Keating failed in his duty to the school, the boys and the parents. Do you agree?Set in the historically conversative 1950’s America, screenwriter Tom Schulman utilises the plot of Dead Poets Society to convey the well-intentions of the English teacher John Keating and the constructivist principles he valued. However, despite his benevolent intents in his return to his alma mater, Keating had neglected his responsibilities as an educator in his attempts to empower the young men of Welton Academy through the teaching of poetry. This is perpetuated by the unorthodox actions that he took which starkly contrasted the conservative natures of his colleagues.
Superficially, Keating is suggested to be a plainly inspirational and exceptional character. Yet, subsequent to the Keating’s negligence of his obligations, he has abandoned the school’s curriculum and regulations, failed to acknowledge his legal obligation to reasonably care for his students, and, unbeknownst to the parents of said students, squandered the potentials of all the high-performers that had sat in his class. better wishes had been disregarded. By the end of the film, these behaviours resulted in his dismissal from Welton Academy. Ultimately, Keating had failed in his duty to the school, the boys and the parents.The portrayal of Keating implied that he took an anti-intellectual approach to education, exhibited indifference towards his duty to the school as an educator, and, consequently, placed the validity of his position in jeopardy.
For the duration of the film, he is seldom seen preparing resources and activities for upcoming lessons, assigning assessment takes (and the correction thereof) or taking into consideration the syllabus that he was hired to teach. In many instances throughout the film, Keating encourage (and, to a certain extent, ordered) students to abuse school property as a symbol of nonconformity. To exemplify, Keating instructed students to “tear out the entire introduction” of Dr. J. Evans Pritchard’s Understanding Poetry. He did not present students with the mere opportunity to evaluate the mechanistic rubric for themselves before pressuring them obey his demands.
While some may have perceived this as “freedom of expression”, others may have interpreted this to be blatant condoning of the of irreversible damage to the textbooks that the school had specifically requested for the students to purchase. The scene accentuated Keating’s disregard of his educational responsibilities and the expectations Welton Academy demanded from a person of his status. Keating’s overenthusiasm in preaching romantic ideals clashed with the setting of a private school with a distinct focus on the academics, and his failure in recognising that the students were not in ideal conditions to “seize the day” resulted in disastrous consequences. In one instance, Neil revealed his vulnerable self in a tearful conversation with Mr Keating, claiming that “he was trapped.”. As the characters conversed, the director built the scene utilising shots that closed in on Neil’s expression, eliminating all background subjects and emphasising his isolation and desperation. He exposed his most vulnerable self to a teacher in an attempt to seek genuine advice.
Keating, an alumnus and teacher at Welton Academy, ought to have been familiar with the type of immense pressure students received from their parents to perform well in school, be accepted into a reputable university and to pursue a noble career. Yet, Keating pushed his vague concepts of liberty, rebellion and progressivism onto the impressionable mind of an adolescent and led him to believe that confronting his father with the truth will resolve all issues. He endorses Neil’s desire to pursue acting despite being well aware that it conflicted with the motives of his father.
It was Mr Keating who opened Pandora’s box, who played with fire and set the Dead Poets Society members against the authority figures. He taught the students freethinking and individuality, yet it was equally his duty to teach them to tread carefully and practice caution. Ultimately, his negligence and zealousness unknowlingly steered his students into conflicts and destroyed lives.In neglecting the traditional study of poetry, Keating had left a class woefully unprepared to continue in the technical aspect of their poetry studies, much to the dismay of their parents.
Viewers are never given any indication that Keating is teaching any technical aspects during the sessions offscreen. The students in Keating’s class were divorced from the intellectual work of real poetry analysis and were instead taught that poetry is simply “felt” and written from the heart. While there is certainly merit to “feeling” a poem, it is the only aspect he is concerned with. In the first lecture, he mocks Mr. J. Evans Pritchard, regarding his work as “excretement” for attempting to dissect poetry. The parents of the students expended a small fortune to send their adolescents to a prestigious school as Welton Academy, and such, it is Keating’s responsibility to meet the their expectations in terms of education quality.
Yet, as demonstrated throughout the film, Keating’s classses were comprised mostly of unorthodox school activities, stirring orations and the violation of school regulations–quite opposite to what the parents had invested their money for.