Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Wave, by Todd Strasser

Mr. Ross has always been different from other teachers.  He is dynamic, involved, and likes to take a more hands on approach to teaching, creating different games and ways for the children to interact with the material he is teaching.  When he starts to discuss the Nazis and World War II in his history class, his students question why the Germans went along with the horrors Hitler perpetrated.  Unable to explain why, Mr. Ross instead stages and experiment.  He creates a group called The Wave, where students are equal parts of a whole, exhibiting discipline and action.  When group synergy takes over, Mr. Ross is equally amazed and frightened at the things that take place.

I have a friend who teaches high school literature, and she is actually the one who gave me this book to read.  Until now, I had never heard of it, and can guarantee that this book would never have been assigned when I was in high school.  I found this book to be incredibly powerful; it speaks volumes to the fact that we need to teach children the truth about our history, even the bad parts.  

I think the subject matter is a little bit controversial, but necessarily so.  It was frightening to read how quickly the kids assimilated to the group identity and behavior.  We see this all the time with cults, and many kids are particularly vulnerable.  Adolescence is a time when so many kids feel marginalized, any group that promises equality and belonging will be appealing.  The book is based on an actual even that occurred in the late 1960's.  I doubt that such an experiment would be allowed by school administrators in this day and age, but the concept is power, and can teach us many lessons.  I highly recommend the book for young adults, particularly older teens, and would encourage parents whose teens read this book to discuss it with them.  We all need a reminder of what can happen when a group with a powerful leader goes unchecked.

I was loaned a copy of this book  from a friend.

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