Lesson of a Lifetime

Her bold experiment to teach Iowa third graders about racial prejudice divided townspeople and thrust her onto the national stage. Decades later, Jane Elliott’s students say the ordeal changed them for good.”

Stephen G. Bloom reports on the enduring legacy of Elliott’s work in Smithsonian Magazine:

Lesson_elliottOne of the most astonishing exercises ever conducted in an American classroom first took place in 1968 in a third-grade classroom in Riceville, Iowa. Now, almost four decades later, teacher Jane Elliott’s experiment still matters—to the grown children with whom she experimented, to the people of Riceville, population 840, who all but ran her out of town, and to thousands of people around the world who have also participated in an exercise based on the experiment. It is sometimes cited as a landmark of social science. The textbook publisher McGraw-Hill has listed her on a timeline of key educators, along with Confucius, Plato, Aristotle, Horace Mann, Booker T. Washington, Maria Montessori and 23 others. Yet what Elliott did continues to stir controversy. One scholar asserts that it is “Orwellian” and teaches whites “self-contempt.” A columnist at a Denver newspaper called it “evil.”

More here.  [Thanks to Shiko Behar.]