Given the tragic passing of Robin Williams, many critics have shown a sudden interest in his earlier work. Of the plethora of Williams classics, one in particular stands tall. First released in 1989, Dead Poets Society was that rarest of beasts, a critical and commercial success. But what does that mean to you? Reading this in your pyjamas, lamenting how fresher’s week is almost over, you could do with a pick-me-up! Well, the ‘Dead Poets’ have got you sorted. Robin Williams is here to stick it to the man, and make education awesome again!
Whilst many films have explored education, very few have chosen to expose it as a system for indoctrination. It’s almost a taboo subject. Everything we learn, our ethics, our values, our hobbies, they all meet a set standard. ‘Keep your head down and work hard’, appears to be the motto of most modern secondary school. But what about being an individual? What about taking control of our lives? Surely, it’s better to do what actually makes us happy, not what should.
All of these profound lessons are taught in entertainingly bizarre fashion by John Keating (Williams), Welton academy’s new English teacher. His first lesson involves pupils standing on desks, tearing pages out of poetry books, and creating a new style for walking in courtyards. This unorthodox approach gains the attention of several impressionable young students, Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke), Knox Overstreet (Josh Charles), Charlie Dalton (Gale Hansen) and Gerard Pitts (James Waterston). Together they reform the Dead Poets Society, an unsanctioned group which Keating was a part of during his teenage years. Here, they encourage a life of freedom and opportunity, not too dissimilar from what you should experience at University.
So you see, lectures aren’t that bad! Sure, they make you get up for 9:00AM, and yeah, that’s pretty annoying. But you’ve got to remember, they’re there for a reason. They help us to discover who we are. Our likes, our dislikes, what sort of career we want, it’s all governed by the modules we take and lectures we attend. So what are you waiting for? Go and experiment, the world is your oyster! It might even console your post-freshers blues, a bit.