Dead Poets Society Theme

					Residential Leadership · Department of Residential Education · New York University



Dead Poet’s Society – Facilitator Guide
Leadership through Film and Literature Curriculum

Film Themes
Charisma
Change making
Consciousness of self
Free thinking

Your Role as a Facilitator
Your role as a facilitator is mainly to promote a dialogue amongst participants. The facilitator opens the
experience by welcoming participations, giving a brief overview of the film and asking participants to watch
for the above listed themes. The facilitator will ask questions and provide insight on leadership topics and
field questions from participants.

The facilitator should mention to the participants that the writers of this curriculum understand the
varying levels that students may or may not connect to this film and the themes noted above. Please
explain that this film focuses on a very niche population (white men at a private high school in New
England during the 1950’s). However, please inform participants that this could spark additional
commentary on the effects of adolescent development without the presence of cultural or ethnic
diversity, interaction with those of a different sex or gender.

The facilitator is responsible for providing the following:
    • Providing a television & DVD player
    • Providing a space to view the film
    • Making copies of the participant guide (page 3 of this packet)
    • Making copies of the participant worksheet (page 4 of this packet) *this is completely optional and
          use depends on how formal of an experience you are looking to provide

Film Synopsis
Dead Poet’s Society
Year made: 1989
Runtime: 128 min
Country: USA
Language: English
Color: Color (Metrocolor)
Film image courtesy of imdb.com

Dead Poet's Society deals with a group of students at a traditional New England prep school in the fifties.
John Keating (Robin Williams) is an English teacher whose unorthodox teaching methods inspire his students
but scandalize the hierarchy.

Through his teaching, Keating inspires seven creatively repressed young men to open their minds to the
beauty of the world of poetry and literature. He urges them to stand on their desk tops to look at the world
from a different perspective. They begin to see life as more than just pleasing their parents with the right
college and career choice. He encourages them to break out of the traditional mold and "seize the day!"

In their enthusiasm to learn more, the boys form The Dead Poet's Society where they gather to read poetry.
They form a strong bond of friendship with each other and Keating. When Keating's teaching methods lead
to his dismissal as an instructor, the boys come forward to offer their support. They voice their opinions about
how Keating's instruction has changed their lives.



                          Dead Poet’s Society - Leadership though Film and Literature Curriculum - resed.leadership@nyu.edu   1
Residential Leadership · Department of Residential Education · New York University


As a rather unconventional instructor, Keating is a great example of the type of leader described by
Thomas E. Cronin in his article, "Thinking About Leadership”. “Leaders are inventors, risk-takers and
entrepreneurs," states Cronin. "Leaders are individuals who can help create options and opportunities, who
can help clarify problems and choices, who can build moral and coalitions, who can inspire others and
provide a vision of the possibilities." Keating possesses self-confidence, optimism and idealism that attracts
and mobilizes others. Keating challenges his students to trust their self-worth and follow their own dreams.

Learning Outcomes
Participants should participate in a dialogue about…
     • various leadership styles and qualities
     • charisma and how it is sometimes substituted for other leadership qualities
     • the importance of a leader providing “meaning” before “action”
     • the importance of consciousness of self, free thinking, and inspiring others
     • what happens when a leader overshadows the subject of their teaching
     • the notion of stakeholders and the logistics of getting everyone on board to make change
     • the differences and similarities between a hero and a leader

Talking Points
Please ensure to discuss questions that are in bold.
    Leadership Discussion
    • What are some of the qualities exemplified through this film?
    • What is the significance of the classroom scene in which Keating instructs the students to rip
         pages from their text? What is his point in doing this?
    • Why was it easier for Keating to break through to the students of Welton than to the
         administrators, faculty and staff?
    • Archimedes uses the analogy of trying to find a lever long enough to move his world. Keating has
         four levers – students, parents, faculty, and administrators. How can he reach out to these groups
         to make change and progress at Welton?
    • What does Keating do well as a leader?
    • What are Keating’s downfalls as a leader?
    • Keating was able to distinguish poetry over all other of the student’s pursuits. How does this
         affect the students? Was this good, bad, or indifferent?
    • Keating provokes defiance into his students without providing the social discourse for true change.
         What is the effect of this when the students start acting on their defiance?
    • The students participate in a number of defiant acts including forging a signature on a letter,
         throwing things from the school roof, and disrupting a school assembly. How do these acts
         relate back to Keating’s teaching? Do these acts correlate with the social change Keating
         intended in his teaching?
    • Keating recognizes that some of the students are taking their defiance too far. After the scene
         where Charlie stages a phone call from God, Keating confronts him. Charlie comes back with,
         “What about…sucking the marrow out of life?” Keating responds, “Sucking all the marrow
         out of life doesn’t mean choking on the bone.” Is Keating’s message timely or too late?
    • Keating was an inspirational leader to his students. But in the end what was the focus of attention,
         the work of great poet’s or Keating himself?
    • In Keating’s teaching did he emphasize the “meaning” behind “acting”?
    • What role has Keating played in this film, that of a hero or a leader?

    Personal Experience
    • Did you enjoy the film?
    • How has this film inspired you?
    • What element of leadership do you most take away from this film?
    • What is your opinion of Keating as a leader? Why?



                          Dead Poet’s Society - Leadership though Film and Literature Curriculum - resed.leadership@nyu.edu   2
Residential Leadership · Department of Residential Education · New York University



Dead Poet’s Society - Participant Guide
Leadership through Film and Literature Curriculum

Film Themes
Look for the following qualities during the film!
    • Charisma
    • Change making
    • Consciousness of self
    • Free thinking

Film Synopsis
Dead Poet’s Society
Year made: 1989
Runtime: 128 min
Country: USA
Language: English
Color: Color (Metrocolor)
Film image courtesy of imdb.com

Dead Poet's Society deals with a group of students at a traditional New England prep school in the fifties.
John Keating (Robin Williams) is an English teacher whose unorthodox teaching methods inspire his students
but scandalize the hierarchy.

Through his teaching, Keating inspires seven creatively repressed young men to open their minds to the
beauty of the world of poetry and literature. He urges them to stand on their desk tops to look at the world
from a different perspective. They begin to see life as more than just pleasing their parents with the right
college and career choice. He encourages them to break out of the traditional mold and "seize the day!"

In their enthusiasm to learn more, the boys form The Dead Poet's Society where they gather to read poetry.
They form a strong bond of friendship with each other and Keating. When Keating's teaching methods lead
to his dismissal as an instructor, the boys come forward to offer their support. They voice their opinions about
how Keating's instruction has changed their lives.

As a rather unconventional instructor, Keating is a great example of the type of leader described by
Thomas E. Cronin in his article, "Thinking About Leadership”. “Leaders are inventors, risk-takers and
entrepreneurs," states Cronin. "Leaders are individuals who can help create options and opportunities, who
can help clarify problems and choices, who can build moral and coalitions, who can inspire others and
provide a vision of the possibilities." Keating possesses a contagious self-confidence, optimism and idealism
that attracts and mobilizes others. Keating challenges his students to trust their self-worth and follow their
own dreams.

Suggested Readings
Thinking About Leadership, Thomas Cronin
Enlist Others: Attracting People to Common Purposes, James Kouzes and Barry Posner
Vision and Meaning: Two Sides of the Same Coin, James A. Vaughn




                          Dead Poet’s Society - Leadership though Film and Literature Curriculum - resed.leadership@nyu.edu   3
Residential Leadership · Department of Residential Education · New York University



Dead Poet’s Society - Participant Guide
Leadership through Film and Literature Curriculum

Film Review
These are Keating’s leadership traits and qualities that I noticed during the duration of the film.

Traits and qualities                                                                          Scene

______________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________________

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______________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________________

These are the student’s leadership traits and qualities that I noticed during the duration of the film.

Traits and qualities                                         Student Name                     Scene

______________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________________

These are the effects of Keating’s leadership on his students.

Effect                                                       Student Name                     Scene

______________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________________


                          Dead Poet’s Society - Leadership though Film and Literature Curriculum - resed.leadership@nyu.edu   4

				
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