As they study World War II, Ben Ross’s students can’t seem to understand how the German people could have followed Hitler and the Nazis. So Mr. Ross creates an experimental movement called The Wave. What begins in a single classroom quickly gathers momentum. Before the end of the week, The Wave’s motto, “Strength Through Discipline, Strength Through Community, Strength Through Action,” governs the entire school.
Only two students, Laurie Saunders and David Collins, recognize The Wave for what it is and set out to stop it before it’s too late.
But is history destined to repeat itself?
This novel dramatizes a real-life incident that took place in a high-school history class in Palo Alto, California, in 1969. It was basically a social psychology and history lesson that went too far. Although the experiment was successful is proving the overall point, I believe it was still unethical.
Even though the school experiment was low key compared to what happened in Germany, it was still disturbing how easily influenced the students were to blindly obey the “movement” and how quickly it escalated out of hand. Not only do we learn what life in Nazi Germany might have been like and how Nazism was able to spread but that it could easily happen again. The most important lesson to take from this book is that we are all responsible for our own actions, the importance of thinking for yourself and to never allow a group to take away your individual rights.
One question that made sense but also bothered me was “Why didn’t anyone try to stop the Nazis?” The question makes the action seem so simple. It wasn’t like someone could’ve just walked up to a concentration camp and asked the Nazis to let everyone go. As Ben Ross says, “The Nazis might have been a minority, but they were a highly organized, armed, and dangerous minority.” So the question I want answered is “How could anyone stop them?”
I couldn’t help but wonder how I would have reacted to this experiment in high school. I think I would have either obeyed out of fear of getting in trouble with the teacher or completely shut down out of fear of participating.
The real-life-incident was also made into a made-for-TV movie. I was surprised to learn that the book is actually a novelization of said movie. I remember watching it back in either middle school or high school and being very disturbed. I found two full versions of the movie on YouTube. One is in better quality than the other but has subtitles in a different language. So I’m going to include a link to both videos and you can decide which one you want to watch.
Better quality, subtitles:
I recommend reading the book before watching the movie.