back to list

A History Lesson With A Twist

An experiment in the classroom about the value of humanity and the downfall of dictatorship


What's going on?

More than six decades ago in 1967, a lesson occurred in an American classroom that turned out nothing like how it was planned, which aftermath still live on today. Ron Jones, a history teacher simply wanted to educate his class about the occurrence of the Holocaust by the German during World War II to raise an understanding about dictatorship. At the beginning of the week, Jones changed his lesson style to become more authoritarian and lectured the students on the benefits of discipline. Seeing a change in his class the day after, Jones then introduced the slogan ‘Strength Through Discipline’ and invented a compulsory salute for them – hence forming a movement known as the Third Wave. He told them anyone who questioned him would receive a C grade or may fail his class.


On the third day, students from other classes started to join Jones’ class and were encouraged to recruit other students through the distribution of membership cards. Jones also appointed bodyguards for himself and formed a secret police with the students. However, things went a notch higher on Thursday as the lesson was growing out of control and Jones decided to end it. He informed the students they were part of a national organization and would revolutionize American politics with a rally happening the next day.


On Friday, 200 students gathered and were presented with a blank screen instead of a televised address of their leader. After a few minutes, Jones announced that they had all willingly had a sense of superiority similar to German citizens in the period of Nazi Germany. He then played a film about the Nazi regime to conclude the experiment. Currently, this ‘Third Wave Experiment’ is now taught on psychology courses around the world and is on the curriculum in Germany and Israel.


Nazis in our classes: The 50-year-old lesson about fascism still terrifying us today