“Make your lives extraordinary!” says the Robin Williams character, John Keating who encourages his students to follow their passions. He is an unconventional teacher who encourages his students not to follow by rote learning methods but to follow their passions and to learn to think for themselves. The character of Jaime Escalante, a Math high school teacher in East Los Angeles is equally unconventional and daring in his classes, forever challenging his students to perform. He has a simple philosophy about learning – students will rise and perform to the level of the expectations about them and he constantly challenges the invisible barriers that exist in the students’ minds, about their Hispanic race and their poor socio-economic status being barriers to their performance in their lessons and challenges them all to study for an advanced AP calculus exam. The relationship between the teacher and his students in the “Dead Poets Society” that of mentor and co-conspirator, encouraging them to eschew traditional male socialization norms instilled in them by their own fathers, to follow a more unconventional path, although the non conformist views propagated by John Keating are unable to fly because the boys must face the reality of traditional socialization and gender roles.
According to Spence, “in contemporary society, gender is a central organizing principle in men’s and women’s images of themselves….and the construction of their social world is indisputable.”5 The socialization of males begins at home at an early age, because parents teach their children sex-appropriate roles and at adolescence, there is socialization along same-sex lines between parent and child.6 These gender roles continue when males move into the world and in the exclusive boy’s prep school that is featured in “Dead Poets Society,” it becomes obvious that the conventional roles of socialization continue to persist in spite of the unconventional teacher’s efforts. .