The Third Wave was an experiment to demonstrate the appeal of fascism undertaken by history teacher Ron Jones with senior high school students attending his Contemporary History class as part of a study of Nazi Germany. The experiment took place at Cubberley High School in Palo Alto, California, during the first week of April 1967. Jones, unable to explain to his students how the German populace could claim ignorance of the extermination of the Jewish people, decided to show them instead. Jones started a movement called “The Third Wave” and told his students that the movement aimed to eliminate democracy. The idea that democracy emphasizes individuality was considered as a drawback of democracy, and Jones emphasized this main point of the movement in its motto: “Strength through discipline, strength through community, strength through action, strength through pride”
Remembering the 3rd Wave by Leslie Weinfield
Peninsula, September 1991
Although the specter of fascist resurgence seems largely forgotten in the euphoria of German reunification, it may not be far beneath the peaceful veneer of that nation, or any other, for that matter. Even the most ostensibly free and open societies are not immune to fascism’s lure – including places like Palo Alto.
What came to be known as the “Third Wave” began at Cubberly High School in Palo Alto as a game without any direct reference to Nazi Germany, says Ron Jones, who had just begun his first teaching job in the 1966-67 academic year. When a social studies student asked about the German public’s responsibility for the rise of the Third Reich, Jones decided to try and simulate what happened in Germany by having his students “basically follow instructions” for a day.
But one day turned into five, and what happened by the end of the school week spawned several documentaries, studies and related social experiments illuminating a dark side of human nature – and a major weakness in public education.
The Third Wave, 1967, an account – Ron Jones
Submitted by Steven. on Oct 14 2008
We were studying Nazi Germany and in the middle of a lecture I was interrupted by the question. How could the German populace claim ignorance of the slaughter of the Jewish people. How could the townspeople, railroad conductors, teachers, doctors, claim they knew nothing about concentration camps and human carnage. How can people who were neighbors and maybe even friends of the Jewish citizen say they weren’t there when it happened. it was a good question. I didn’t know the answer.
. . .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. Was this display of obedience a momentary game we were all playing, or was it something else. Was the desire for discipline and uniformity a natural need? A societal instinct we hide within our franchise restaurants and T.V. programming.