Jane Elliot does it again. Lessons on anti-discrimination

10.07.2016 - London, United Kingdom - Silvia Swinden

Jane Elliot does it again. Lessons on anti-discrimination
Jane Elliot (Image by Screen Grab from Youtube video)

It came with the usual pile of FB rubbish, just a video, without a name. But I recognised her immediately because we have been using her in our Education for Active Nonviolence courses. It’s Jane Elliot and here she is again, not pontificating intellectually against racism and all forms of discrimination but giving people an experience they will never forget.

Here is our   Workshop, part of a series of 6 to train ourselves in the methodology of Active Nonviolence, to be used freely.


“A teacher in the USA, called Jane Elliot, created racism in her class by telling children with brown eyes that they were better than the children with blue eyes.  The blue-eyed were excluded from games and eating together with the brown-eyed.  On the second day she reversed the roles and sure enough it was the brown-eyed children who were excluded.  On the third day she explained that there were no differences and that she had done this as an experiment to give them an experience of what it is like to be discriminated against.

Twenty years later the now grown-up subjects were filmed stating how important that experience had been for them, to learn about how not to discriminate.  One of the most important conclusions was that Jane proved that children performed at their worst on the day that they were discriminated against, dispelling in this way the myths created by so-called “scientific research” about differences in IQ in various ethnic groups.

Consider the following riddle:

A man and his son are run over in a car accident.  The father dies at the scene and the son is rushed to hospital for life-saving surgery.  The surgeon arrives at the operating theatre and says “I cannot operate on this child, he is my son”.

How can this be? (1)

From whose book does this extract come?

“We put down briefly in Khartoum, where we changed to an Ethiopian Airways flight to Addis.  Here I experienced a rather strange sensation.  As I was boarding the plane I saw that the pilot was black.  I had never seen a black pilot before, and the instant I did I had to quell my panic.  How could a black man fly a plane?  But a moment later I caught myself: I had fallen into the…. mind-set, thinking Africans were inferior and that flying was a white man’s job.  I sat back in my seat, and chided myself for such thoughts……” (2)

Exercise – Personal experience of discrimination

  1. Write a list of characteristics that you have which you sometimes feel are the source of discrimination:
  2. With internal honesty, write a list of characteristics that others have which you are prejudiced against. (reading optional!)
  3. Write down a short list of events in which you were either the victim or the agent in any form of discrimination.
  4. Group discussion, interchange of experiences and words of advice from the group to each member based on positive experiences of how others have managed to overcome situations of discrimination.
  5. Meditation on the principle (From Humanise the Earth, by Silo): It does not matter in which faction events have placed you what matters is for you to comprehend that you have not chosen any faction.
  6. Plan for the week with the aim of being more pro-active when realising that someone else is being discriminated against.







1. The surgeon is the mother
2. Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom

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Categories: Education, Europe, Nondiscrimination, Nonviolence
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