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A Reflection On The Movie "Dead Poet's Society"

1745 words - 7 pages

History constantly witnesses the never-ending struggle between tradition and innovation. As an old adage goes, "the only constant thing in this world is change" and it is indeed true. The society that we have today is a by-product of continuous changes --- changes that generations before us believed to be for the better. Thus, history serves as a "storehouse" of information that can help us understand change and how the society we live in came to be.The definition of History as a "natural tension between tradition and innovation" is best represented in the movie Dead Poet's Society. Set in 1959, the movie is the story of students at the respected "Welton Academy", an all-boys preparatory school in Vermont. Such schools were (and often still are) very conservative institutions that serve as high schools for parents who insist on sending their children to the best universities.The story is an all-common scene in our history: a traditional way of living and doing things is initially present. Almost everyone is conforming to that tradition since it is the "best" way people know on how to do things. Not everybody may be happy but the familiarity that the tradition brings provides comfort and security. Then come along a different (either good or bad) idea to change how things are originally done. The traditionalists will resist and even condone the change while the proponents of innovation will try to prove that the change is for the better. The changes may persist in a particular society, and as the time goes on, these changes will be embedded on the culture until it becomes the new tradition, which new changes will, again, try to contest. And again, the whole cycle begins.In the movie, the tradition is represented by the educational system where students memorized and translated the central works of the distant past, learning ancient languages, rhetoric, and simple mathematics by rote. Professors emphasized accuracy and not comprehension. Conservative and conformist, Welton, like any other early colleges had little interest either in expanding knowledge or in inciting critical thinking. Lessons were infused with a deeply religious vision of the world and of the duties both as a citizen and as a family-member. The colleges saw themselves as bulwarks against change, training the pastors, doctors, and lawyers of the next generation. Largely driven by a sense of tradition, the school imposes out-dated teaching techniques on both its teachers and its students. The students are encouraged to mindlessly take in facts and regurgitate them on command. The teachers are expected to teach according to a rigid set of rules. But change arrived regardless, driven by the needs of a growing society.The innovation in the movie is represented by John Keating, the newest professor at and a former graduate of Welton. Compared with the dry, bland teachings of the other professors at the academy, Keating actually speaks to the students. So unique and out of the ordinary...

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