When a social studies student asked about the German public's responsibility for the rise of the Third Reich, saying "it couldn't happen here", Jones decided to try and simulate what happened in Germany by having his students "basically follow instructions" for a day. He turned his class into an efficient youth organization, which he called the Third Wave. Some students were informers, and some were told they couldn't go certain places on campus. He insisted on rigid posture and that questions be answered formally and quickly.
The experiment, initially scheduled for one day, stretched into five. "It was strange how quickly the students took to a uniform code of behavior. I began to wonder just how far they could be pushed," Jones wrote.
To his surprise, Jones found that students recited facts more accurately in this authoritarian environment and that he had no discipline problems. One previously lost soul suddenly had a role in the school--he became Jones' bodyguard.
The students got very involved in the Third Wave, many sporting black armbands to signify their membership. Others actively proselyted other students. Banners appeared around the school, and announcements were made over the PA system. "... by the third or fourth day, there was an obvious explosion of emotion that I couldn't control." wrote Jones.
But soon the experiment began spinning out of control. There was betrayal among teens who had been close friends since childhood when one would refuse to conform. Jones wrote "I kept hoping someone would walk in and ask what was going on, so I could point to them and say, 'That's right, look what you're doing, you've become just like fascists' and end it. But it didn't happen."
At a Friday assembly, five days into the experiment, Jones announced, "We can bring (the nation) a new sense of order, community, pride, and action. Everything rests on you and your willingness to take a stand," he told students.
As one, the students shouted, "Strength through discipline!"
After a long silence, Jones began to speak. "There is no such thing as a national youth movement called the Third Wave. You have been used. Manipulated. Shoved by your own desires into the place you now find yourselves."
He showed a movie of Hitler at the Nuremberg rally. The students and teachers saw that they had only too readily adopted many of the behaviors they were witnessing on the screen. They realized the possibility that it could happen here.
Someone recently commented on my blog about her experience in California
"The realization that not only am I a pariah for voting No, but that I'm not allowed to talk about it, "preach what I believe," shook my core foundation. I'm not out to ruin the church or mislead its people. I just really disagree here and it struck me weird that I couldn't talk about it without people telling me I had little faith or I was going against the Prophet."As I read this, I recalled watching a PBS special dramatizing the events described in Ron Jones book "No Substitute for Madness". And, I find myself wondering if proposition 8 has spawned our own Mormon version of the Third Wave. With everyone shouting "no gay marriage" and "protect the traditional family" as one voice. And, those who are not in lock step with the movement having their faith and commitment called into question, perhaps even being ostracized, with long time friendships and family relationships being torn apart.
. . . something to think about