In 1967, Ron Jones, a young teacher at Cubberley High School, decided to try an innovative method to teach his students about fascism. He introduced them to a movement he called The Third Wave, based on discipline and community. Many of Mr. Jones's ideas are the same as the ones Strasser describes in The Wave––for example, Strasser lifts the "Strength Through Discipline" and "Strength Through Community" slogans directly from Jones's written accounts of The Third Wave. Unlike in the novel, there was no violence committed as part of The Third Wave. However, the novel's time frame is accurate--within a week, 200 to 300 students had embraced The Wave and showed up for the rally at which Mr. Jones got them to salute and shout slogans before he revealed the truth about the experiment.
The Third Wave did not attract much media attention at the time it happened. Ron Jones first went public with the story in a self-published collection of short stories he wrote in 1976 called No Substitute for Madness! The events were also chronicled in an article in The CoEvolution Quarterly, an alternative periodical that was later retitled The Whole Earth Review. It then caught on quickly in the mainstream media.
Jones was initially frustrated by the changes made to his story in Strasser's novel and especially the television adaptation. He writes:
"The teleplay revolved around a love affair between two students. Of course this love gave the students the awareness and confidence to halt the experiment. I turned to my eight-year-old daughter: 'It didn't happen that way! ... Love didn't stop The Wave and it sure didn't stop the Holocaust!'"
However, he has since come to appreciate the impact the story has had in the United States and around the world––especially since it has encouraged some Holocaust survivors and former Nazis to open up and share their experiences.