"History Boys" Film Analysis - What philosophy does Irwin want the boys to learn? How is it different/similar to Hector's? Is it possible that the two philosophies work together?

Essay by elizahCollege, UndergraduateB+, May 2007

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In Cutler’s Grammar School in England during 1980’s, a group of eight bright boys, who have garnered the highest grades, are being prepared for the exams in Oxford and Cambridge. The headmaster believes that this group of kids is the school’s best chance of making it into Oxbridge (Oxford or Cambridge), thus he hires Mr. Irwin to help them get through Oxbridge. Unfortunately, Mr. Irwin’s way of teaching is different from that of Mr. Hector.

Clearly, one of the story’s main conflicts is the conflict between Mr. Irwin’s and Mr. Hector’s methods of teaching.

Mr. Hector believes that learning is simply for learning’s sake. For him, poetry and literature are part of preparing the boys for life. He fills them with gobbets, songs, and sketches – “a prescribed amount of silliness” as he calls it. “Read it now, learn it now, you’ll know it whenever”. His teaching method does not have a specific style; merely teaching these lines from poetry.

He has no interest in exams. The boys even think that he is a joke and a waste of time. He is not concerned whether the boys understand the lines but believes that they would understand and appreciate the passages later in life. He sees poetry as a way of understanding life.

On the other hand, Irwin believes that the students must focus in a certain goal. His point is to get into a good college by whatever means and not to be distracted by other things. For him, taking the exams is a game. He explains that although the boys know the right answers, their essays are dull and lack factors that may interest the people that mark their papers. He wants them to look at the unquestioned historical assumptions and take a different view, most probably its...