The Third Wave

The Third Wave

The Third Wave was an experimental demonstration of nazism movement [ The Catamount, Vol 11., No 14., page 3] ] [ Article with participants recollection] ] undertaken by history teacher Ron Jones with sophomore high school students attending his Contemporary History class as part of a study of Nazi Germany. [ Ron Jones's essay about The Third Wave (Internet Archive)] ] The experiment took place at Cubberley High School in Palo Alto, California, during first week of April 1967.ref|timing Jones, unable to explain to his students why the German citizens allowed the Nazi Party to exterminate millions of Jews and other so-called "undesirables", decided to show them instead. Jones started a movement called "The Third Wave" and convinced his students that the movement is to eliminate democracy. The fact 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".

The experiment was not well documented. Of contemporary sources, the experiment is only mentioned in Cubberley High School student newspaper "The Cubberley Catamount". It is only briefly mentioned in two issues [ The Catamount, Vol 11., No 13., page 2] ] [ The Catamount, Vol 12., No 6., page 6] ] , and one more issue of the paper has articles about this experiment, but without much detail. The most detailed account of the experiment is an essay written by Jones himself some six years afterwards. Several other articles about the experiment exist, but all of them were written after a considerable amount of time had passed.


Jones writes that he started the first day of the experiment (Monday, April 3 1967ref|timing) with simple things like proper seating, drilling the students until they were able to move from outside the classroom to their seats and take the proper seating position in less then 30 seconds without making a sound. He then proceeded to strict classroom discipline emerging as an authoritative figure and improving efficiency of the class dramatically.

On the second day he managed to meld his history class into a group with a supreme sense of discipline and community. Jones named the movement "The Third Wave", after the common belief that the third in a series of ocean waves is last and largest. Jones made up a salute similar to the one of Nazi regime and ordered class members to salute each other even outside the class. They all complied to this command.

The experiment took on a life of its own, with students from all over the school joining in: on the third day the class expanded from initial 30 students to 43 attendees. All of the students showed drastic improvement in their academic skills and tremendous motivation. All of the students were issued a member card and each of them received a special assignment (like designing a Third Wave Banner, stopping non-members from entering the class, etc). Jones instructed the students on how to initiate new members, and by the end of the day the movement had over 200 participants. At this point first Jones was surprised that some of the students started reporting to him other members of the movement who failed to abide by the rules.

On Thursday, the fourth day of the experiment, Jones decided to terminate the movement because it was slipping out of his control. The students became increasingly involved in the project and their discipline and loyalty to the project were astounding. He announced to the participants that this movement is only a part of a nationwide movement and that on the next day a presidential candidate of the movement would publicly announce existence of the movement. Jones ordered students to attend a noon rally on Friday to witness the announcement.

Instead of televised address of their leader, the students were presented with an empty channel. After few minutes of waiting, Jones announced that they have been a part of an experiment in fascism and that they all willingly created a sense of superiority that German citizens had in the period of Nazi Germany. He then played them a film about Nazi regime. That was the end of the experiment.


Despite the clear implications of this study on the malleability of young minds, which is of particular interest to psychologists seeking to understand and prevent abuse of it, little has surfaced on the subject; Todd Strasser, under the pen name Morton Rhue, wrote a young-adult novel on the subject entitled "The Wave", after it had been made into a TV movie (1981) and one released theatrically (2008) as well as a play; later, Jones himself came forward with his own material. Researchers of the experiment have had some trouble in eliciting reports from any of the students involved. Hence, nearly all detailed information about The Third Wave comes from Ron Jones himself.


There are claims that mostclarifyme of what Ron Jones says about The Third Wave is false. A site registered to Lyle Burkhead (Virginia, U.S.) contains [ statements] he says he received from former students of Ron Jones.

He also delineates his reasons for [ doubting] that The Third Wave occurred as Jones claims.

The website that publishes former issues of the [ Cubberley Catamount] is privately registered at GoDaddy through Domains by Proxy. The site itself contains no information about the owner's identity. The site displays newsletters for only 1967 through 1970 -- beginning with the year of the Third Wave, and ending with the year in which Ron Jones is interviewed about his termination. Each year's newsletters have information about Ron Jones, seemingly the site's purpose. Whether or not the newsletters are genuine is unknown.


* In 1999, an 8th grade class in Chicago, Illinois did a mini-recreation of The Wave experiment.
* In 2006, a middle school history class in Florida attempted to recreate the experiment with even younger children. [ [ "School's 'Holocaust' Experiment Upsets Parents" from a local news channel, accessed March 30, 2006] ]

ee also

* Milgram experiment
* Stanford prison experiment
* Peer pressure
* Jane Elliott brown-eye/blue-eye demonstration


In , which was published on Friday April 7, reports of "strange happenings in Mr. Jones' [...] classes" are mentioned without further detail, which confirms that the movement was active, but not yet finished in the week starting on April 3 1967. In , published on April 21 the experiment is dated "two weeks ago", which also puts the experiment in the first week of April.

Further reading

* Dawson, Jeff (31 August 2008), " [|The Wave shows how to turn children into Nazis] ", "Sunday Times".
* Klink, Bill (April 21, 1967) "The Third Wave presents inside look at Fascism"," [|The Cubberley Catamount] ", Volume 11, No. 14, Page 3. (News article in Cubberley student newspaper, following the Third Wave Rally, including details regarding the rally and names of some individuals involved.)
* Leler, Robin and Sakuma, Bernice. (April 7, 1967) " [|The Cubberley Catamount] ", Volume 11, No. 13, Page 2. Column entitled "Through the Tiger Eye". (Article in Cubberley student newspaper makes brief reference to the events of the "Third Wave".)
* Strasser, T. (1981). "The Wave". New York: Dell Publishing Co.
* Williams, Sylvia Berry. (1970) "Hassling". New York: Little, Brown. Page 51 in Chapter 7 "A Bill of Particulars on the USM".


* [ Registration information for]
* [ Information about Domains by Proxy, a service to register domains privately.]

External links

*imdb title|id=083316|title=The Wave
* [ An essay by Jones]
* [ Remembering the 3rd Wave] , 1991, Leslie Weinfield (on Ron Jones' website).
* [] includes information about novel, stage and theater adaptations of the story
* The [ Western Neighborhoods Project] 's [ short biography] of Ron Jones
* [ Mob Mentality Act 2 (RealAudio)]
* [ A preview of the German film "Die Welle (The Wave)"] on
* [ SPIEGEL Article on "The Wave"] , "Nazis für fünf Tage" ("Nazis for five days") (German)

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