J.G. Keely’s review of Fahrenheit 451 > Likes and Comments

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message 1: by Dave (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:21PM) (new)

Dave "Unfortunately, Bradbury did not seem to recognize that reading has always been the province of a minority and that television would do little to kill it and much to provide entertainment for those who could never tackle books in the first place"

If you asked, I couldn't tell you more than 10 people I know who truly love to read, and choose it over TV. Before TV, there were books. With that, you can assume the reading of books has slowely (or quickly?) been declining.

On top of that, this conception of yours comes from your up-bringing in liturature, and the knowledge you obtained from it.

I think if funny that we had a conversation on this similar matter in the past.

message 2: by Dave (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:21PM) (new)

Dave I know a lot of people have attacked your thoughts and opinions in the past, and i'm telling you now, that's not my intention. I hate it when people snap at my heels whenever I feel obligated to speak, or felt justified in what I said.

What I meant by my comment, was that TV, texting, and ipod plug-ins will eventually dominate our society from top to bottom. at least, thats what I think. As a nation, I believe it would be best for us to un-plug for a week, and see how it feels to truly communicate, or truly generate entertainment(with REAL people).

message 3: by J.G. Keely (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:21PM) (new)

J.G. Keely Literacy and education is higher now than it has ever been. Even higher than in Bradbury's time. A college degree is almost considered necessary in our society, and that includes at least a modicum of literacy. All of my friends consider reading to be an enjoyable passtime, though most certainly don't do it all the time.

As for reading itself, it can be as worthless an activity as watching television, depending on why and what one reads. The ideas and concepts presented are independant of the medium, and there are far more worthless books written every day than worthless television pilots.

I'd say that in cases where people were forced into human interaction, or even cases where they choose it, that the quality of that interaction governs how useful it would be, as well. Whatever you desire to get out of the world, books, television, and people just represent different ways to try to get it. If you want to escape from life, you can; if you want to explore life, that is also available. Plenty of people have worthless human interaction every day of their lives, providing no growth or learning.

The artificiality of the constructed literary canon aside, reading is not and has never been the intellectual pinnacle of history that we might pretend. Indeed, there is just as much truth in the suggestion that the progression from oral histories to written histories was a 'backward move' which 'destroys true communication' and that 'books have killed rational thought'.

As for people attacking my opinions, do not worry. That is why they are there. I know I am wrong, I just don't know why yet. The only thing which may upset me is someone making personal attacks on other grounds than my arguments simply because they have constructed their identity around the worth of certain books and take a personal insult at their being critiqued.

Such people are already beyond communication, anyways, but may serve as example to others.

message 4: by Dave (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:21PM) (new)

Dave Hey, you presented alot of statements, but not alot of proof. Get back to me on that.

"I know I am wrong, I just don't know why yet"

I must say, that's a sad and untrue outlook on life, at least from my point of view. If it doesn't make you sad, then great, but more joy can come from having confidence in your ideas than not. Unless you mean to say that applies to
most things.

By the way, are you an existentialist or something? From what i've read of you, you come off as one of those, "Nothing is real" or "I don't move, the world moves around me" guys.

Just wondering.

message 5: by J.G. Keely (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:21PM) (new)

J.G. Keely My ideas are the best I can do with my current knowledge. That is all anyone can work with, and in that sense, I am certainly satisfied. You are correct in assuming that I meant that I was wrong in all things, just as everyone is. There is nothing we have discovered that we have not found later to be an oversimplification. I look forward to learning more and I am glad that my ignorance provides me always a path to be more enlightened.

The vast problems of man come from hubris, being the sense that one is inviolable, as a god would be. I hope that I can strive to be humble and avoid such in myself, lest I create an internal world which fails to react to the external, preventing me from learning and changing.

I suppose there is a certain joy in believing one's ideas to be correct, but I would rather be without joy than to believe in a lie, even if it made me happy. It might make me happy to believe that I don't have cancer, but if I do have cancer, I would rather know than live in ignorance.

Beyond that, the proclomation that ignorance and bliss might coincide cannot be very accurate to anyone who thinks about it. What brings out our anger and our sorrow is always misunderstanding, and the more we are ignorant, the more we are liable to misunderstand.

I have read through some of the existentialists, and there are some remarkable and interesting things there, but I would never settle on any particular philosophy (being that they are all oversimplifications), save perhaps to try to understand things as best I can and to act according to that understanding.

As to statements without proof, I would look to your own examples before mine. Of course, yours are supported by various thought terminating cliches, whereas mine must draw on a further questioning, which is a difficult and time-consuming process.

Your assumption that since books precluded television that such a thing would somehow automatically assume a decline in the former is the sort of flawed causal relationship that is commonly cited. One might say the lack of pirates since their heyday caused the growth of violent hurricanes, since a line plotted on both will coincide (pastafarian reference, there). However, more books are being published today than ever before, which was my point, and would go some length to contradict yours. Of course, it is always easier to claim I have no proof than to refute my points of argument.

Not that I resent you for it. You do no more than many, and less self-righteously.

message 6: by Dave (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:22PM) (new)

Dave Exactly the kind of responce I was looking for. I half expected you to challenge my comment, but you instead directed me back to me first argument. I guess correct.

And for the self-righteously part, all I have to say is, "Those humbled on Earth shall be exalted above".

message 7: by J.G. Keely (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:23PM) (new)

J.G. Keely Ah, yes; a humility based upon self-righteousness. I fear I am too simple a man to bear such remarkable contrivences upon my narrow shoulders.

It takes a greater man that I know of to set them such that their ungainly weight is offset enough to raise you up instead of bear you down--as magestic and imminent as the stone Victory they may seem.

message 8: by J.G. Keely (new)

J.G. Keely I doubt it would be as dramatic as all that. Even the stronger currents run to a trickle and then a dry bed: gently passing in the night. Whether the sea profits by froth or petals is up to you.

message 9: by Julie (new)

Julie S. It's been a while since I've read the book, so I can't remember which character this. I think that one character said that the parlor walls (super TVs) were more dangerous because they are more enthralling and the viewer has a harder time to say no to them. The character said that books can be just as dangerous but that the reader can always say no.

So I don't think that he was trying to say that all TV is bad or all books are good. That is far from true since generalizations rarely prove to be true. There are many books that I consider rubbish and many TV programs that I think are great. I think that he was trying to say in general that the parlor walls were so dangerous because they sucked people in and made them passive.

message 10: by J.G. Keely (new)

J.G. Keely He also has a scene where a woman is enraptured by a little handheld unit, which puts in doubt the notion that he was criticizing merely the size of the television.

Bradbury was often upset that people misinterpreted his message about TV, and has repeatedly said it has nothing to do with government cencorship, and everything to do with television killing books. Here's a short article with some quotes discussing that:


But Bradbury's just a cranky old man, since more people read, publish, and write books today than any other time in history. What he fails to recognize is that most television addicts would never have picked up a book in the first place. Reading has always been an uncommon activity of the privileged class and those of the middle class who aspire to be privileged.

He has also written about how radio is dangerous and will destroy books, but that one seems less and less prescient.

message 11: by Richard (new)

Richard It's unfortunate that you can be so eloquent and yet so wrong. Bradbury was referring to the general dumbing-down of the population, as well as censorship and the tyranny of the minority. And, as a concrete example, the temperature to which the title refers is correct, in Fahrenheit, not Celsius--do some research, and then write your poorly-supported opinions.


message 12: by J.G. Keely (new)

J.G. Keely Actually, I did do research for the review, though I suppose I should go back and put in some hyperlinks in order to avoid confusion. My analysis of Bradbury's political opinions about the book come from the author's own mouth.

Here's an article quoting him, and it links to a video on this page of Bradbury saying the book's about television, not censorship.

The wiki page on the book also links to this book (contemporary with Farenheit 451) which gives the combustion of paper as 450 degrees Celsius. Interesting that the links you gave don't agree with it. Certainly something to look into more closely.

message 13: by Richard (new)

Richard Interesting sources, but I still disagree with your assessment that "reading has always been the province of a minority and that television would do little to kill it."

It looks like Bradbury was exaggerating his premise in order to make his point.

As to the temperature, perhaps an empirical study, i.e.: an at-home experiment, is in order. I just need to find my infrared thermometer...

And thanks for the level-headed answer to my overly-critical post. Sorry about that.


message 14: by Michael (new)

Michael @Richard: I doubt Keely needs me to get involved here, but I will anyway.

The argument you seem to be disagreeing with is that television will not kill--or deplete--the number of people who are reading. So, you believe television is decreasing the amount of reading that gets done? Do you have an empirical study that supports this idea?

Now for my rant: Every time there's been a new communication technology, from television to the internet, there have been people trying to explain why this is the End of Literature. Radio. Television. Blogs. Text messages.

Yet, as of today, I'm seeing that online book reviewing social networks are popular enough that there at least four of them, all of which have (at the minimum) tens of thousands of readers involved. I have yet to see a study that can actually verify any depletion in the number of people reading.

"Bradbury was referring to the general dumbing-down of the population. . ."

Yes, and what evidence is there that the population is being dumbed down? I'm really curious, because I'm aware that the students at the poorest, most neglected school in Phoenix are studying Othello right now--because my wife teaches English there.

message 15: by J.G. Keely (last edited Nov 30, 2010 12:31PM) (new)

J.G. Keely Heh, my gf is fond of teaching Othello, herself.

I've also been curious what data supports the notion that people are 'growing dumber'. You hear it all the time, but it seems to be the same sort of gloom and doom grumbling that has always plagued mankind. Things are always 'getting worse' and being compared to an idealized, fictionalized past.

As far as I'm aware, literacy is higher now than it's ever been and there are more books published in greater volumes than ever before. I'm trying to find data to either support or refute this, but I haven't found much. What I have found does agree with what I understand, but only dates back a few decades, which is hardly case-closing.

Please let me know if you have better sources on this, Richard.

message 16: by Richard (new)

Richard @Michael & Keely: you bring up some good points, I'm not sure there are any empirical studies regarding the dearth of education in the U.S.

However, my opinion (as both high school and college faculty, with three degrees) comes from comparing current writing and reading comprehension with that of 100 or 200 years ago. Most high school kids can't get anything out of the works of the Founding Fathers because they can't understand it when they read it. Just like most people can't stand Poe, Melville or Whitman for the same reasons--they simply can't get through it.

This argument also depends on your definition of "educated", which seems to get more dim every day.

message 17: by Michael (new)

Michael However, my opinion (as both high school and college faculty, with three degrees) comes from comparing current writing and reading comprehension with that of 100 or 200 years ago.

In some respects, I think you have a point: the wealthy, white, male children attending school in the early 1800's were undoubtedly more capable of understanding the letters, speeches and documents written by the founding fathers than students in my wife's class. However, the fact that only those who could pay to attend school and also lived close to schools were able to attend up until the late 1800's undoubtedly skews the primary sources you're looking at. If we only looked at the reading comprehension of students currently attending private schools, I suspect modern students would look a whole lot better in comparison.

I'm not sure there are any empirical studies regarding the dearth of education in the U.S.

We aren't just talking about the U.S., right? Television, texting and online social networks are equally popular in countries with much stronger educational statistics than ours.

This argument also depends on your definition of "educated"

We may or may not disagree on this. I believe critical thinking skills are the most important thing when determining whether someone is educated. In this respect, I think students are just as capable of developing critical thinking as ever.

message 18: by Richard (new)

Richard Maybe so...

I was thinking of just the U.S., since that's what I'm dealing with, but there are more international comparisons.

Yes, certainly, critical thinking skills are part of it, but I think it also involves the ability to synthesize and support a thesis, analyze and dissect a process, etc. Things involving, but well beyond, just critical thinking. And, I don't doubt intrinsic capability (nearly everyone is capable of higher learning), I doubt learned ability to apply what their teachers are trying to teach them.

If you believe Bloome's Taxonomy, then the height of ecication is creativity, which I also have my doubts about as well, considering all the remakes and derivative films coming out of Hollywood.

Or maybe I'm just too cynical.

message 19: by J.G. Keely (new)

J.G. Keely If you're comparing today's students to the students of hundreds of years ago, I'd suggest you're supporting my assertion that reading has usually been practiced by a small elite. Schools back then were only attended by the idle wealthy or by scholars. The poor went to one-room schoolhouses and most didn't attend after the eighth or ninth grade.

High School used to be for the elite, but due to rises in literacy and living condition, it's become mandatory for most citizens here (though many of the poor still fall through the cracks).

Now college is getting the same egalitarian treatment. In my parents' time, there were 'college people' and 'non-college people'. It wasn't simply that some people didn't go to college, it was accepted that some people were just incapable of completing the coursework. But now you need a Bachelor's to be a manager at The Gap, which some suggest is a 'dumbing down' of higher education (check out this article on the subject).

So college no longer has the depth of study it once had, because the purpose of college degrees has changed and many of the people who now attend are there to get a Bachelor's to help them in the working world, not to better comprehend philology and rhetoric. For that, you go after a Phd.

But I wouldn't say this is a sign of failing intelligence and education, rather the opposite: more people are getting more education now than they were previously.

And if 'remakes and derivative film' are a sign of creative bankruptcy in movies and TV, then Shakespeare must have really been a hack, since he lifted all of his stories from earlier sources.

But seriously, there have always been derivative remakes. The reason old literature seems to be so good is that it's all cherry-picked for us. We don't read anything unless it's well-written and influential. There were a lot of bad novels and bad poetry written throughout the Victorian, but they aren't widely printed, and only period specialists read them these days.

Just a few thoughts. Thanks for opening up an interesting discussion.

message 20: by Richard (new)

Richard Good thoughts, well considered. Thanks right back atcha.

message 21: by Philip (last edited Dec 02, 2010 04:19PM) (new)

Philip Great review. (And dialogue afterward...) I had many of the same thoughts you all did - mainly that the book wasn't about censorship, but rather people censoring themselves by not reading.

Maybe Bradbury intended it as a diatribe against TV, but I'm reading it more as a diatribe against pushing yourself to your potential.

I don't think it was that the people in the book were dumb or uninformed - they kept up with the sensationalist news of Montags arrest and execution - but that they didn't push themselves.

Sorry that I'm a.)rambling and b.)jumping into a conversation that isn't mine and may have already concluded.

In my ramble I'd also like to point out that the Federalist Papers were printed in newspapers that went out to farmers with an 8th grade education.

message 22: by Richard (new)

Richard Great point, Philip. And with that 8th grade education, those farmers were able to read and understand what the Federalists were writing, which very few 8th graders could do today. I think that's a big problem.

message 23: by Michael (new)

Michael I think that's making a bit of an assumption that these farmers were able to get the same amount from the Federalist writings as those with college educations. I wonder if a lack of effort (caused by a lack of faith in the political process (which is reasonable in the current political climate)) is what makes modern students less able to follow the Federalists.

Ah, it's true that creativity is higher on the taxonomy. However, I think again we should be looking at the public school system to see why students are significantly less creative now. I attended the ONLY Indianapolis Public Schools high school that had any creative programs (however, it had several: dance, theatre, music, and a creative writing class). Since then, due to budget cuts, they've eliminated the music, dance and creative writing from their curriculum, leaving a theatre program that's much smaller than when I attended.

Until we can convince the powers that be that we want our students to have well-rounded educations, students AREN'T going to be creative, because being creative is the polar opposite of what they do in most classrooms.

message 24: by Philip (new)

Philip Good points Michael.

And yet, IN loves their Gov. who cut $300 million from education and is so overly focused on standardized testing and "data."

I agree that those with a college education would get more out of the writings, but the majority of those reading it, and the main audience of Plubius were those without a college education.

message 25: by Michael (new)

Michael And yet, IN loves their Gov. who cut $300 million from education and is so overly focused on standardized testing and "data."

Damn right...I have yet to figure out why, but they sure do.

the majority of those reading it, and the main audience of Plubius were those without a college education.

Yes, but I still think the sense of ambivalence and impotence today regarding the whole political process has an effect on how much effort people are willing to put toward understanding any political document. Regardless of political affiliation, nobody trusts the government, or believes anything politicians say. So, the words of the Founding fathers might seem more irrelevant than they did at the turn of the last century.

message 26: by Philip (new)

Philip It's so easy to agree and disagree at the same time... I agree with you on the ambivalence and impotence, and yet we see Tea Party fanatics, an outspoken leftist media and an increasingly vocal group of moderates all vehemently standing by something or other... so then I wonder why I still feel like people are ambivalent.

And, I think most people do trust the government - hopefully not blindly, but things are running smoothly enough... It's like saying people don't like the police... they don't when they're getting a ticket, but they do when they're being mugged. Besides, there has to be a spectrum. People in the U.S. have to trust the government more than they do in Haiti - (a coup on average every seven years for the past 200... I know that statistic is 2 years old, but they're setting the stage for another big one.)

My point is, (if I still have one) you're right, the words of the Founding Fathers might seem more irrelevant than they did at the turn of the last century, but I don't think it's because they don't trust politicians, I think it's because - in spite of all the set-backs and the recession, etc, etc... - everything is going pretty well, or at least we think it is, and we think we're smarter than we are (or smarter than Plubius) and we can find some quick fix to these minor problems and solve them ourselves without listening to any warnings of others, especially warnings from hundreds of years ago.

message 27: by Michael (new)

Michael That's a good point. Tea partiers and the various positions in the media are very firm in their positions...but, their primary positions tend to be hating each other. If you listen to either Glen Beck or Keith Olbermann, you have a lot of posturing and a lot of portraying the "other side" of the political aisle as idiots/socialists/fascists, whatever scare-word is being thrown out there. The same thing is prevalent in the tea party, where I'm still waiting to hear some specific positions on issues.

How often have you gone to vote, thinking of it as making a choice of "the lesser of two evils?"

That said, I think Americans also have a sense of entitlement that makes them believe there ARE quick fixes to the social structure. Truth is, the education system isn't going to be fixed, and isn't going to make our children smarter, without a very thorough overhaul.

That's my rant.

message 28: by J.G. Keely (new)

J.G. Keely I'm enjoying the discussion, guys.

"If you listen to either Glen Beck or Keith Olbermann"

It's funny, because while I sometimes want to agree with Olbermann, it's hard to argue that what he's doing is any better. It always feels strange to me when someone agrees with my conclusions, but not with the arguments by which I arrived at them.

Reminds me of this.

message 29: by Philip (new)

Philip I go into every election thinking, "which one is the better of two goods?" Michael, you're such a pessimist.

*emoticon smiley*

And I love the comic there, Keely.

Oh, one more thing: more time = smarter students. That's the only thing that I believe will work.

message 30: by Michael (new)

Michael It's funny, because while I sometimes want to agree with Olbermann, it's hard to argue that what he's doing is any better.

Yes, I agree...Bill Hicks once said...ah, shit, I can't remember the quote exactly. Basically, he pointed out that the two-party system is an illusion, and both parties are catering to big businesses. Olbermann does absolutely nothing to draw attention to this fact, which is also magically ignored by the rest of the media, despite its obviousness with a little research. Anyway, back to education.

more time = smarter students.

Do you mean more one-on-one time with teachers for each student? More time sitting in classrooms? More time in what sense? I agree either way: there's no longer any good reason to not have school year round, and class sizes in public schools need to be a lot smaller. But, I also think schools need to be more community based, and less cookie-cutter; the charter school method is (usually) more successful than other public schools by allowing teachers the creativity to teach critical thinking schools.

message 31: by Scribble (new)

Scribble Orca This thread deserves a like.

More people are reading.
Attention spans and ability to process more than one or two concepts simultaneously in a sentence appear to be decreasing.

message 32: by Philip (new)

Philip From what I've heard, charter schools aren't better. (See this article for instance) There's a lot of interesting stuff in there... and I have plenty more like it... PLENTY. I'm kindof tired of people O-ing over charter schools, and the "Documentary" Waiting for Superman.

A quote from that article: "Some fact-checking is in order, and the place to start is with the film’s quiet acknowledgment that only one in five charter schools is able to get the “amazing results” that it celebrates. Nothing more is said about this astonishing statistic. It is drawn from a national study of charter schools by Stanford economist Margaret Raymond (the wife of Hanushek). Known as the CREDO study, it evaluated student progress on math tests in half the nation’s five thousand charter schools and concluded that 17 percent were superior to a matched traditional public school; 37 percent were worse than the public school; and the remaining 46 percent had academic gains no different from that of a similar public school. The proportion of charters that get amazing results is far smaller than 17 percent. Why did Davis Guggenheim pay no attention to the charter schools that are run by incompetent leaders or corporations mainly concerned to make money? Why propound to an unknowing public the myth that charter schools are the answer to our educational woes, when the filmmaker knows that there are twice as many failing charters as there are successful ones? Why not give an honest accounting?"

If charter schools are best for kids, go for it. If it's a ploy to ask teachers to do more work for less pay, I'm against it.

What I meant by "more time" is exactly what you said... "more one-on-one time with teachers for each student? More time sitting in classrooms?" But also more time after school tutoring, continued use of best practice, more time organizing and keeping current/ up to date with the curriculum and technology, more time spent at home on rigorous study... Some charter schools accomplish this, but many do not. They can accomplish this by getting young, unmarried, Teach-for-America students who have more time to give for what is admittedly the best cause. But what's the turn-over rate of teachers at charter schools? The average teacher lasts what? 2 years?

So, we can dismantle Public Ed. and pay teachers less to do more, but ultimately we'll get worse teachers.

We can't all be Rafe Esquith just like not all doctors are Albert Schweitzer

message 33: by Philip (new)

Philip Sorry if I got too soap-boxy for you all. I get carried away sometimes.

message 34: by Michael (new)

Michael If charter schools are best for kids, go for it. If it's a ploy to ask teachers to do more work for less pay, I'm against it.

I have a somewhat limited viewpoint on this issue because my wife teaches at a charter school. And, she works at one of the BAD ones, one of the charter schools that aren't successful. She probably does more work than many public school teachers, but she also makes a lot more than she would elsewhere. Unfortunately, the administration doesn't know anything about education. The teachers aren't the problem: the problem is every decision is made by someone who has never been one.

So, we can dismantle Public Ed. and pay teachers less to do more, but ultimately we'll get worse teachers.

I don't see the connection between restructuring public education and paying teachers less. They get paid pretty abysmally as it is. I'm pointing out that both public schools and charter schools are beholden not to people who know anything about education, but to the politicians who are in charge of choosing the funding of schools. (My other main point was that public school is focused in such a way that creativity and critical thinking are undervalued, while fact regurgitation and formula memorization are overvalued.)

I may be wrong that charter schools have more potential to teach children life skills instead of merely how to work low-level jobs and take orders. But, I'm sure the current public school system isn't doing this, and I don't see any way that, without putting educators themselves behind the driver's seat of education, that we can fix this. And, I don't think that without a revamping of the highest levels of the education system this can be done. Right now, to make the final decision about school financing, and how that money is being spent, you don't need any background in education. This has to change.

message 35: by Philip (new)

Philip Agreed on so many points. Most specifically this: Right now, to make the final decision about school financing, and how that money is being spent, you don't need any background in education. This has to change.

I think the collective fear of public school educators is that non-education bureaucrats want to privatize schools in order to abolish costly obstacles like collective bargaining and due process. There's some idea out there that IN public schools grant tenure in order to keep lousy teachers. They don't. Due process and tenure are two different things.

I think everybody agrees that there's a lot that should change in public ed. I'm just saying that the fear of already strapped teachers is that ed reform may just mean more unfunded mandates.

That's cool that your wife's a teacher - and I don't want make generalities and bash all charter schools - one of my closest friends works at one too. I just worry about everything ed related. Your comment (the one quoted above) I think sums it all up...

message 36: by Michael (new)

Michael Yeah, it's probably the biggest issue for me. And, I don't think that unionized teachers are the problem, although I don't agree with some of the ways these unions operate. I don't think the problem lies simply in bad teachers--not that there aren't bad ones. I think a big part of it is the attitude we take towards teachers in the U.S. Teaching used to be a prestigious and practical line of work, and it isn't treated that way at all anymore. The strictness of what is expected of teachers, the books they can teach, all of that, ends up basically forcing them into a powerless role of reciting someone else's lessons (an exaggeration, but not by that much).

I don't know how to solve the problem, but I know that teachers need to have more ability to direct their own classrooms, more support from administration (who should know something about teaching), and should have a sense of accountability for how well they're educating. Then, I don't think the turnover rate for new teachers would be nearly so high.

message 37: by J.G. Keely (new)

J.G. Keely "powerless role of reciting someone else's lessons"

Especially true for standardized testing.

It seems like it's a standing joke at every college I've been to that Education majors are some of the most ineffective dullards you will ever meet, and that the classes that make up their degree are more appropriate for a babysitter than an educator.

Some of this is what I've heard from the intelligent people who go through these programs, depressed by the mind-numbing lectures and mountains of busy work. Is it any wonder that education, on the whole, is suffering?

On top of that, add your points about administrators whose only motivation is to spend as little as possible and make class sizes as large as possible and we can see how fraught the whole thing becomes. A lot of schools are little more than jails to keep unemployable people off the streets.

The least students are socially promoted, the middle told they are special, and the best left bored and unchallenged. My gf teaches college English and brings home papers from local High School graduates that are worse than I'd expect from a Junior High student.


message 38: by Scribble (last edited Dec 18, 2010 11:08PM) (new)

Scribble Orca Interesting article, Keely.

If you're smart, no matter how much the idea of being popular (or just plain ignored) might appeal, being smart is the one thing you won't trade. Catch 22.

Issues in the teen years have their genesis in early childhood. Lack of understanding the needs of an ego driven 2 year old simply forces that ego underground until it can find expression later. And the consequences are usually, unfortunately, compounded and concentrated.

message 39: by Brianna (new)

Brianna Bazel No, it's not that TV will rot your brain. Bradbury says right on page 135 that "The same things could be in the 'parlour families' today. The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through the radios and televisors..."

message 40: by Jakob (last edited Dec 31, 2010 06:08PM) (new)

Jakob I think you may have missed one major point though. My understanding is that Bradbury is much more making a commentary on the quality of what we consume, be it books or tv, rather than tv and other mediums eradicating the existence of books.

message 41: by J.G. Keely (new)

J.G. Keely Brianna wrote: "No, it's not that TV will rot your brain. Bradbury says right on page 135 that "The same things could be in the 'parlour families' today. The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected t..."

Ooh, refutation with textual citation! Very nice. Makes me want to go back to the text and spiff up my review.

There are certainly parts of the book that support other readings, but it has always been Bradbury's frustration that most analyses focus on relatively minor asides while utterly ignoring the work's major themes. The book is open to interpretations, perhaps a bit too open, likely a result of the way it was rushed to print, and certainly one of the reasons for its perennial popularity within introductory criticism.

message 42: by Jakob (new)

Jakob Another book very open for interpretation is Lord of the Rings. To me if a book can have many interpretations that is a mark of depth.

message 43: by Scribble (new)

Scribble Orca See, Keely. You should review Twilight.

message 44: by Michael (new)

Michael If you reviewed Twilight, we might finally agree on something.

message 45: by J.G. Keely (new)

J.G. Keely Jakob wrote: "Another book very open for interpretation is Lord of the Rings. To me if a book can have many interpretations that is a mark of depth."

I agree that this is the case when an author makes a work that is deliberately complex and open to interpretation. However, when an author intends to write a book with a certain message and fails to get that message across, I wouldn't consider it to be a sign of their mastery of writing.

I respect a many-sided book far more than one that is simply vague, though both might be open to interpretation.

I'm not sure what you mean about Tolkien being open to interpretation, either. I've always considered his moralizing Tory romantic epic to be pretty straightforward, though certainly complex and well-researched.

Michael wrote: "If you reviewed Twilight, we might finally agree on something."

Unfortunately, it seems too late for us to agree to avoid it altogether.

message 46: by Michael (new)

Michael Alas. I should've consulted you first before starting it.

message 47: by J.G. Keely (new)

J.G. Keely Well, I did consider reading it, what with all the hubbub, but there doesn't seem much point in it. Sure, it's popular now, but these things die out sooner than we'd think.

I might not blanch from critiquing a book I didn't like, but I would never read a book with the sole purpose of writing a negative review of it. If I ever start thinking of myself as some lone crusader 'saving the world from its own stupidity', we'll know my transformation to insufferable prat is complete.

message 48: by Jakob (new)

Jakob You make a good point but I find that when a person creates art that art exists on its own independent from whatever purpose the artist had for it. Many artists and writers find that when they look at a completed work they often feel like someone else created it. That's how I like to look at it at least. I prefer not to be bound by the interpretations and intentions of someone else even if that person is the author.

I guess Lord of the Rings isn't a great example but I remember reading about how people in the sixties connected it to the threat of atomic energy and that Tolkien himself preferred that no specific interpretation be laid on the book but that people could - if they wanted to - be free to interpret it how they would.

message 49: by J.G. Keely (new)

J.G. Keely I've never really liked the 'author is dead' argument. It always felt like a cheap way for unoriginal academics to write new papers. If all interpretations are viable, then why are we discussing them?

If someone writes a paper talking about the theme of robotics in Hamlet, are they enriching our knowledge of the text? Is that paper increasing our understanding? Is it anything more than a pointless, indulgent exercise?

When I was in college, another student wrote a paper on George Herbert's 'Love bade me welcome' focussing on the line "You must sit down, sayes Love, and taste my meat". Their analysis was that the poem was a representation of homosexuality.

Our professor pointed out that not only is 'homosexual identity' a modern invention, but that the phrase had a well-understood basis in transubstantiation. As a Herbert scholar, he told the student that nowhere in the poet's oeuvre was there any noticeable undercurrent of homosexual desire, nor was the interpretation merited by the rest of the poem.

The student, working from ignorance, gave a frivolous interpretation that misunderstood the meaning of the poem and in no way contributed to Herbert's scholarship. It reminded me of a fellow student in high school who wrote a paper on 'Apocalypse Now' which centered on his mis-hearing of 'The horror, the horror' as 'The whore, the whore'.

If we can agree that these interpretations are flawed, then we must agree that interpretations can be flawed, and that they are superseded by authorial intent. We cannot know the author's intent for a certainty, but as with science, we can strive to understand it as fully as we are able, and with great care.

An author who is vague, deliberately or through lack of skill, might incidentally inspire certain thoughts in a reader, but he is hardly responsible for them. One might as well thank a TV commercial about vacuums because it reminds them that they need to clean before their in-laws arrive.

Tolkien's use of the One Ring resembles Atomic Power inasmuch as both are representations of how power dynamics work in a culture. Those who control a physical or economic force gain leverage over others, and authors of epic or fantastical tales often personify these intangibles in plot items which literally contain the social power which separates the strong from the weak.

In this way, they can simplify their representation of the moral struggle by ignoring economic and social incentives and painting their moral argument in terms of brute force, which people both understand and tend to find appealing.

Atomic Power is one of the most extreme examples in the real world of using brute force to replace social and economic power. However, as dire as it is, we have seen that it cannot truly replace these forces, because the creation, maintenance, and use of these weapons can only be the result of mutual social cooperation.

The One Ring, in contrast, is a pure representation of total power as made and controlled by a lone individual, which means that Tolkien does not have to explore the economic and social ramifications that would normally be involved in a huge, social struggle like The War of the Ring.

Conflating the type of power Tolkien represents in The Ring with the type of power represented by Atomic Energy is an oversimplification ignoring their respective social and historical backgrounds. They are also like the sword, giving physical advantage to one over another, differing only in the matter of scale, but there is nothing really insightful or transformative about saying that sources of physical power resemble one another in manifestation and use.

For all his faults, Tolkien recognized that allegory is not a useful tool, because it limits a story to something too small and specific, and that the neat overlay of one idea with another is as silly an exercise as writing a deliberately abberant interpretation.

Certainly, there will always be many interpretations of works. Some will be faulty and foolish, others will be well-supported and masterful, and most will lie in between. They differ not because they are the products of different people, but of different bases of knowledge.

The danger of considering all interpretations viable is that it allows us to ignore data which would contradict us, resulting in the pointless hypocrisy of 'agreeing to disagree': an agreement to cease discussion and thought, allowing all of us to maintain our interpretations, but to what end?

message 50: by Jakob (last edited Jan 06, 2011 12:53AM) (new)

Jakob "If all interpretations are viable, then why are we discussing them?"

That is not what I said. As regards silly interpretations you are preaching to the quire but it stands that the basis for interpreting a work is the work itself.

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