Dead Poets Society
Though a bit saccharine in places, this is a quality film that touches upon many salient themes in education. The setting is back East in 1959, and the traditional Welton Preparatory School smacks of authoritarianism. Mr. Keating realizes the stultifying effect of this atmosphere and strives to get his students to embrace life with a passion as they seek the essential human values that lie outside of protocol and conformity. Neil is the spiritual leader of a cadre of 17 year olds that push some minor boundaries while cultivating their passions in mini-bacchanals centered around the teachings of poets such as Thoreau and Whitman.
Ahh, would it that my students embraced literature with such abandon rather than seeking to abandon literature. The film brings into question the importance of tradition and discipline in education. They can be overdone, but they are a very necessary ingredient to instill the values which can lead students to take full advantage of the lives that lie before them. Mr. Keating has both a sense of authority and empathy that many teachers would do well to emulate. He is reflective and student-centered, which is a bit out of place at the film’s point in educational history. It makes one wonder, though, if our lack of emphasis upon discipline has its cost. Even though the idea of the film goes against too much conformity, one can’t help but notice how ripe these youths are to embrace their individualism. Is it dangerous to give students too much freedom or too many idealistic fancies before they are ripe? Seniors often seem to respond if you treat them like adults, but how much slack and how much direction should we provide? We must continually weigh the costs of breaking traditional boundaries with the benefits of liberating freedoms.
Another idea that the film brings up is the role of the teacher regarding a student’s relationship with his or her family. Many households provide environments that are contrary to...