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In most cases, the society has formed systems and policies that develop young people into mechanized and almost controlled beings in the society. With so many rules and policies defining every aspect of their lives, young people are not able to fully utilize their capabilities and talents. They are no longer able to embrace their unique individuality as they struggle to conform to the norms and practices of the society (Meer, 2011). Robin Williams in his role as John Keating in the 1989 movie Dead Poets Society inspires his students at Welton Academy to the love for poetry. He teaches them to overcome their reluctance to make changes in their lives. The inspiration that Keating instills in his student rattles the school authority, which opines that the style of teaching that he uses has never been seen before at Welton Academy, and hence would not be allowed.
Individualism is a part of traditional learning that has propelled many young people into areas, at which they never imagined themselves to be masters. The essence of embracing individualism in learning is that it helps one to overcome the barriers and obstacles that might have been erected by the authority or those who want to control what people learn. The Dead Poet Society film is a demonstration of how the society can be enlightened by embracing individualism. When the new teacher comes up with new forms of teaching and a different philosophy of education, the students are not only challenged to take up creative roles but also start to question what they have been taught since they started learning. It is an enlightening encounter that serves to unlock and uncover new sources of knowledge that are inherently built in their personality, but which are suppressed through rules and policies (Howe, 1989).
Individualism as an aspect of learning allows creativity and innovation that the students adopt during learning. An inevitable link exists between individualism and innovation so that students are able to gain the ability to excel in a dynamic environment (Bird, 1999). The surroundings, in which students interact with the social norms and practices, might conform to fundamentalism of the authority or powers that control the process of learning. However, with individualism and a personalized view of what could be the right step to take in given circumstances, people who embrace individualism can make decisions, which hurt the authority but later are deemed as courageous and wise. Like the case in Dead Poets Society, when some students become rebellious to the rules and policies that the new English teacher, John Keating institutes, just to follow in his footstep. For instance, Todd is too self-conscious that he does not agree to complete an assignment that he does not feel is helpful. As a result, he is taken through the self-expression exercise by Keating that turns out to be crucial in the realization of the immense potential he has (Howe, 1989).
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Embracing individualism is also evidenced when the students in Dead Poets Society, start embracing the lessons they are taught by their individualistic teacher. Charlie, on his part, publishes an article in the school newspaper without seeking permission to do so. The article is a critique to management style at Welton Academy, which does not admit girls. Charlie knows very well that it is the policy of the school administration, yet he states his mind of what is right for the school, because he feels more freely and individualistic to speak out his mind. Such form of individualism is the realization that individuals have a unique part which, when embraced, can turn out to be beneficial to the society. As a teacher, Keating plays a role in igniting the spark of individualism and challenges his students to develop a different perception about life and everything therein. He aptly and philosophically tells the student, “No matter who you are on this world, one day you gonna die, so make use of your individual creativity and innovation to make the world a better place” (Ebert, 1989). He urges his student to be wise when protesting against the system that suppresses their creativity, and never to be stupid when it comes to making far-reaching decisions that will make them stand out of the rest of the people.
While the students are taught to express their creativity and innovation with wisdom, individualism can go beyond what someone else tells them to do. In the film, much of the enlightenment on the part of the student is a result of the lessons that John Keating teachers them. It, therefore, follows that the students are not emancipated or free to think and act for themselves. Such thinking is the reason for students’ rebellion, when Nolan takes over the Keating’s class and opts to teach the students. First evidence was the fact that they cannot read the requested introduction in the book, and second one is that they want to stand on the desks as a protest against removal of Keating. When Keating comes back to class to pick up his things, he finds every student standing on his desk, exactly what he taught them to do. However, he is not embarrassed to discover that the students are not creative enough to use their own unique styles to protest against Nolan's actions. He, therefore, only acknowledges them but does not stay back to teach them as per their demands (Ebert, 1989).
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In conclusion, embracing individualism means different things to every person. It may mean sharing of information that is enlightening with the aim of enabling people free to make choices. The individuals also can gain knowledge about their new environment and how to adapt to the changing expectations in the society. Embracing individualism is similar to empowering people to contribute to the process of addressing challenges and opportunities. In a situation where individual persons have the necessary knowledge as and when needed, they are capable of contributing to the empowerment of the society, and thereby, impact the whole society together for good (Bird, 1999).
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