Sometimes it seems to us that we know it all. It’s easy for us to say that we would have acted differently in a given situation than people who have experienced it first-hand. It’s easy for us to judge, but we really don’t know how we would have behaved in their situation. One who hasn’t experienced war, a life-threatening situation or extreme hunger doesn’t know how it would affect them.
This is what Ron Jones, a history teacher at Ellwood Cubberlay High School in Palo Alto, California, tried his best to explain to his students. During a lesson about World War II, the students didn’t want to believe that you can blindly believe in one man, to the point that you begin to kill others. They also didn’t believe that no one opposed the actions of the concentration camps. The teacher couldn’t convince them with his arguments, so he decided to conduct an experiment.
Jones gave a lecture about discipline. He told students to sit up straight, stand at attention and change places. After everyone had changed their seats and switched their places, the students listened attentively to his lecture. They reacted to the changes with enthusiasm.
The next day, students sat up straight and waited to listen to what the teacher was going to say. Jones told the students to repeat the new motto of the group: “Strength through discipline, strength through community.” At the end of the lesson, he showed them a gesture, which everyone was supposed to use to greet each other with. Students used it to greet each other at every meeting.