3 Sep 2013

School racism exercise questioned

2:38 pm on 3 September 2013

A professor of psychology says a Christchurch school should never have gone ahead with a racial discrimination exercise without the permission of parents but the principal says he would do it again in a heartbeat.

Cobham Intermediate has received complaints and its Board of Trustees is investigating after a class conducted an excercise created by an American teacher in 1968 after the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

In the exercise, blue-eyed children are given special privileges and told not to associate with brown-eyed children.

Auckland University psychology lecturer Chris Sibley says he would have to go through several layers of approval if he tried to set up the same exercise at a university.

"We would have to, no question about it, have university consent and make sure that it went through the appropriate ethics channels," says Dr Sibley.

The original experiment allows for a role reversal but a concerned parent has told Radio New Zealand that Cobham Intermediate did not reverse the roles.

Principal Scott Thelning says that is because the school only had one day allocated to the two-day exercise.

He says teachers have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from parents and caregivers.

Cobham Intermediate has students from 23 different ethnicities.