A Class Divided

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"A Class Divided"
'Frontline' episode
Episode no. Season 3
Episode 9
Directed by William Peters
Written by Charlie Cobb
William Peters
Production code PBS
Original air date March 26, 1985 (1985-03-26)

A Class Divided is an episode of Frontline directed by William Peters about the Iowa schoolteacher Jane Elliott and her class of third graders.

Plot summary[edit]

William Peters follows up on the 1970 TV documentary Eye of the Storm about Jane Elliott's "Blue eyes-Brown eyes" exercise of dividing an otherwise homogenous group of nine year olds by their eye color. The episode intercuts footage from the original 25 minute documentary Eye of the Storm with new footage of the students, who are now adults. The film takes us through the journey of a young class learning of and experiencing prejudice as a demonstration of the unfairness of racism. Elliot teaches the lesson through eye color and different treatment. All of the students admit that this is wrong. In footage of the students as adults, viewers are able to see how this controversial grade school exercise changed their lives.

Peters became interested in Elliott after reading an article about her work in the New York Times and arranged to make the original documentary soon after.[1] He was surprised by the change he observed in the children and remarked at how disinterested they were with the cameras, because they were so involved in the exercise that they had no idea they were being filmed.[1] His fascination led to this retrospective, which won an Emmy award on behalf of PBS for "outstanding informational, cultural or historical programming" and inspired his book, “A Class Divided: Then and Now” (Yale University, 1987).[2]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b William Peters, 'Class Divided' Director, Has Died, obituary for Peters on NPR with an interview with Elliott, 2 June, 2007
  2. ^ Obituary for Peters in the New York Times, 24 May, 2007