Is ‘Good Will Hunting’ A Film About The Purpose Of Education?

Listening to Sean (Robin Williams) speak to Will Hunting (Matt Damon) at Boston Common at the beginning of the film Good Will Hunting, it struck us that Sean’s words of wisdom could well have been aimed at teaching to the test, narrowing of the curriculum, rote-learning and education-as-product rather than education-as-experience.

Sean and Will sit in the bleachers at the mostly empty park.

They look out over a small pond, in which a group of schoolchildren on a field trip ride the famous Swan Boats.

WILL
So what’s with this place? You have a swan fetish? Is this something you’d like to talk about?

SEAN
I was thinking about what you said to me the other day, about my painting. I stayed up half the night thinking about it and then something occurred to me and I fell into a deep peaceful sleep and haven’t thought about you since. You know what occurred to me?

WILL
No.

SEAN
You’re just a boy. You don’t have the faintest idea what you’re talking about.

WILL
Why thank you.

SEAN
You’ve never been out of Boston.

WILL
No.

SEAN
So if I asked you about art you could give me the skinny on every art book ever written… Michelangelo? You know a lot about him I bet. Life’s work, criticisms, political aspirations. But you couldn’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling. And if I asked you about women I’m sure you could give me a syllabus of your personal favorites, and maybe you’ve been laid a few times too. But you couldn’t tell me how it feels to wake up next to a woman and be truly happy…If I asked you about war you could refer me to a bevy of fictional and non-fictional material, but you’ve never been in one…Nobody could possibly understand you, right Will? Yet you presume to know so much about me because of a painting you saw. You must know everything about me. You’re an orphan, right?

Will nods quietly.

SEAN
Do you think I would presume to know the first thing about who you are because I read “Oliver Twist?”…There’s nothing you can tell me that I can’t read somewhere else.

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