Ryan Gosling is a young inner-city teacher whose ideals wither and die in the face of reality. Day after day in his shabby Brooklyn classroom, he somehow finds the energy to inspire his 13 and 14-year-olds to examine everything from civil rights to the Civil War with a new enthusiasm. Dan teaches his students how change works ' on both a historical and personal scale ' and how to think for themselves. His disappointments and disillusionment, however, have led to a serious drug habit. One of his students finds out and what happens makes the movie grow more interesting.