I love this clip from Dead Poets Society for many reasons. First, it cuts the the essence of pedagogy: does learning reside in the student or the teacher? Second, it illustrates that essential question through the teaching of literature. Finally, the scene is based on history. There have been many approaches to teaching literature. One approach called New Criticism advocated for less emphasis on the author’s life or historical context of a literary work–as had been popular–and favored the scientific treatment of aesthetic texts. That’s partly where we get all the emphasis today on literary elements when studying literature in college and K-12 schools. The result is either educational excitement or, as Mr. Keating might say, “excrement.”
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