What are the positive aspects of The Wave as an experiment?

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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There are actually several positive aspects of The Wave.  First of all, students who are normally apathetic about school suddently become motivated and excited about Mr. Ross' class.  As a part of the experiment, Mr. Ross starts teaching with a quick question and answer format, and the students, if anything, begin to learn the material more easily and readily than before.  The drawback of this is that the material is taught on a superficial level only, with emphasis on the memorization of facts.  Little analysis or deep thinking about the subject matter is required.

Secondly, the students begin to think of themselves as equals, and competition amongst them is theoretically eliminated.  As Amy tells Laurie, she no longer feels the need to compete with her in the area of boyfriends or academics or anything else.  Social pressures are lessened, and instead of seeing themselves as individuals with their own aspirations, members are encouraged to view themselves as part of something larger than themselves, part of a whole.  The good thing about this, the elimination of differences, is that team spirit and unity are fostered, but the bad thing is that the students give up their freedom to think for themselves.  People become afraid to go against the norm, whether it be good or bad.

Finally, under the strictly regimented organization of The Wave, students who were misfits before find a way to belong.  This fact is illustrated by the experience of Robert Billings, a former "loser" and social pariah who suddenly blossoms once The Wave is instituted.  As shown in Robert's case, it is the students who have been looked upon as the outcasts under the old school structures who become the most fanatically devoted to The Wave.  This is good in that they finally find a measure of social acceptance, but it is bad in that, in their fanatacism, they are the first to put aside good judgment and morals in acting on behalf of the new hierarchy of rules and regulations.

The benefits of The Wave as an experiment, as listed above, were great, but the negatives were not only significant, but potentially dangerous.  In light of how things turned out, Mr. Ross himself concluded that the experiment should not have been undertaken.  Although there were definite benefits which resulted, the unforseen negative effects were severe, far beyond what should have been allowed.  Mr. Ross realized that using students as subjects without their knowledge, in an experiment which he himself did not fully understand, was a dangerous and perhaps irresponsible thing to have done.

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