The Wave By: Todd Strasser

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The Wave was a story based on a real experience of a high school in Palo Alto, California in April 1967. It began in a History class at Gordon High School with a history teacher named Mr. Ross. Mr. Ross was teaching his students about the holocaust and the Nazi Party. He came up with an experiment to show his class how it would be living in Nazi-Germany and how it would be to be part of a party similar to the Nazi-party. Mr. Ross showed clips to the class about Jews in gas chambers and their dead bodies over lapping each other .Student described them as sticks because they had no meat.

There was a particular student that had a question by the name of Laurie. Laurie was a pretty girl in his history class with nice brown hair and a beautiful smile. Laurie was also editor-in-chief. Before Laurie asked her question students were angry from the film and a girl named Amy Smith asked “Were all the Germans Nazis “? “ Ben Shook his head “No, as a matter of fact, less than ten percent of the German population belonged to the Nazi party.”

She followed up with “Then why didn’t anyone try to stop them?” Also a student named Eric said “that’s crazy” (pg12). Laurie’s question was “How could the Germans sit back while the Nazis slaughtered people all around them and say they didn’t know about it?” “How could they do that?” “How could they even say that?”(pg13).

All theses questions bothered Mr. Ross because he couldn’t give the students an adequate answer. As many books as he read, he still couldn’t find the answer so he thought he would just take a period or two to try an experiment .So he gave them a taste on what life would be like in Nazi Germany. He felt they needed to learn on their own. The next day Mr. .Ross talked about “STRENGTH THROUGH DISCIPLINE”. Mr. Ross said it began with posture. For the next twenty minutes the class practiced getting in and out of their seats on time. Before you know it with Mr. Ross giving those rules they began to make their own rules such as lining up outside the room. Then Mr. Ross made the students follow three rules. First, everyone must have pencils and note paper. Second, when asking or answering a question, you must stand at the side of your seats. Finally the first words you must say when answering or asking questions are; Mr. Ross.

This experiment became a movement that had many students involved. This was The Wave. Mr. Ross then elaborated on the goals of this movement. The students were to begin bringing him new tensions. Mr. Ross was taking a big risk on losing his job. Many teachers were disagreed with what he was doing and so did his wife. Later on Laurie didn’t agree with the wave either. She felt like an outsider looking in. She knew that the wave was heading people in the wrong direction .Students were even beginning to fight over the wave. It was even weakening relationships.

Later on David talked to Laurie and tried to convince her that The Wave was still the right thing to be in. They started to argue and nearly started throwing fists. At that moment, David realized that The Wave nearly pushed him to hurt his own girlfriend even as he’d denied that The Wave could hurt anyone. David and Laurie rushed over to Mr. Ross’s house to explain how bad The Wave was becoming and what it was doing to students. Mr. Ross agreed and said they would end it tomorrow.

The next morning Mr. Ross began the class saying “I have a special announcement about The Wave. At five o’ clock today there will be a rally in the auditorium for wave members only.” And then Mr. Ross began to tell them “The Wave is not just a classroom experiment. It’s much more across the country. There are teachers like me recruiting and training youth brigade to show the rest of the nation how to achieve a better society.” David and Laurie were angry and all they could do was interrupt. At this point they were sent to the principal’s office because Mr. Ross continually had to tell them to stop. It also helped him to buy time until he could expose the real reason behind why he started The Wave in the first place.

Later on the auditorium was filling with students who wanted to meet the leader of The Wave. Mr. Ross entered the auditorium and a student yelled “Out there is no leader in there.” Mr. Ross put a film with a photo of Hitler and said “There’s your leader.” and everyone was surprised. Mr. Ross said to them “You thought you guys were special! Better than everyone else outside of this room. You traded your freedom for what you said was equality. But what you’ve done is turned your equality into superiority over non Wave members.”Many students cried because they realized what they were apart of and what they’ve become. But do admit it was something they’ll never forget it will stick with them for the rest of their live.

I feel I would have been succumbed in to The Wave because I am human and to be pressured into being in a movement or apart of something takes a lot not be involved. Especially if you began to feel special and feel you had such freedom, which in turn makes your equality turn into a feeling of superiority. Everyone loves the feeling of power. Also I am just a teen. I am not as experienced in life to find reasons to why I shouldn’t join a movement. Until you go through it you will not understand or have all the reasons to why you shouldn’t.

I feel many people decided to join the Nazi party because it made them feel like they were on top. Although it was wrong and Nazis were killing Jews it didn’t matter because power over came equality. Also the Nazis were a very dangerous party most people were scared of and at times it feels good to be a part of something like in The Wave.

People chose to resist joining the Nazis because they realized what people were doing and how wrong it was. Some people still saw equality through their own eyes. Laurie realized what The Wave was doing to her classmates and what they were becoming and so did David. Because of it he nearly hurt his girlfriend. All of this could have been stopped if only one German would have stood up and said “What you Nazis are doing its wrong!” Maybe you would have been killed but I guarantee that it would have gotten through to at least one Nazis mind and Jews wouldn’t have had to suffer. Germans needed to realize that by just walking by and not doing anything about it; they were still involved in doing the wrong thing. They are just as worst as the Nazis because they are making it look like it is ok.

This experiment took less than a week and had the school out of control. It was kind of like how it took Adolph Hitler 10 years to have power of Germany. In The Wave, people were beating others up and turning on their friends if they had not joined The Wave. I am Glad in the end he showed them that The Wave had the students turning into Nazis. Although many students were hurt, many of them changed the way they saw the Nazi Party.

Strasser, Todd, Harriet Harvey Coffin, and Morton Rhue. The Wave. New York:Laurel Leaf Library, 1981. Print.