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Born to Win: Transactional Analysis with Gestalt Experiments
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Racism Experiments of the 1960s
In 1968 a school teacher decided to try a horrid experiment on her students. Her objective was to teach children that racism was unfair. The way she went about the experiment was to affect the children's lives - some of them forever.
In the late 60's there was much turmoil between blacks and whites. It was the era where times were changing and blacks were beginning to fight for their rights and many whites were extremely upset over the situation. In trying to teach her all-white classrooms about racial equality she ran into some hurdles since most of them had never seen a black person.
The teacher decided to play a pretty mean trick on the kids telling them that people with green or blue eyes were clever and most likely to succeed. She told them that those with green or blue eyes were superior to those with brown eyes. In addition, she told them, those with brown eyes were considered by many to be stupid, lazy, and untrustworthy. She put arm bands on the kids to distinguish which ones were the inferior beings. The brown-eyed students were not allowed to drink from the same water fountain and the blue and green-eyed kids were praised for being wonderful students.
Almost immediately the kids with blue or green eyes began to treat their brown-eyed classmates with disrespect and were even cruel. Previous best friends became worst enemies and other kids were left hurt and crying. The brown-eyed kids became more cowering and scared and even allowed the other students to treat them badly.
The damage began to show in the students' school work. Although the fair-eyed students were suddenly able to complete work well above their normal level the dark-eyed students began having problems with completing even simple assignments.
After this continued for a few days the teacher made the announcement that she had gotten it all wrong. In actuality, she said, the brown-eyed students were superior, smart and successful and the blue and green-eyed students were the inferior of the kids. Suddenly the reverse happened: the brown-eyed students, although they knew how it felt to be mistreated, began to treat the other students poorly. The blue and green-eyed students began having difficulty in school but the dark-eyed students progressed rapidly in the next few days.
Having been told that some people were inferior those in the superior category fell right into line and not one stood up for the inferior students, even though some of them were formerly best friends. And when the order was switched not one student, who had experienced what it was like to be inferior and treated poorly, stepped up to defend the inferior students.
Although the experiment did prove that simple suggestions can cause us to deeply hate one another, for no reason, it was also a cruel and demonic experiment. Some of the relationships never healed, even after an explanation of the entire experiment was explained to the students. And some of these students, interviewed much later in life, revealed that this experiment impacted their entire lives - some in a negative way.
In years gone by many horrible experiments were done on people of all ages, colors and religions. Some of the experiments did manage to prove their point but the damage done was often immeasurable. We can all learn a little something from this experiment, though: colors don't matter. People are people no matter what color their eyes, skin or hair.
Thankfully these types of experiments no longer take place since we're more aware, as a society, of the mistreatment of kids in days past. And hopefully, we have learned not to influence our kids in a negative way by making comments about anyone being less important. Remember, all it takes is the mere suggestion...