From as long ago as the first school was built, some people have developed a negative attitude towards school. This anti-school attitude can sometimes come from parents who did not appreciate school, or a bad experience that happened with a teacher or anything related to school. The movie Good Will Hunting, written by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, clearly demonstrates what having an anti-school attitude is about. In this movie, the main character, Will Hunting, who is played by Matt Damon, is a genius and an autodidact who has a negative attitude towards school. This short text demonstrates where Will's anti-school attitude comes from and how Will Hunting made the decision to fail (Bettleheim).
In Good Will Hunting, we learn that the main character, Will
Hunting, is definitely a sort of genius. Will was abandoned by his parents when he was young
and in order to fight against loneliness, he decided to educate himself by reading numerous
books across many subjects. Will Hunting learned so many things from reading books that he
became a genius-level intellect without having taken any specific courses. Thus, he developed
an anti-school attitude. Indeed, he claims that one does not have to pay thousands of dollars
learn the same material when you can educate yourself by reading books at home. This is
explicitly demonstrated as Will goes in a bar and argues with a Harvard University student.
Indeed, when they went out to this bar, the university student was embarrassing Will's friend
and was asking him questions in order to know if he really was a University student as he
pretended to be. When Will saw this, he wanted to defend his friends and correctly answered
all of the questions asked by this student even if he never took a single class at Harvard
University. He told him:
in fifty years, [...] you are going to come up with the fact that [...]
you dropped a hundred and fifty grand on fu*** education you could've got for $1.50 in late
charges in the public library. When the University student answered Will that students like
him will have a degree, Will Hunting answered:
At least I won't be unoriginal. This clearly
shows that Will Hunting has an anti-school attitude. That is why, even though he is a genius
and could go to the University, but only if he could win scholarships to pay the fees, he does
not consider this. He works as a janitor instead. His anti-school attitude makes it hard for
him to accept the success he can have for being a genius. Thus, when people asked who solved
the math problem, he did not want to admit it was him.
The fact that Will Hunting is an orphan might be one of the factors behind his anti-school attitude. Indeed, as an orphan, Will Hunting is considered an outsider and he belongs to a certain social class. People from this social class do not usually go to university. Will Hunting is surrounded by people who do not go to university and who belong to the working-class. Even though Will Hunting is very intelligent and has the potential to be a university student, he decided to act like his friends and be part of the working class. Thus, we can say that Will Hunting made the decision to fail. Bruno Bettleheim wrote that some people might decide to fail by choice, not because they are not intelligent. He says that, sometimes, people decide to fail because they want to keep a good relationship with their entourage. Indeed, when your parents, friends or relatives did not do well in school or did not go to school, one might decide to fail in order to keep a good relationship with them and to make sure they will not feel inferior. In Good Will Hunting, this is pretty much what the main actor did. His friends are all part of the working class and in order to be loyal to them and to make sure they will not feel inferior, he decided to be part of the working class as well. Moreover, the fact that Will Hunting ridiculed the first two therapists he was sent to and the people who interviewed him for a job shows that he made the decision to fail. Indeed, if he had been respectful towards those who wanted to help him, it would have been easier and he may have gotten an interesting job very quickly. However, he made the decision to be mean to them; thus, he made the decision to fail.
In short, the main character, Will Hunting, is an orphan who
learned a lot of things from reading books. He became a genius-level intellect even if he
never went to university and he developed an anti-school attitude. He believes that one does
not have to go to school and to pay thousands of dollars to get educated since we can educate
ourselves by reading books, which is much cheaper. We can also say that his anti-school
attitude might come from his attitude of loyalty toward the social class to which he belongs.
Indeed, he belongs to the working-class, and those who belong to this class in the film do not
go to university. Even though he is very intelligent, he made the decision to fail and to be
a janitor when he had the aptitude to go to the University. As Bruno Bettleheim mentions in
The Decision to Fail, Will might have decided to fail in order to be loyal to his
friends in the social class to which he belongs, a social class with limited access to
university education due to lack of funds to pay fees or lack of scholastic training.
Bettleheim, Bruno. The Decision to Fail: Reprinted with minor changes and deletions from the School Review.69:4 (1961), pp.377-412
Bender, Lawrence, Sant G. Van, Jean-Yves Escoffier, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Jonathan Gordon, Su Armstrong, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Robin Williams, Stellan Skarsgård, Minnie Driver, Casey Affleck, Cole Hauser, Danny Elfman, Pietro Scalia, Kevin Smith, and Scott Mosier . Good Will Hunting. Burbank, Calif: Miramax Home Entertainment, 1997.