In April 1967 a world history teacher named Ron Jones, conducted an experiment where he recruited a number of sophomore students into a political movement called, The Third Wave. It took place at Cubberly High School in Palo Alto, California. He reported the results in a 1972 articled called, The Third Wave. The event gained such publicity that it sparked the creation of an Emmy Award winning movie in 1984, entitled, The Wave, by Norman Lear. It began when the class was studying the Nazi atrocities which occurred during World War II, & one student asked why everyone just went along with it. Because the class was ahead of schedule, Mr. Jones decided to conduct an experiment.
He started by describing how athletes, dancers, scientists & others feel when they devote themselves completely in pursuit of an idea. And the power of the will to endure hardships, in order to finally triumph. To apply the lesson he introduced the students to a new seating posture, which consisted of keeping their spines straight, feet parallel & flat on the floor, ankles locked, knees bent at 90 degrees, & hands on the small of their backs. He told the students that this posture would strengthen their will & improve concentration. "We practiced this new attention position over and over," wrote Jones. "I walked up and down the aisles of seated students pointing out small flaws, making improvements. Proper seating became the most important aspect of learning."
Jones commented, "It was strange how quickly the students took to this uniform code of behavior. I began to wonder just how far they could be pushed." He asked, "Was this display of obedience a momentary game we were all playing, or was it something else?" He gradually introduced new rules which required that students be seated in the new posture before the bell rang, & stand to the side of their desks when asking or answering questions. They also had to carry a pen & paper at all times for note taking.
Jones would reprimand the students for answering questions in a sluggish manner, regardless of the correctness of the answer. Only the vigor with which the questions were answered mattered. "The intensity of the response became more important than the content," says Jones. "They were also acknowledged for doing this in a crisp and attentive manner." Jones stated that this shift to form over content resulted in more students participating in discussions, whereas before, the discussions were dominated by a few of the more informed ones. According to Jones, the accuracy of the answers eventually improved.
Jones was bewildered, here he was in the process of indoctrinating these students, yet, at least during this phase, they seemed to be improving. He wrote, "I had nothing but questions. Why hadn't I thought of this technique before?" At this point Jones himself was uncertain as to where this experiment was going. "Here I was enacting an authoritarian learning environment and it seemed very productive." He asked, "How could this be ... & [where] was this experiment leading?"
On the second day of the experiment Jones entered the classroom to find the students sitting in the new posture. This day he emphasized, "Strength Through Community," & made up motivational stories. "It was easy," he said. "Community is that bond between individuals who work and struggle together ... it's feeling that you are a part of something beyond yourself, a movement, a team ... a cause." He wrote, "I hadn't planned such intensity or compliance. ... Many questions haunted me. Why did the students accept the authority I was imposing? Where is their curiosity or resistance to this marshal behavior? When and how will this end?"
As an exercise in this new lesson, he had the students stand two at a time, & recite the mottos, "Strength Through Discipline," & "Strength Through Community." "The students began to look at each other and sense the power of belonging," said Jones. "Everyone was capable and equal. They were doing something together. We worked on this simple act for the entire class period." Note that so far little time has been spent on actual academic coursework. "We would repeat the mottos in a rotating chorus," wrote Jones "with various degrees of loudness. Always we said them together, emphasizing the proper way to sit, stand, and talk."
Jones noticed that the class began to act as a single unit. "I enjoyed the unified action demonstrated by the students, " & it was "rewarding to see their satisfaction and excitement to do more." It was around this time that Jones also noticed that this experiment began to gain momentum. So he decided to give the students their very own salute so they could acknowledge each other in their own way. The salute basically consisted of the right hand being raised toward the right shoulder. He told them that it was for class members only. "It was a silent signal of recognition," he wrote, & described that it fostered the belief that they were part of something special. He called it the, "Third Wave" salute.
Over the next few days this salute was used by these students all over the school, including in class, hallways, the gymnasium, library & cafeteria. Jones stated, "You would hear a crash of cafeteria food only to have it followed by two classmates saluting each other." Apparently this action attracted the attention of other students who also wished to be a part of something special & unique. According to Jones, many students outside the class expressed interest to join The Third Wave.
On the third day Jones passed out membership cards & told them that if anyone wanted out, they should leave. No one left. In fact, thirteen additional students were present because they cut their scheduled class in order to join. During this time Jones propagandized them on the value of action. And how without action, community & discipline meant nothing. He lectured them on how action & allegiance to each other & their cause would accelerate their accomplishments. He denounced competition & individualism. He also gave some students the task of reporting on other students who were not complying to the rules.
He noticed there enthusiasm was so great at this point, he gave them more assignments. Some were to design a Third Wave banner. Another would focus on recruitment & training. A guard was assigned to the door to prevent any non-member from entering. Even a propaganda pamphlet was created. Jones told them that new members would be issued a card & must pledge knowledge of, & obedience to, the group rules. "My announcement unleashed a fervor," wrote Jones, & explained that by the end the day, "over two hundred students were admitted into the order." Although Jones originally only assigned a few students as informants, about 20 of them came to him with information pertaining to how other members weren't following rules.
According to Jones, when the focus of class shifted from learning to indoctrination, the three most intelligent people in the class exhibited a type of learning disorder. "Now that I look back," he wrote, "they appeared much like the child with so called learning disability. They watched the activities and participated in a mechanical fashion. Whereas others jumped in, they held back, watching." But, cited Jones, many of the students "demanded strict obedience of the rules from other students and bullied those that took the experiment lightly." He also noted how the students that were not athletically or academically inclined seemed to particularly embrace this club because it allowed them to feel equal.
"Many students were over the line. The Third Wave had become the center of their existence," he described. ... I was now acting instinctively as a dictator. I worried for students doing things they would regret. I worried for myself." At this point, on Thursday, the class was filled with 80 members. Jones was skeptical about continuing. But he decided not to end it like this, as many of the students who committed themselves would feel rejected. "They would take the ridicule from the brighter students that participated in a measured and cautious way," he wrote. So he decided to continue & lectured them on "pride."
On this day he also began to reveal to them what was behind their movement. He told them, "The Third Wave is a nationwide program to find students who are willing to fight for political change in this country. That's right. This activity we have been doing has been practice for the real thing." He proclaimed, "Across the country teachers like myself have been recruiting and training a youth brigade capable of showing the nation a better society through discipline, community, pride, and action."
He continued, "If we can change the way that school is run, we can change the way that factories, stores, universities and all the other institutions are run." He told them that they were part of a specialized group chosen for this specific cause. "If you will stand up and display what you have learned in the past four days ... we can change the destiny of this nation. We can bring it a new sense of order, community, pride and action." He convinced them that this was all part of a "new purpose," which depended on their "willingness to take a stand." He summed up the lecture with the declaration of a rally the next day at noon for Third Wave members only. He told them that during this rally, they would learn the nature of their cause.
In April 1967 a world history teacher named Ron Jones: www.thewave.tk
He began by describing how athletes: The Third Wave, Ron Jones (1972), www.vaniercollege.qc.ca