Thursday, May 17, 2012


  High School arguable the most clique dominated place around. Everywhere you look when the time comes your being recruited into something. Join the baseball team, join the football team, join the debate team, just join something. You can go all through high school and not join anything, but are you weird or are you constructing your own isolation. Sometimes when you aren't in one of these cliques you are looked upon as a loner. Me myself I wasn't in a clique, but I had a very good amount of friends. But what happens to the students that don't have a clique and really don't have that many friends? They are the outcast that are banished to the outer reaches of the lunchroom.

  But those loners are not a lone, all most all students in high school has something they fear something they hide and wish they could change. Not being popular, not being the most beautiful, or not being the most brightest sets each student a part from each other. But what if this wasn't so? what if there weren't any cliques and everyone was on the same level? Jocks, Cheerleaders, Nerds, even the Loners all on the same level. All of them equal when they are part of one thing that makes each of them feel special as much as the other. All these fears that students have of not being accepted and  not being treated equally like their fellow classmates can lead them a stray if the right situation presented itself.

  In Todd Strasser "The Wave", we see how an innocent idea can lead the smartest of kids a stray and how things can get out of hand very fast. Based on an incident that happened at a Palo Alto high school in 1969. Students in a senior history class were made part of an experiment by their teacher that wanted to teach them about why it was so easy for so many Germans in WWII to say they didn't know about the events that transpired during the holocaust. The lesson was also a lesson in blind obedience and how far members of a charged group will go to protect it.  Strasser brings the story to life of how a seemingly harmless history class experiment took on a life of its own and almost turned into something very ugly. The incident that happened at the Palo Alto school was readily stopped before it really got out of hand.

  Strasser brings to life the characters and events that sparked The Wave. The book starts off introducing us to one of our central characters Laurie Saunders. Laurie's character is what you might call the over achiever. She is head of the school paper and gets good grades. Laurie ever the free thinker is like most students in her history class she was pleased with her teacher Mr. Ben Ross, who brought the class to life.  When the idea of this experiment was first introduce to her and her fellow student, including her boyfriend, David Collins, they were all excited to be a part of what their teacher called The Wave.

  Laurie and David have a strong relationship and are both excited about being in the organization, but Laurie starts to notice the change that the wave has brought on to her fellow students. She attempts to show the truth to her friends and her boyfriend, but is ignored and this thinking places her in danger.  As the book moves along we see that not only is this Wave organization changing the students, but it also begins to change Mr. Ross.  Ben Ross is the teacher of the history class and also the leader of the wave. When we first meet Ben's character we perceive him as a laid back teacher that is very progressive. Most of the other teachers think that he is idealistic and that he should stick to the traditional way of teaching, but that isn't been. We learn from his wife Christy Ross, that Ben has a tendency to get over involved in things that fascinate him. He dives head first into projects/experiments without fully mapping out the consequences.

Mr. Ross leads his students in a history lesson about World War II, and figures that making up a make believe organization called the wave, would teach the students what he was trying to explain to them about other Germans staying quiet during World War II. Thinking that this experiment would only last a class period or two, Mr. Ross thinks nothing of his actions. When he introduces the idea to his class the students are all excited to be a part of something they felt was just a game, but it soon changes. The Wave has Mr. Ross class no longer acting like students, but acting like soldiers. He then introduces a motto for the organization " Strength Through Discipline, Strength Through Community, Strength Through Action."

  The idea of The Wave soon takes over. Not only were the students in Mr. Ross class into but they had started recruiting other students into the organization. At first people saw positive changes in students, they were getting their homework and reading assignments done. They were working as a group and now no one was superior over anyone else. This is where the book takes off and moves at a pace that you like. The Wave movement starts to take on a life of its own. More and more student join the organization because like some many others they thought it was a fad that everyone was getting into and that would fade a way. But it didn't fade away the movement gets larger and we see what happens with a group mentality.

  The students being to pressure other students to join the organization and this is were we see the true evil of this experiment. Mr. Ross is so caught up in his own experiment that he ignores the facts that students are bending to his every word. When they are in class they sit like the little soldiers that they have become and do what they are told. They don't debate anything with him, nor do they ask question. By the middle of the book Laurie Saunders decides that she wasn't going to be a part of the organization and writes an article about how The Wave was corrupting the students. After publishing this article Laurie's boyfriend confronts her and tells her to stop writing what he and the other Wave members are calling lies. When he tries to talk to her and she would not listen he grabs her and ends up pushing her to the floor. After realizing what he has done David, sees the truth behind Laurie's words and joins her against The Wave.The book comes to its climax when Mr. Ross decides that The Wave movement has to come to and an end and he gathers all its members and what happened leaves them shocked and confused.

  The Wave is a great read for any young reader. This book shows what danger lies in conforming and trying to be a part of something that you don't know about. It's a bold lesson in the art of peer pressure, mind control, and the corruption of power, and the weight of being ones self in a place where your individuality can get you excluded or even harmed. The book which was written in 1981, was made into a one hour television show for ABC. The book called DIE WELLE in German was also made into a movie . Students, parents, and teachers can learn a lot from this book, because it shows that one should always question what is going on around you. For students it shows that you don't have to be down with the in crowd. The students that wanted to be a part of The Wave ultimately did bad things to those that didn't want to join their organization. They say that everyone was equal but in the end they had form an organization that excluded those that didn't agree with them. Individuality is not a bad thing nor should you be ridiculed or should you intern ridiculed anyone for being different. Everyone has the right to be who they are and as long as they don't force their ideas on people or you then them being who they are is fine.

  For Parents the lesson from this book is to always question the activities that your child is participating in. It can be hard for a parent to get through to their child sometimes, but you have to keep asking and reminding them, that they are their own persons and that they don't need to be in a group or an organization to validate their identity. But for the most this books also gives a strong lesson to teachers. Being that they are in charge of the minds of so many young people, they should know not to let things like this incident happened. When your performing anything like this experiment you have to give the students the choice of whether or not to participate. You also have to say that the experiment should last only one or two class periods and no longer.

So pick up this great read for yourself or your young read and join The Wave or Not.