Book a Day: The Wave

THE WAVE 2Second day, second book.

I read The Wave, by Todd Strasser. It is a novel, but it hits the reader more like journalism and is read largely during social studies education. Why? Because The Wave is based on the true story of a California classroom in 1969. The teacher was surprised by his class’s response to a Holocaust video, so he started a club to prove to the students that the Holocaust could happen again and could happen to anyone (in essence).

As the tagline reveals, the experiment goes too far.

First there was the experiment, which the book says was significantly scary enough that it wasn’t talked about for years. In the 70s, the teacher, Ron Jones, wrote a fictionalized short story, “The Third Wave,” about what had happened. Fairly quickly, it was picked up as a TV special and then that special was novelized in 1981 by Morton Rhue (who is actually Todd Strasser and it is printed both ways).

THE WAVEAs is to be expected, the story got crazier and crazier as it went from short story to TV to novel. (Yet, I was surprised how reigned in the story ultimately is.) There are still elements of truth to it, so that it is used today in classrooms both in the US and in Germany to augment teaching about the Holocaust.

While it isn’t the most eloquent of books, I couldn’t put it down. I really wanted to know how far the experiment would go and how the students would react. In the back of my mind, always, I was wondering what the real story was. I may have even preferred that the story was written as a nonfiction account of the experiment, like Columbine.

The main point of this book is to make you think. It definitely does that. This book can apply to really any time and any person. Currently, I find it applies most to our political parties.

Perhaps I didn’t agree with the simplified moral of individuality over community, but I think there is truth here: no matter what democratic community you are part of, you must fight for the freedom for all to think for, believe for, and express themselves. Members of a community should not be afraid to leave a community or hold a contrary belief. There should be no damage imposed for holding different beliefs, unless the person expressing them is causing real harm to others (and not just offending them), which would mean that the members and non-members feel and are safe and free.

The moral of this book is that individuals were willing to give up their rights to be part of a leader-ruled community, without thinking much about it. Would you?

The writing wasn’t spectacular. I liked the portrayal of the characters, but other than that… ehn. And the build-up didn’t quite deliver. Still, it’s an easy read that I think should be used to create discourse in the history or social studies classroom. I can see myself referencing it in years to come.


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