Sunday, August 9, 2020 –
A lot of people think I do not have a degree, or somehow managed to get the world’s best college education in domestic studies. BUT…I actually have a degree in Political Philosophy.
I know, right!? Who’d-a-thunk? Lil ole me has some learnin’ under that veil!
Anyhoo, today I will put my expensive diploma to work and tell you all how to rule the world in just one week (five days, to be precise). Okay, I won’t **really** tell y’all how to rule the world, but I will tell you all about how easy it is to lead a group of people into extremism.
Let’s talk about Palo Alto, 1967.
Keep in mind that the 60s, especially 1967, was a bit of a nutty time. Just to highlight a few things from our year in question:
- It was the summer of love and riots
- California had a Republican governor, but Georgia had a segregationist Democrat governor
- The first Super Bowl happened
- Joseph Stalin’s daughter officially defected to the United States
- FOIA became a thing, as did the Boeing 737
- Elvis and Priscilla got married, and the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Richard and Mildred Loving
- Thurgood Marshall is confirmed as the first African American on the US Supreme Court
- The Big Mac is introduced to America’s waistline
- The 25th Amendment was ratified, which I’m sure was a load off of LBJ’s mind
- And…we were in the middle of the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Space Race, and a hand full of other tiffs
Back to Palo Alto, 1967. We find ourselves in the Spring semester at Cubberley Senior High School, where a young history teacher, Ron Jones, in his first full year of teaching finds himself unable to answer a rather good question from a student: “How did the Germans NOT know what was going on in the Nazi Party and why didn’t they stop them?”
In order to better explain extremism to his students and give them a taste of just how easy it is for a charismatic person to take over and subdue the masses, he proposes a classroom experiment placing himself as the leader and the students as part of a new movement called “The Third Wave.” Over the span of five—yes, FIVE (5)—days, Mr. Ross was able to convert his rowdy classroom into a well-oiled machine of lemmings, get them to turn on their fellow classmates, and still had time to kill off his mini-regime! All this with only a few simple rules!
Now before you go thinking, “Holy Third Reich, Batman!” Keep in mind that Fascism (big “F”) is a regime, ahem…like the Fascist Party of Italy—that promotes nationalism and race above the individual and has a centralized autocratic (rule by 1) government headed by a dictator. Big F Fascism has severe regimentation of society and economy as well as forced suppression of any and all opposition. However, fascism (little “f”) is a means to power. Little “f” fascism is a tendency toward autocratic or dictatorial control.
In the instance of Mr. Ross’ classroom experiment, he was showing the students how Big “F” Fascism took hold by instituting little “f” fascist policy. Make sense? No? Oh well, moving on…
So, over the course of five days in the Spring of 1967, Mr. Ross made the following changes:
Day 1 – Strength Through Discipline
Mr. Ross gave his students a handful of simple rules to follow like: sit properly in your chair; be seated by the bell; answer questions in three words or less; and begin each answer with, “Mr. Ross.” The rules were easy enough for everyone to follow, and the students thought of it as a game.
Day 2 – Strength Through Community
Mr. Ross prompted the students to think of themselves as part of an elite community. They began making poster and armbands with a new logo, and he gave them a salute that they were encouraged to greet each other with in the halls and around school. He melded them together as a cohesive group.
Day 3 – Strength Through Action
Mr. Ross encouraged his students to ostracize anyone not wanting to participate in the salute or wearing of the logo. They banished their fellow classmates from the room who did not wish to comply and openly mocked them. Several students outside Mr. Ross’ history class became curious and wanted to join.
Day 4 – The Growth of a Party
The Wave took on a life of its own. Active recruitment throughout the school became large-scale. The students who did not want to join were ridiculed and even beat up by the “party” members.
Day 5 – The Death of a Regime
Seeing how quickly and easily the experiment gained traction, Mr. Ross finally put an end to everything by promising that a prominent figure in the Third Wave party would give a televised address to the student members at a private party rally. After several minutes of the students anxiously awaiting a message from their leader, Mr. Ross told them they were part of a fascist experiment and showed them footage of Nazi Youth rallies.
Mr. Ross’ personal politics aside, his experiment is one of value that we should all learn from. In fact, this experiment was part of my high school history curriculum and has stayed with me ever since. It is probably the #1 reason I get so angry at current lemming shenanigans (more on that another day).
For now, I will let you all soak in the very short rendition of the 1967 Third Wave experiment. Tomorrow I will link to an after school special from 1981 that does a fantastic job showing this experiment.
Heart of Jesus, in whom the Father was well pleased, have mercy on us.