Doll Project Causes a Stir

By Mark Stricherz — February 28, 2001 1 min read

Weeks after banning a 3rd grader’s science fair exhibit, a Boulder, Colo., school will now use the experiment with black and white Barbie dolls to discuss racial issues.

The experiment, which found that the school’s 5th graders were much more likely to prefer a white Barbie doll than were adults, will be used to talk about “issues of race and diversity” among the school’s 4th and 5th graders, said Janelle Albertson, a spokeswoman for the 26,900-student district.

Mesa Elementary School officials shelved the exhibit Feb. 1, saying that minority students could be offended by its conclusions.

David Thielen, whose daughter conducted the experiment, has called on school officials to apologize for barring it from the science fair, according to press accounts. Ms. Albertson said district officials had not apologized.

In the experiment, a black and a white Barbie doll wore different-colored dresses. Adults at Mr. Thielen’s workplace preferred the doll with a lavender dress over one in a light-green gown, regardless of the doll’s skin color. But 24 of 30 5th graders preferred the white doll, regardless of which color dress she wore.


A version of this article appeared in the February 28, 2001 edition of Education Week as Doll Project Causes a Stir