A non-dominant Discourse as explained in Gee’s paper is secondary Discourse that “brings solidarity with a particular social network”. Which seems to be much less beneficial than a dominant Discourse. With the mastery of a dominant Discourse social goods can be acquired such as money, prestige, and status. Even with these clear set of differences in benefits between the two types of Discourses there are examples of non-dominant Discourses being chosen over dominant Discourses.
The film Dead Poets Society the teacher Mr. Keating chooses a non-dominant Discourse over a dominant one. Keating decides in the film that teaching the boys in his class and forming a deeper relationship with them is key so they can learn better. This is more important to him than his reputation at the school and with his job. Keating’s job as an English teacher is clearly the dominant Discourse because it gives him the social goods that Gee talks about such as his pay check and prestige of being a teacher at that school. The non-dominant Discourse is relationship that he builds with his students. Keating feels in the movie that the benefits of acquiring the non-dominant Discourse with his students so they are inspired and want to learn is of greater value than the benefits of the dominant Discourse that is his job.
The first time Keating has class with his students in the film he has his students take out their textbooks about poetry and rip out the entire first chapter. This is Keating introducing a new non-dominant Discourse to his students that they have not experienced. This matches up perfectly to what Gee says about non-dominant discourse and how it brings a solidarity to a particular social group. Keating’s lesson in this scene is so different from what the students are used to and they enjoy ripping out pages. This is when Keating and his students first start to form this non-dominant Discourse. It has an effect almost immediately on their dominant Discourses though. In the same scene another teacher walks by the classroom while Mr. Keating goes to get a trashcan only to see the students throwing paper and ripping pages. He burst in the room to yell and discipline the students just as Keating comes out with the trash can. The other teacher is confused and is clearly judging Keating’s teaching methods. This is the first time you see the non-dominant Discourse between Keading and his students and the dominant Discourse between the school, Keating, and the students at conflict.
This movie is an excellent example of conflicting discourses. Gee says in his paper that “when such conflict or tension exists, it can deter acquisition of one or the other or both of the conflicting Discourses, or, at least, affect the fluency of a mastered Discourse on a certain occasions of use”. A later scene in the film shows directly the conflict between the dominant and non-dominant Discourses in the movie. It is when Keating is sitting next to the very same teacher that walked in on his class tearing out the pages in their textbooks. In the scene the other teacher mentions the incident and questions his way of teaching. Keating rebuttals showing the opposite view and importance of his lesson. What is important about this scene is that they both have two different discourses one dominant and the other non-dominant and both think that their Discourses is more beneficial than the others.
Probably the most memorable scene in the film is when all of the students stand on the desk saying oh captain my captain. It was just after Keating was fired and he was leaving the room with all of his things. His students were having class in the room at the time being taught be the headmaster of the who fired Keating. Right before Keating was about to walk out the door the students stand on their desks and say oh captain my captain. This scene sums up what the others scenes were building up too which is Keating’s choice of his students or the non-dominant Discourse over his job which is a Dominant one.