— No way! Why I almost succeeded. I would have succeeded, had it not been for you."
"You forgot that in every group God has placed a me for the protection of that group."
"Funny you should say that," rejoined I, "that's exactly how I saw myself — as protecting my boys from destruction, destruction by Welton."
As if he hasn't heard me, Charlie continues, "If I hadn't been there to protect the group, Richard Cameron would have done it, or even Knox Overstreet. I tell you that a me will spring up wherever he is needed."
I don't tell Charlie about Bodan Kozak — that would only encourage him to cling to his mad theory of a hero always springing up to protect the weak.
"You have no idea how hard I worked to undo each of your enchantments," continues Charlie in his confessional mood.
"After every surge in my power, I felt it ebbing," I confess in turn, "but I never suspected that you were responsible, and I even now doubt that you can take much credit."
"Permit me to give you an example," says Charlie. "You dubbed yourself O-Captain-My-Captain. The boys hesitated to address you with that, but then acquiesced, and so fell deeper under your spell. I had to teach them how foolish such self-inflating naming was, how little deserving of tolerance, let alone admiration, and yet I could not simply say as much and expect it to have any effect, as boys are little able to throw off enthrallment with the help of mere words. They need demonstration, they need to see a scene acted out, a scene that brings home to them the thought, 'Isn't that Charlie ridiculous!', which is what I want them to think, because the next stage in that thinking will be 'Isn't that Keating ridiculous in the same way that we have seen Charlie being ridiculous!'. And that is exactly the needed scene I was playing out for them when I announced my new name, Nuwanda, the time I brought the girls to the cave. I next imprinted my self-naming more indelibly into their auditory memory with a war whoop, and more indelibly into their visual memory by donning war paint.
"Passivity is synonymous with readiness to obey, and the greater the readiness to obey, the stronger will be our Dead Poets Society."
"And the passivity is induced how?"
"Youth naturally abhors passivity, but can become first resigned to it, and then addicted, by simply enforcing passivity as totally as possible and for as long as possible. The Read-Kick-Exercise is enforced passivity designed to further entrench passivity as a habit.
"Consider that during the one hour scheduled for my poetry class, each student Read-Kicked exactly once. If I had prepared another set of quotations, I could have had them run through the procedure a second time, but that preparation would have been too much work for me. And having them go through a second Read-Kick, would have been working against my purpose, which was to habituate the students to doing as little as possible, and that is why I preferred to see the remainder of the period pissed away.
"And now comes the good part. Please notice that the time that it takes for a single Read-Kick is approximately 6 seconds. Of the 3,600 seconds available in the hour, then, 6 seconds were spent in activity, and 3,594 seconds were spend in passivity, which gives Passivity Index = 99.83%. And so what role can I be said to have been playing during this Read-Kick-Exercise? The role of a teacher of English Literature or of Language Skills? Well, yes, for about half of those 6 active seconds, let's say for 3 seconds. Also the role of a teacher of Phys Ed? Well, yes, also for about the 3 seconds that it took to run at and kick the ball. And perhaps also the role of a teacher of Samadhi? Well, rather! Passivity always tops the curriculum at Welton Academy. No matter what the students are ostensibly learning, what they predominantly learn is to do nothing and to say nothing and to think nothing. Anyone who saw us out on that field would have noticed that most of the students most of the time were standing in line waiting. It's waiting that Welton teaches 99% of the time, and then generously allocates the remaining 1% to all the lesser subjects, like English and Math and Chemistry. I always work at lifting my Passivity Index way above 99%, and I was pleased on this occasion to achieve that pretty impressive 99.83%, which I do not deny gives me pleasure to cite again. Given how little of either reading or kicking it involved, that period would more accurately be labelled as the No-Reading-No-Kicking-Non-Exercise.
"Not only did I require next to nothing of the boys during that period, but I habituated them also to refrain from doing any of the several things that they might naturally have tended to do. For example, no one but you asked what the purpose of the Read-Kick-Exercise was or what skills it aimed to develop. No one asked who the author of the snippets was, or from which of his works they were taken. No one asked to see the whole work from which the snippets were taken, so that they could see the big picture and what the author was getting at. The students had been stripped of the least stirring of interest or of curiosity. Their tongues were so leaden that they could not bring themselves to speak. All questioning seemed burdensome and purposeless and wearying. Had I spoken to them of any of these questions concerning what they were reading, and why, they would have recoiled from me as a bearer of burdensome trivia. They didn't know, and they didn't want to know, and over the years, successive waves of them sit quietly as prisoners serving their sentences, looking forward only to the day that they are released from Welton Penitentiary, the institution which is notorious for being so often mislabelled Welton Academy."
Charlie listened attentively, I think impressed by the detail and clarity of my exposition, indicating by his silence that he was interested in hearing more, and so I continued.
"I can well imagine that other teachers of Passivity would be jealous of the superlative Passivity Indexes that I tend to claim for myself, and would call them inflated, and would try to knock them down. The students on this Read-Kick-Exercise, my envious critics might argue, did walk out to the field, and then walked back off it — which two walks were physical activity. And even standing requires exertion, and so all the standing time could be counted as physical activity as well. And the students did exchange some banter with each other, which talking could be counted as verbal activity which builds verbal skills. And actual class time in every hour is only 50 minutes, might say my critics, the period ending formally ten minutes before the next hour.
"Well, yes, I would have to concede to such critics, as long as we are conscious, we can always be considered to be using our muscles and our brains, and can often be seen to be talking too — but from this point of view boys that don't go to school at all, who merely wander the streets, could be considered to be highly active both physically and verbally. But the behavior that I call active is performing tasks specially designed to create some skill that otherwise would remain uncreated, from which point of view standing in line while occasionally exchanging a few words with others in the same line must be considered not active education but passive killing time. And that ten-minute gap between classes, occupied by going to one's locker to switch textbooks, or going to the john, must by the same criterion also be counted as passive because empty of educational exercise, and so needing to be included as passive time within either the class just completed or within the class about to begin. What I would recommend to critics envious of my high Passivity Index scores is that they adopt my method of computing the Passivity Index, and work at raising their performance up to my level rather than trying to pull mine downward.
"But, my envious critics might argue further, maybe the students benefit not only from themselves reading, but from hearing other students read? I would reply to these critics that students shut out the reading of others as effectively as they shut out any other annoying background noise.
"You said earlier that the purpose of your Read-Kick-Exercise was to induce passivity. Are you, then, actuated by some purpose?"
"My ultimate purpose is to destroy Welton," which extreme confession I expected would surprise Charlie, but all I could read on his face was merriment, as if such a goal did not surprise him in the least.
"But," objected Charlie, "if all teachers are trying to increase their own Passivity Indexes, does this mean that all teachers are working to destroy Welton?"
"For the moment, let us entertain the hypothesis merely that all teachers struggle toward the goal of increasing student passivity, but that their motivation varies, and so that many Welton teachers, whose pay comes from Welton coffers, are not at all interested in destroying Welton, but nevertheless work to increase student passivity for other reasons.
"And so," I concluded, "Welton does not educate, Welton makes it impossible to educate, and that is why I do not come to Welton to educate. I come to Welton to destroy Welton. I come to lead a rebellion of the enslaved, for the purpose of releasing them from slavery. In order for my rebellion to succeed, I need first to create a loyal and dedicated cadre of rebels, which I call, for purposes of misdirection, the Dead Poets Society. The only reason I do not call myself Spartacus is that it would reveal my purpose and muster the defenders of Welton to the ramparts."
Charlie's eyes lit up somewhat at my peroration, and I though that perhaps I had hooked him. He was ready to be recruited into the Dead Poets Society, I judged, but not as one of the sheep, but rather as apprentice shepherd. He was naturally predisposed to be disgruntled with Welton, and he could not but be moved by having been implicitly offered co-leadership of the rebellion.
But to get back to my thread, the thread of sneering at names, I find that almost as good as making fun of a boy's name is calling him a name. In my first week of teaching at Welton, I have already called Knox Overstreet a twerp, and I have already suggested that Todd Anderson — poor Todd!
Smoke Signals Essay -- Movie Review, Film Review
— Where was that coming from? Who the hell is "Mr Keating"? What happened to O-Captain-My-Captain? What happened to the Roman salute plus heel click? I had obviously wounded him, and he was obviously retaliating by becoming insolent, as immature people are wont to do.
But in any case, you see that he had fallen right into my trap, because now he could not avoid being asked what that "much, much worse" fear was, and which would reveal some laughable phobia, or other crippling emotional disorder. I of course proceeded to spring the trap by asking, "And would you mind our asking, Bodan, what that much, much worse fear is?" to which he replied, in a still quiet and now somewhat lazy voice, "My even worse fear is having an English teacher who..." and then he seemed to wander off into a reverie and failed to complete his sentence.
I could see that I had driven Bodan into a corner, and was not about to let him escape his deserved humiliation. If his much, much worse fear was, as he had begun to say, of an English teacher of some sort, then nothing could be plainer than that his much, much worse fear was of me, me the English teacher to whom all his weaknesses were an open book, me who was able to diagnose and catalog all his neuroses from A to Z, who could peer into his very soul with my spiritual X-ray vision, who could rule over him, and so when Bodan failed to complete his sentence, I prompted him to continue toward his further self-abasement, "If you will permit me to remind you, Bodan, you were about to tell us what your much, much worse fear is," to which he replied, with the entire class now listening with the keenest interest to what they knew was going to be a deeply personal revelation of the crippling fear of being dominated by a man of genius, "Oh, excuse me. I was distracted. But to resume — I was saying that my even worse fear is having an English teacher who", and here he maddeningly paused at exactly the same place as before, but did manage to pick up again just as my exasperation was mounting to the point where I was about to give him a further prod, "my even worse fear is having an English teacher who does not realize that when one preposition suffices, it is symptomatic of an imperfect command of English to insert two".
"What in the world are you talking about", I ejaculated, unable to contain my impatience, as he had monopolized class attention beyond the limit of my endurance, and in the end appeared to have nothing to say.
"Please excuse me for not being more particular. I had in mind 'inside of him', which when I heard it issuing from your own lips a few moments back, grated. 'Inside him', you see, would have sufficed. 'Inside him', is cluttered in an under-educated sort of way. In better circles, to give an everyday example, we say 'Put the letter inside the envelope'. It is the lower classes who say, 'Put the letter inside the envelope.' In better circles, we say "Peel the label off the blackboard," but we do not emulate the lower classes by saying "Peel the label off the blackboard," and so on. But," he added, "I hope that my candid confession of a phobic aversion to stylistic gaffes has not given you offence?"
"I am not in the least offended", answered I, quivering with rage. "But I do note with concern your disrespect toward the better circles to which you allude, and within which you include yourself, in that you depict them as having become so addicted to indolence that they shun the labor of uttering the two-letter word 'of'. We of the more vigorous classes are so amply blessed with vitality that we rather seek than avoid the labor of adding embellishment and amplification to our utterances." To this, Bodan responded with a wide grin, as if he was sure that I was kidding, and expected me to prove it by bursting out in laughter myself. But when I kept my angry expression, he soon turned to his work and was heard from no more during that class, not only because he could offer no reply to my devastating riposte, but also perhaps — I am able to guess in retrospect — because he became absorbed in plotting his revenge for my having reaffirmed my intellectual dominance over him.
And I did feel revenge fall heavy upon my head — if not from Bodan, then from whom?