Title: The Wave
Author: Todd Strasser
ISBN: 0440993717
Pages: 138 pages
Publisher/Date: Dell Laurel-Leaf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, c1981.

The Wave is based on a true incident that occurred in a high school history class in Palo Alto, California, in 1969. For three years afterward, according to the teacher, Ron Jones, no one talked about it. ‘It was,’ he said, ‘one of the most frightening events I have ever experienced in the classroom.’
‘The Wave’ disrupted an entire school. The novel dramatizes the incident, showing how the powerful forces of group pressure that have pervaded many historic movements and cults can persuade people to join such movements and give up their individual rights in the process–sometimes causing great harm to others. The full impact on the students of what they lived through and learned is realistically portrayed in the book that follows.” (Foreword)

I thought this would be a great book to review in honor of Halloween, but I got distracted and then lost Internet at my house, so it didn’t get up yesterday. The thought of how this “experiment” came about is scary though. With minimal persuasion, this high school teacher had recreated an environment that, if left unchecked, could replicate the Nazi beliefs and party. The fact that I’ve never heard of this is just as scary, because it means we haven’t learned from this incident, and we are continuing to teach teens to mindlessly follow the beliefs of people who hold an authority position.

I think I was most shocked by the violence that resulted from the experiment and the division of relationships. Dissenters get beat up and friendships end very quickly based on the peer pressure. I would hope that this wouldn’t happen today, but to be quite honest I could probably see it still taking place.

If you want some more information from the participants, check out this interview that was quoted on Ron Jones’s website. While the ethics are questionable, especially by those who didn’t participate, everyone interviewed seemed to appreciate the lessons taught, even if they were a little shell-shocked when the experiment initially ended. I’d really be curious to see the experiment replicated, and I’d REALLY like to see the book republished, with a 50 years later afterword providing reflections from the participants. I was influenced to read this book by Addie’s Reads and Reviews who recommended it as required reading.

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