SIMULATION: Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes. A roleplay which
may be used before lessons on the Holocaust to illustrate aspects of prejudice
Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes (Method 1)
Teacher, holding up a newspaper article, informs class
that he/she has an interesting new idea on intelligence,
superiority and work - that brown-eyed people are,
in fact, superior (in most classes the minority is
likely to have blue eyes. Pupils with hazel, grey
or other 'non-brown' eyes are classified as 'blue'.)
The article suggests that brown eyes should get special
privileges in order to facilitate their progress.
Teacher informs class that certain privileges will,
in fact, be introduced over the next few lessons.
Over the next few lessons special privileges are introduced.
Brown eyes are allowed to: enter the class first,
select seats for themselves and poke fun at others.
Blue eyes must: stand aside for the superior group,
sit in a special part of the room, do extra homework,
use their surname first before answering a question
and wear a special symbol to show they are different
Any discussion about this situation should be justified
merely on the strength of the 'article'. The teacher
allows brown eyes to develop ideas of persecution
within the limits of the role play.
Ask the students the following:
i. What is it like to be in your group?
ii. Were any of your friends in the other group?
iii. How did you feel about what was happening to
iv. Did you protest to the teacher - what effect did
your protest have?
Explain that the article was wrong - now reverse the
groups and 'persecute' the others.
One of the essential parts of a role-playing is the
de-briefing. The teacher reveals that the 'article'
is spurious. The whole purpose of the roleplay was
for them to realise the implications of persecution
and to draw parallels with the historical experience
of the Jews under the effects of Nazi persecution.
They should be able to feel empathy for this experience
in subsequent lessons on that period.
Blue eyes, Brown eyes (Method 2)
Start with STEP 2 without explanation so that the
criterion for selection cannot be identified. This
should proceed until the oppression is obvious to
everyone. When the students become thoroughly aware
of the situation, adapt the questions form Step 4
so that they can voice their views. Without comment,
reverse the 'persecution' from one lesson to the next.
Discuss the changes that occur. Debrief as in STEP
6: discuss the roleplay, showing how the class members
reacted to each other and discuss the teacher's role
in imposing the criterion of eye colour - did the
pupils identify this?
Students should be told that the reason was spurious
but that the effect of being persecuted or being a
persecutor is the object of the exercise. Empathy
with the situation under the Nazis should be discussed
in subsequent lessons on the Holocaust.
Note: Australian teachers can contact SBS TV for
documentary programs about the original Blue Eyes,
Brown Eyes experiment. They are called "A Class
Divided" and "Blue-Eyed", by Jane Elliot.