, September 11 in the Delaware Valley College Student Center.

The event, which was free and open to the public, was sponsored by the Office of the President, the college's Students for Diversity Group and the Student Activities Department.

During the lectures, Elliott, exposed prejudice and bigotry for what it is, an irrational class system based upon purely arbitrary factors.

Elliott developed the now famous exercise that explored the nature of racism, prejudice and discrimination. She did this in the context of her all-white classroom by dividing her students into two groups on the basis of eye color, blue or brown. On the first day, Elliott told her students that possessing blue eyes indicated superiority in intelligence and conferred extra classroom privileges while having brown eyes indicated inferiority. Quickly, the students of the "superior" color began to oppress those of the "inferior" color, while those of the "inferior" color exhibited negative feelings of self-loathing and fear. The next day, Elliott reversed the exercise, telling the students that her statements the previous day were untrue, and that the reverse situation now prevailed. The same children who had been oppressed the day before quickly took on the oppressing role and vice versa.

"Ms. Elliott's work underscores the importance of tolerance and understanding among individuals and is a timely reminder of the need to respect our differences and value the dignity of each individual," said Delaware Valley College President Joseph S. Brosnan.

Elliott is the recipient of the National Mental Health Association Award for Excellence in Education, and today Elliott lectures and conducts her Brown Eyes/Blue Eyes exercise around the world at high schools and colleges and corporations.

(Images courtesy of James Linden, Director of Client Services)