The Dead Poet Society, 1989 - How Education Should Be?
A Clipping from the Film, "Dead Poet Society"
Education is the catalyst of change in the society.
Education is the mirror of society.
Which is which? These are two conflicting views on education with respect to the society it is a part of.
In the film, it showed how educating students can be manipulated by these views. Say, if a teacher agrees to the first perspective, his teaching methods would follow. Same thing goes with the other. Thus, it is unquestionable that this will determine what kind of people an educational institution would produce as future leaders, doctors, teachers and lawyers in our society. Some would serve as a catalyst for change to offer new lights in our society, while some would just reflect what was offered to them and then, period.
In relation, the film highlighted how these two opposing beliefs could influence the students’ growth as independent beings. Students were bound to live by the rules which their institution had insisted them to live by. The four pillars of education, "Tradition, Honor, Discipline, Excellence” which was explicated in the film showed how education could be sealed in the box because of the school’s desire to maintain these four. They were then stuck to the traditional teaching methods, of reading books and lecturing. As a result, students were passive. They would just take what was given to them and would not think of what they can have by themselves.
On the other hand, a teacher could stir the minds of each student by merely guiding them and not dictating. Thus, they could discover their potentials and strength by themselves. Education is a key to open their minds from the box of innocence and naivety. Philosophically, this is Progressivism, a teacher allows students to construct their own meaning for them to grow as real independent beings.
These had psychological impact on students. In humanist perspective, students are not just thinking but also feeling individuals. Thus, in the film, Keating tells the students after they had torn the pages of the book, "We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are all noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for." It is then essential to realize that students should not just be boosted with their cognition but their affects as well — which will manifest in their behavior and positive actions.
However, the content that we are driving the students to obtain should also be considered. Mr. Keating had the brightest idea of allowing his students to realize who they are and what do they really believe. However, he had lapses on considering if the cognitive stages his students were in had already the right fit on attending with what he wanted them to address.
This proves true upon the students’ behavior of releasing articles which were described as profane. Dalton could give an example. He used his knowledge to write articles convincing people that their school should also accept women. This could be alright, but his use of language made it look unappealing and undignified. Therefore, one lesson is that knowledge if given even at the right stage, yet without guidance would be useless. What more if they were not yet ready to handle such brilliance?
As regards to History, the movie implied that the school was not ready for a change. During Mr. Keating’s time, when he was a student, he was a member of the Dead Poet Society which caters free thinking and liberalism. But the organization collapsed because the school would not support it and perhaps, the school did not support it because it is against their system of values and beliefs. We say that the knowledge of history would improve the curriculum design, but if the authorities were deaf enough to ignore such innovations, there really would not be any change at all.
If there would the education would not welcome change, society would not meet change at all.
Discussion of aforementioned premises in relation to characters of the film Dead Poet Society:
Prof Keating. Upon his arrival, it is undeniable that this teacher has great enthusiasm in sharing his knowledge with the students. He was the one who teaches them in a very eclectic manner yet keeping up his focus, i.e. to facilitate free thinking of the students. It is then commendable that he served as inspiration for his students. Unconsciously, if he has been supported by the school, he would be able to influence the society by producing students who are not product of ‘misfits’. (Misfits as those who were forced to take a degree because of others, because of fear… and so on)
Neil. He is an excellent student. However, going on through something which his heart does not desire caused him pain. Since he was trapped in the situation, he resulted on giving up to suicide. In this light, it could be gleaned that education should be in accord with one’s free will. If the person find this learning style preferable, it would cultivate his motivation, and from that motivation would sprang persistence which will direct his life to success. It is to note then that if the student were forced to be what he doesn’t want to be, it cuts off his contact with his own free will that would eventually lose all his motivations and persistence on going on through his life. This is dangerous and that is what happened to Neil.
Father of Neil. He could not be blamed since he knew that it was best for his child to be a doctor rather than an actor in a theatre. However, it is what chains humans to always conform and always absorb type of attitude. Education is to educate, not to dictate and not to force. After all, Neil was never a puppet, nor a robot. However, it is undeniable that parents still had great control over the decision of their child’s education and the school authorities are likely to respect what the parents want and not what the child really longs. This is irony, from the start, education are for students to grow independently not for them to be restricted.
Todd. It is still true that although students have the free thinking; it is still influenced by the authorities. Their right to independent thinking is still limited. Todd although he developed his critical thinking through Mr. Keating, he was still signed a letter that would point all the blame about Neil’s death to Mr. Keating, their beloved teacher. Say, Todd could be a loser at that point, yet what happened also served as his source for more mature learning. This is also true nowadays in our society, sometimes, students, because of being students weren’t heard although they have a point. Learnings, indeed, still have to wait for their time to be applied fully. Learning to be applied takes power and status.
Senior Faculty. He wondered why Mr. Keating was of a different teaching style. It was unquestionable, it was new to him. Sometimes, people tend to judge quickly without even understanding the whole. Since they were already indoctrinated through time via the system they lived by, they were likely to be against a new philosophy.
The Head Master. Sticking to the traditional method of teaching, this character is the epitome of those who have power and status over the educational setting. Because of being overly secured that their techniques are great and effective over years, (which possibly made them attain such position) they become blind to welcome changes and would likely to conform since they are afraid that they would mess up, probably the image of the school and then the image of their selves. Change has been initiated by Keating, just imagine what minds could grow out of it. Yet the headmaster rejects his idea. He still thought that what is the usual way of teaching should be implemented. He missed the point that society is changing and thus, education should go in accord with it.
In conclusion, the movie, although it was filmed 1989, draws us to the conclusion that the educational institutions must have, though almost impossible, a clear grasp of how education should be laid as foundation for the students. This is because several factors must be considered, in the whole educational organizations, the faculty, the principals, the directors and others. Parents’ authority and the volition of students are also influencing up to the point where education becomes complex. The school may stand on a single goal for students yet the members of the school have opposing beliefs and so as the parents and the student. If this happens, the students, the future of our society, are the ones who would suffer.
My point is that all of those who are concerned in education should know exactly where they are directing their students (if they are school officials), their children (if they are parents) or themselves (if they are the students). They were all like musical instruments in an orchestra. If they would hit different tune, it would create noise and not music. Everything should be in harmony with the other. Education should not be viewed as a tool that would cause confusion but rather of unity. How would its people live a society with unity if they were raised with confusions?