Dead Poets Society – Rethinking Educational Methodology
One of the most important duties of every generation of the human race is to pass the knowledge by far acquired, to the next generation. It is a primary existential need that cannot be bypassed. Schools are the conventional centers where the torch of knowledge is passed on to the younger generation. Along with passing mere knowledge we intend to impart discipline among the students, which the society on the whole believes and approves as a necessity for a human being to lead a ‘good’ life. All is good except the fact that the elders demand the discipline out of their pupils by force.
Although many films, both in English and other foreign languages, have come chronicling teacher-student relationships, ‘Dead Poets Society’ (1989), directed by Peter Weir is now considered as classic by many and never fails to find its place in the ‘List of Best movies on Inspirational Teachers’. Welton Academy is one of the most famous prep schools in UK. The school principal Mr. Nolan is a strong believer of discipline and doesn’t bother to bring it by force among his pupils. Mr. Nolan, in his orientation address to the freshers of the 1959 academic year, shares the legacy of the school along with enumerations of the four pillars- tradition, honour, discipline and excellence.
Mr. John Keating (Robin Williams), an alumnus of Welton, joins as the new English teacher. He handles a bunch of young senior lads, each of whom are from different background and are of varied aspirations. We have the introvert Todd Anderson, an exceptionally bright Neil Perry for whom everything is possible except raising his voice against his dad, boisterous Knox Overstreet and others.
Mr. Keating teaches Poetry and his other lessons in most interesting ways and invites students to think out of the box. Mr. Keating through his unconventional methods of teaching soon wins the love of the pupils besides inviting dissatisfaction of Mr. Nolan. “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school” said Albert Einstein. This English teacher exactly designs his classes to fit this quote.
Having him as inspiration a bunch of lads revive the dead poet society, the school literary club once kept active by Keating himself. Through their teacher the boys learn a lot for their life. Counseled by Mr. Keating, Neil dares to convince his father – who disapproves his acting dream- to play ‘Puck’ in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.
Soon after the play amid the cheers of the audience Neil is taken by his dad back home where he divulges his plan for his son. Unable to cope up with the pressure Neil takes a bullet for himself. Knox’s unnamed article that gets published in the school magazine paired with the complaint from Neil’s parents, the management sets out an investigation only to fine the secret ‘Dead poet Society’. Leveling charges against Mr. Keating to have misguided the pupils is expelled from the school. On the day of his departure his wards give him the most memorable send off.
A good teacher teaches from his heart, not from the books. Hearing the story might make one think the movie pivots around the teacher. The movie traces the blossoming relationship between Mr. Keating and his pupils- his initial attempts to break the ice , whispering ‘Carpe Diem’ is lovely, though a dramatic moment- through which a modern approach towards teaching, though ideal, is showcased. The film urges the necessity of rethinking our educational methodologies and our strategies thus adopted to discipline youngsters.
Next, the film also highlights the negligence shown in teaching literature to pupils. Around the world there is a strong misconception that the science subjects are considered to be more important to modern life, and language and literature is often viewed inferiorly. This is because of the common notion that only technology can better our lives. Majority of us don’t understand that science and technology can make our lives better but only literature and arts can make one understand what life is. Intellects without values will never make better members for this society.
This film is now a classic because of the theme’s universal appeal. Being a cog in the education sector at present I feel this movie is capable of addressing the contemporary trend as much as it would’ve done back in the late 80s.