will not need a proper education. They are fated to work laborious jobs,
and as their principal Mrs. Scott (Madge Sinclair) notes, respond to “the
whip.” At Welton Academy and on Yamacraw Island, the
administration and parents have created strict cultures of expectation.
Interestingly, these expectations are polar opposites. Students at Welton
Academy are pushed to become doctors or lawyers while students on
Yamacraw Island are destined to work in the fields. Despite these
different environments, both sets of students hold low expectations
about their learning experience.
In his introduction to the students, Keating emphasizes his
students’ dire situations. Keating, who was once a student at Welton
Academy, has them read the mundane process of how to properly
evaluate poetry. He teaches his students that to evaluate poetry, one
must plot out out the qualities from the poem on an “X-Y” graph, and
find the area underneath. By doing so, Keating sets up his students to
expect the status quo. In Conrack, Mrs. Scott is the woman who
establishes and emphasizes the low expectations for the students. She
introduces Conroy to the class by remarking, “Most of you are slow, we
all know that… because you are lazy, lazy, lazy! Lazy people can’t get
ahead in life The lord brought us Mr. Patroy—you’re his, he is yours.”
The students’ first introduction to Conroy is marred by Mrs. Scott’s
insults, and they are led to believe that nothing will change with
Conroy’s teaching. The power in establishing these expectations comes
from the incongruity theory. The boys of Welton Academy are
reminded to not expect anything more than a rigid and cold learning
experience while the children on Yamacraw Island believe that they
have no future ahead as autonomous beings. Both sets of students have
firm presumptions about their learning experience that correspond with
the theory’s “set-up.”
The power of the incongruity theory is that the punchline
violates the expectation. People find humor in the disruption of the
status quo, and that is exactly what we see with Keating and Conroy. As
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