Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Die Welle

Once again Ron Jones's Third Wave experiment at Cubberly High School in Palo Alto has been dramatized, this time by the German director Dennis Gansel. There are some questions about the original story's veracity, as the main source is Ron Jones himself, but it is highly believable: that a few simple step-by-step manipulations of a group young people leads to their wholehearted acceptance of brutal authoritarianism: sitting in attention postures, starting all sentences with 'Mr. Jones,' answering all questions in three words or less, learning a simple salute. All the results included the usual harbingers of disaster: unquestioning adherence to the rules, xenophobia, the ratting out those who didn't measure up. But he also found improvements in academic skills and an excitement and motivation he had not seen before. Although some pro-fascists would focus on the latter as a justification of the former, I prefer to think that it's best to accept a little less perfection and a little more anarchy and more chaos and a little more joy.

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