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The Wave

“It is the ultimate classroom mind-game,” writes The Telegraph.

A charismatic teacher suddenly introduces strict discipline into his lessons and, far from rebelling, the students embrace it with gusto. Within a week, they have devised a uniform, insignia, salute and banners, and eagerly spy on and intimidate schoolmates. The movement swells to more than 200 members who, on the last day, flock to a rally.…

In fact the experiment – known as the Wave – actually took place, in April 1967 at Cubberley High School, Northern California. Ron Jones, the teacher, had arrived there straight from training college. He soon became famed for his unorthodox methods: making students at the almost all-white school use different toilets to demonstrate apartheid, for instance.

Former students describe Jones as brilliant, by far the most popular teacher in school. “He was boyish and appealing – he could sell air-conditioners in Alaska,” recalls Philip Neel. “Everyone wanted to be in his class. So at first we thought the Wave was him doing something funny.” …

The director [of the 2008 motion picture] reveals that he had to sharpen his movie’s ending after observing young audiences giving the salute at test screenings. “They thought it was cool and iconic. The Wave is about fun and creating a community and I believe that’s still appealing. There is a strong urge today for a big idea that is bigger than yourself. Not necessarily fascism; it could be, say, the Green movement.”

The Wave – 1981 A True Story

The Wave – 2008

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