If you asked Holden, he’d probably agree that everything he needed to know he learned in kindergarten. To him, institutional education is nothing more than teaching kids how to be phony, how to make money, how to live the kind of lifestyle where they go into an office all day and play golf all weekend. (Gee, that doesn’t sound so bad to us.) But by the end, he seems almost ready to admit that Mr. Antolini might be right: there’s inherent value to knowledge and learning, and formal education can keep you from squandering your native talent—and, thanks to Catcher in the Rye, we know that Holden has plenty of native talent.
The speeches given to Holden by Mr. Spencer and Mr. Antolini, at the beginning and end of the novel, respectively, act as thematic bookends for the plot structure. Holden's reactions to these "lectures" encapsulate the ways in which he has changed over the course of his story.
Mr. Spencer and Mr. Antolini have fundamentally different attitudes toward education: Mr. Spencer sees education as a way of creating conformists, and Mr. Antolini sees education as a way of creating individuals.