2 The story of The Wave - historical background
3.1 Movie didactics
3.2 Learning networks
4 E-mail-project The Wave
The Wave is a movie based on real circumstances: A history teacher in the USA tried to answer the questions of his students: Why was it possible that the national socialists could move a whole nation to war? Why did the Germans not stop the killings in the concentration camps and why did most of them not know what was happening there? Is a dictatorship like the one of Hitler in Germany possible again in modern times?
To answer these questions the teacher made an experiment to show the students what a dictatorship is about. However the project went wrong and the story moved around the world. At first a movie was made in the 80’s in the USA for television, later a novel was written by Morton Rhue and last year a German movie was produced with Jürgen Vogel in the male main character role. The movies and the novel caused a lot of discussions about the National Socialism in Germany in the 1930’s and 40’s and about the possibility of autocracies in general. This movie shows what is needed to develop a dictatorship and how people change during this process.
In the USA German history is not taught very detailed, therefore many students have a lot of questions when it comes to the topic of the Second World War. As well as the students in the 80’s, students of today can not imagine how Hitler came to rule Germany and to kill so many people. Even German students often do not understand the fanaticism of the generations of their grandparents for that system. Hence there is a need for explanation in both countries. Therefore an e-mail project between a German class and a US class could help to answer the questions and to remove prejudices of both sides concerning the National Socialism.
This paper presents an idea for a Transatlantic E-mail exchange about the National Socialism on the example of the movie The Wave. Both classes use the movie as the basis for their discussions with the task to find out if a dictatorship like the one of Hitler is possible in our times. The project should last 6 weeks in which the students work with the e-mails twice a week and for each transaction with the other side have different tasks. At the end a reader should be produced with the discoveries the different groups made.
The first part of this paper is concerned with a short summery of the contents of the movie. The second chapter is about the didactical basis for this e-mail project. Movie didactics will be discussed in this chapter as well as the didactic purpose of such transatlantic e-mail exchanges. The third part constitutes the main part of the paper and is concerned with the e-mail project The Wave. There the tasks, the extent and the preconditions will be explained. Furthermore, the project will be arranged according to the competences and the Thuringian curriculum for English as well as the multi-perspectives of the usage of media in lessons. After that the general task at the end of the project will be explained in detail as well as the activities during the six week project. Last but not least a conclusion which sums up the purpose of such a project and the expected results of it.
2 The story of The Wave historical background
The movie The Wave was made in 2008 directed by Dennis Gansel. It is a remake of the TV-movie The third Wave by Alex Grasshoff from 1981, but with an alternative ending. The movie opens with the presentation of the school, a “Gymnasium” somewhere in Germany (no place named), and the main character Mr. Wenger, a young and teacher. His teaching style is rather unconventional, because his students call him by his first name and have a very smooth relationship. At this time in school he goes into the teacher’s room and gets to know that he has another topic for the project week at school with the 12th graders. This project week is concerned with different political systems, for example autocracy, anarchy or monarchy. Each topic is presented by a history or politics teacher and the students have to decide in which course they go to learn all about that political system. The overall aim of this project week is to show students the advantages of democracy. The first lesson starts with 30 to 35 students and Mr. Wenger is surprised that so many students came to his course. The students choose autocracy because the other teacher is very infamous because of his “boring teaching style” as well as for the many tasks he gives to the students. Mr. Wenger said that this is ok and that the students now should concentrate and tell him what autocracy means. The students answer: The Third Reich was an autocracy and it means self-rule. Many students moaned and said how boring it is to learn again about National Socialism. Then they discussed if a dictatorship is possible in Germany nowadays. In the evening at home Mr. Wenger thinks about that question and tries to find out for himself what is needed to build up an autocracy. His plan is to show the students the main points of a dictatorship in an experiment.
The next day he asks the students what they know about an autocracy. The student’s answer is that it means control, ideology, a leading figure is needed, respect and discipline as well as dissatisfaction of people. Now he begins with changing the seating plan and places a weak student next to a stronger student. His next step is that all the students should sit straight and have to call him Mr. Wenger and not Rainer. Some of the students express that this is odd and weird and three of them left the room. If a pupil wants to say something he or she has to stand up and has to begin with “Mr. Wenger…” The pupils are also not allowed to speak or answer a question until being addressed. Mr. Wenger explains that spontaneous standing up during the lessons refreshes the concentration and the upright sitting is better for breathing and so the brain gets more oxygen. Firstly the students are sceptical but they follow the instructions of the teacher and do not think about this method. After the three students left the room the lesson goes on and Mr. Wenger asks if there is something else special about dictatorships. One student stands up and says: “Discipline, Mr. Wenger”. Mr Wenger then writes on the blackboard “Power through discipline” which becomes the new motto of the class. Furthermore he tells the students to wear a kind of uniform, which shows everybody to which group they belong. They should wear a white blouse and jeans the next day. In the following 2 lessons the students make up a name for the group “The Wave” as well as a sign, a propaganda homepage in the internet, and a hand signal (moving with the right hand simulating a wave). During that time some of the students change their behaviour drastically, for example Tim. Tim is a very inconspicuous person not often noticed by his classmates, even disdained and misunderstood. He also finds no acceptance at home and is very depressed and full of scornfulness for the persons who do not recognize him. In the movie Tim is the first time accepted in the class because he is so willing to do everything Mr. Wenger tells him and all the things his classmates tell him. In one scene he is even protected by his classmates against a group of young men attacking him. However Tim moves further into the extreme by wearing a gun all the time, by wanting to be the bodyguard of Mr. Wenger and in the end, when the project is abruptly over Tim shoots at a classmate and then kills himself because he sees no future without T he Wave.
However Mr. Wenger is chosen to be the leader of The Wave and tries different disciplinary activities with the students, for example loud marching in the classroom, breathing and the shouting of slogans at the beginning of lessons. The problem is that Mr. Wenger looses control more and more over his students. In one night the pupils go around the town writing T he Wave -sign all over walls with graffiti and over the scaffolding of the city-hall. In another night some members of The Wave converge with some punks and fight against each other until Tim uses his gun the first time. Here he tells his so-called friends that this is only a gas pistol. The student Marco also changes a lot during the experiment. In contrary to his girlfriend Caro he does not realize what The Wave is doing to him and his classmates. Therefore he kisses another girl and even slapped Caro into the face. At this moment he realizes what The Wave is doing and he goes to Mr. Wenger to tell him to stop the project. Mr. Wenger himself realized the effects of The Wave a bit earlier when he saw a photo of the Wave-sign on the city-hall. Consequently at the last day of the week Mr. Wenger wants to end the project in the assembly hall of the school. All members and sympathizers of the Wave came and Mr. Wenger tries to end the project by accusing Marco a traitor, let him bring to him and asks the students “And what should we do with this traitor? Should we hang him, torture him?” Now the students realize that they are no better then the National Socialists and that they also have created a dictatorship. However, before the students wanted to leave the room Tim panics and the project ends in a catastrophe. Mr. Wenger is arrested, one student is wounded and Tim is dead. With that rather shocking ending the movie tries to show what the methods of an autocracy could do to people and how this changes people to a violent mass.
- Quote paper
- Doreen Bärwolf (Author), 2008, "The Wave" as an exchange project, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/156445