In Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, what is Captain Beatty's opinion about school? 

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Captain Beatty is a well-read fireman who burns books for a living. After learning what he could from books, he assimilates back into the anti-literate society because he didn't feel satisfied with what he learned from them. When one of his employees, Montag, gets the "fever" for knowledge, Beatty shows up at his house to educate him and possibly sway him not to go down the road to literacy.

Beatty decides to tell Montag about the history of how books became unpopular and eventually unneeded in society. First, radio, television and movies condensed stories into more entertaining experiences. He explains further by saying:

"Classics cut to fit fifteen-minute radio shows, then cut again to fill a two-minute book column. . . School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored. . . Why learn anything save pressing buttons, pulling switches, fitting nuts and bolts?" (55-56).

Thus, the history that he explains actually gives Montag the picture that people simply started caring more about entertainment than studying anything academic or scholarly. And, contrary to what Montag may think, Beatty says that the loss of literacy was not a government conspiracy, either. The loss of literacy in their society is due to the mass exploitation of technology! As a result, schools focused more on running, jumping, and swimming rather than reading, writing, and arithmetic. He even says, "the word 'intellectual,' of course, became the swear word it deserved to be" (58).

Beatty goes on to say that the bright boy in every class was hated and beat up by everyone else because he was actually in the minority. Most people, he continues, would rather have fun and be happy through entertainment than study, learn or read--so they got rid of it all. School, therefore, is useless unless it teaches kids to run fast, drive fast, and have fun. Basic skills are taught to people so they can have jobs to sustain life, but after a mindless job each day, people go home to their TV parlors, radios and fast cars so they can be distracted and ignore one another all in the name of happiness. Clearly, Beatty dislikes traditional school based on academic learning because it causes too many arguments and discomfort for everyone.

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Fahrenheit 451

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