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Discussion/Writing Activities

What scene or scenes do you think you'll still remember a month from now and why those scenes?

Did any part of the film surprise you? Do you think someone of a different race, ethnicity, or religion would also find it surprising?

Following Up on the Pre-Viewing Questions

How was the exercise that Elliott designed a response to the children's question,"Why would anyone want to murder Martin Luther King?" Did the film provide an answer to the question? Can you answer the question?

Census categories have changed over time to reflect the complexities of American demographics and identities. Consider how some of the following groups experience racism differently:

People who are bi- or multi-racial.

People "of color" who are not black (e.g.,Asians, Pacific Islanders, Latino/as, etc.)

Impact of Discrimination

What did the children's body language indicate about the impact of discrimination?

How did the negative and positive labels placed on a group become self-fulfilling prophecies?

In the prison seminar, one of the white women asserts that all people face some kind of discrimination. Another woman challenges her, claimingthat whites can't really know what it's like to face discrimination every minute of every day. What do you think?

Both Elliott and her former students talk about whether or not this exercise should be done with all children. What do you think? If the exercise could be harmful to children, as Elliott suggests, what do you think actual discrimination might do?

Looking at the Structures thatNurture Bias

What features did Elliott ascribe to the superior and inferior groups and how did those characteristics reflect stereotypes about blacks and whites?

How did Elliott's discrimination create no-win situations for those placed in the inferior group? How did she selectively interpret behavior to confirm the stereotypes she had assigned?

It's easy to understand why third-gradersmight not refuse to obey their teacher, but when the exercise is done with the prison guards, why don't any of the adults object?

Looking for Answers

At recess, two of the boys from different groups get in a fight. Elliott asks the one who was teased if responding with violence made him feel better or made the teasing stop. What does the answer suggest about the use of violence as a politicalstrategy? At the time, who was using violence for political purposes and why?

How is the blue eyes/brown eyes exercise related to the Sioux prayer, "Help me not judge a person until I have walked in his shoes"?

This teacher guide was developed by Simone Bloom Nathan of Media Education Consultants. It was written by Faith Rogow, Insighters Educational Consulting. Advisers were high schoolteachers Ellen Greenblatt and Patricia Grimmer and Peter Kiang, director of the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

It began, really, even before the bell rang. A boy came into the room bursting with the news. "They shot that King yesterday!" he said excitedly. "Why did they shoot that King?"
"We'll talk about that," Janepromised, and after the opening exercises, they did. When everyone had had a chance to tell what he knew, Jane asked them what they had heard and what they knew about Negroes. In the tiny town of Riceville, population 898, and the sparsely settled farming area surrounding it, there were no Negroes. In the school's textbooks, like those in so many American schools, Negroes were neither mentioned norpictured. Whatever her children said, then, Jane assumed would have come from parents, relatives, and friends, from what they had learned in school -- in her own class and in the grades before -- and from things they had seen and heard in a rare movie or on the radio or television.
Rather quickly, a pattern developed from their answers. Negroes weren't as smart as white people. They weren't as...
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