By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Cathy Andersen calls it “one of the best decisions I ever made.” Andersen, who teaches Honors English at Fontbonne Hall Academy in Bay Ridge, said she has been assigning Ray Bradbury’s dark, classic novel “Fahrenheit 451” to her students at the elite Catholic high school for girls to read for several years now and is always delighted by the responses she has received in the classroom.
“As we discuss the book, I find that their answers to my questions are thought-provoking. Their answers are so rich!” Andersen, who has been teaching at Fontbonne Hall Academy for 22 years, said. “It’s what you want as a teacher; students reading books that are taking them to unusual places so that their thought-processes can be expanded,” she said.
Andersen put Bradbury’s groundbreaking 1953 book, which depicts a world in which books are banned and the homes of book owners are set on fire, on the summer reading for sophomore honor students. When the school year began last month, the students had already read the novel and were prepared to discuss it in class.
Studetns said they were struck by how the 59-year- old novel accurately predicted a world in which books are no longer a major form of entertainment.
"While reading ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ I found the accuracy of Bradbury's predictions to be quite fascinating, and began to realize how drastically things could change in such a short period of time," Erika Cristiano said.
But rather than fear the future, the girls said the book made them look forward to the future.
“‘Fahrenheit 451’ was a very interesting book, which made me question my surroundings and the possibilities the future could bring," Luanne Manzione said.
While discussing “Fahrenheit 451’ in class, the students are also contemplating outer space, another of Bradbury’s passions. The girls are following the research being done by the rover “Curiosity” on the surface of Mars.
N.A.S.A. officials have named Curiosity’s landing site on Mars “Bradbury Landing,” after Bradbury. Bradbury, who died earlier this year, was the author of a number of imaginative works that N.A.S.A. scientists credit with inspiring their own dreams of the possibility of life on Mars.
While Bradbury’s characters were forbidden to use books and were forced to get their information from television, Fontbonne students are using a variety of multimedia sources to develop their ideas.
Fontbonne Hall Academy, located on Shore Road and 99th Street, will host an Open House for incoming students on Sunday, Oct. 14, from 12:30m p.m. to 3:30 p.m. For information, write to: [email protected].