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"Dead Poets Society": Standing for Truth

The movie Dead Poets Society is about a controversial teacher and a class of teenage boys at a prestigious New England prep school in the 1950s. John Keating (played by Robin Williams) challenges the status quo at an institution where traditions have calcified. Keating, who attended Helton Academy a decade earlier, introduces his young disciples to a thirst for knowledge and life by exposing them to the classical poets. He teaches them to look at life from new vantage points.

To illustrate his approach he once had them stand on his desk to gain new perspective on the classroom they've only seen from their seats. Inspired by their mentor's example, the boys resurrect the "Dead Poets' Society" he established at the school while a student.

The film portrays Keating as a Jesus figure inspiring his disciples to swim against the tide of dead traditionalism. Finding precedence in Walt Whitman's famous poem about Lincoln, Keating invites his students to refer to him as "O Captain, my captain."

But then one of Helton's students commits suicide. The administration blames the suicide on Mr. Keating's unorthodox teaching and dismisses the popular teacher. The headmaster, Mr. Nolan, then takes over Mr. Keating's class and reverts to the traditional lecture format.

It is obvious most of the class is not only grieving the death of their classmate, but also the loss of their favorite teacher. A heavy cloud hangs over the class because the administration had forced the students to sign a document (under threat of expulsion) implicating Mr. Keating in the student's suicide. The headmaster asks one of the students to read from a certain page in the textbook only to discover that Mr. Keating had instructed the boys to tear out that section of the book. At this moment, Mr. Keating enters the classroom to retrieve his personal belongings.

As the beloved teacher self-consciously walks past a student, the young man blurts out, "Mr. Keating, they made everybody sign. You've got to the believe me. It's true!"

Keating smiles and says, "I do believe you, Todd."

Meanwhile, Mr. Nolan, incensed by the interruption, insists that Mr. Keating leave the room.

"But it wasn't his fault," Todd contends, gaining courage by the moment.

"One more outburst from you or anybody else, and you're out of this school," Mr. Nolan threatens. "Leave, Mr. Keating. I said leave."

At that moment, Todd stands up on his desk and calls out, "O Captain, my captain." While Mr. Nolan shouts his disapproval and continues his threats, student after student risks the consequences by standing on their desks and pledging their allegiance to someone who had awakened life within them.

Elapsed time: The scene lasts nearly five minutes, and, measured from the beginning of the opening credit, begins at 2:00:00

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