In Fahrenheit 451, what does Beatty mean when he says "Why learn anything...?"
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This quote comes when Montag is sick and Chief Beatty stops in to explain some of the important aspects of fireman theory to him. Montag is asking too many questions, showing his growing individuality, and Beatty wants to re-indoctrinate him into the collectivist thinking of this future society. Children no longer need a broad education, he explains, because they have no use for it; without books and reading, why would they need more than one opinion or skill?
"School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored. Life is immediate, the job counts, pleasure lies all about after work. Why learn anything save pressing buttons, pulling switches, fitting nuts and bolts?"
(Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Google Books)
Since children only have one job and only understand the opinions given to them by television, Beatty reasons that the only skills and learning necessary are the basic skills to perform adequately for the sake of society. Higher learning is a function of individuality; with specialization incorporated into the fabric of societal expectation, children no longer have interests or passions beyond what is given to them in school. Therefore, Beatty explains, people grow up happy with their small lot, and feel no need to expand their horizons beyond what basics are understood.
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