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Mark Twain's Satire on Education

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Shae Forest

on 1 May 2015

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Transcript of Mark Twain's Satire on Education

Mark Twain, author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
People in society that are only educated by the “book” rather than life experiences and common sense.

What is Twain criticizing?
How he is criticizing
Twain shows that doing everything in life by what one has learned from a book can be ridiculous and unnecessary.
Education is still being satirized today as seen through Jimmy Kimmel’s show where he pokes fun at teacher’s responsibilities for students in school. It teases at a student being “dumb” if they do not know random irrelevant school facts like foreign countries.

Why is he criticizing education?
To show education from school and society does not determine someone’s intelligence.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain's Satire on Education
Presentation by Caroline Horwood, Shae Forest, Christian O'Grady, and Maddy Campbell

“Some young birds came along, flying a yard or two at a time and lighting. Jim said it was a sign it was going to rain”(45).

This shows how Jim knows aspects of nature and his surroundings, but is not necessarily book smart. He has used his life experiences to teach himself useful tactics, which Twain believes is important. Irony is used to show his intelligence because he is usually not seen as a smart human being by society.

“And looky here- you drop that school, you hear? I’ll learn people to bring up a boy to put on airs over his own father and let on to better’n what he is. You lemme catch you fooling around that school again, you hear?”(19).

This quote shows how Pap discourages Huck from going to school. He not only threatens Huck but also states that he is not allowed to be smarter than his own father. Pap gets very angry when he finds out that his son wants to learn. Although Pap is seen as the bad guy in this situation, it supports Twain’s ideas of learning in a classroom not being necessary to be intelligent.

“On the scutcheon we’ll have a bend or in the dexter base, a saltire murrey in the fess, with a dog, couchant for common charge, and under his foot a chain embattled… maggiore fretta, minore atto. Got it out of a book - means the more haste the less speed”(258).

Twain continues to satirize education as he picks fun at Tom for doing everything how he saw it in books. Tom comes up with a ridiculous plan to help Jim escape with all sorts of techniques and although he remembers the names of the techniques he wants to use, he doesn’t really know what any of it means.

“I had been to school most all the time and could spell, and read, and write just a little, an could say the multiplication table up to six times seven is thirty five, and I don’t reckon I could ever get any further than that if I was to live forever. I don’t take no stock in mathematics, anyway”(15).

This quote is very ironic. Huck states that he is very well educated, but then goes on to say 6x7=35, which is obviously wrong. Twain portrays Huck’s character as being well-educated but as the reader can see that this is not true.
“You’re educated too, they say-- can read and write. You think you’re better’n your father now, don’t you, because he can’t”(19).

Pap states that now that Huck can read and write that he is now better than Pap. Pap’s assumption is that school education and skills make a person better than another. If Pap wasn’t an alcoholic, he could be smarter through experience and life lessons which is actual intelligence.

“Chickens knows when it gwyne to rain, en so do de birds, chile.”

Jim is smart through experience but not book or literary. His wording and grammar is awful and chickens are birds. It seems like Jim thinks that every bird that flies in the sky are “birds” and any on land are different. Twain, in using Jim’s poor education of birds, show us that he still has common knowledge and it does end up raining like Jim forsaw.
Modern Day Education Satire
Works Cited

"A Message from Your Kids' Teachers." YouTube. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. <https://youtu.be/9T8ovblvQM0>.


Superstitions in Huckleberry Finn: Examples of Satire." Bright Hub Education. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.

Twain, Mark.
Mark Twain Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Boston: Bantam Books, 1981. Print.
Yes, we still need to learn and understand Twain’s purpose of his satire towards education.

There are debates today about standardized tests like SAT’s that are thought to measure a student’s ability to take a test, rather than their true intelligence.

There is a difference between being book smart and being generally smart through life experiences, which is seen in Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.

Do we still need to learn from Twain's lessons?

When escaping Jim, Tom makes elaborate exaggerated plans. Huck doesn't understand why they just can't unlock the shed and run away with Jim. Tom responds, "Well, if it ain't just like you, Huck Finn. You can get up the infant-schooliest ways of going at a thing. Why hain't you ever read any books at all? Whoever heard of getting a prisoner loose in such an old-maidy way as that?" This foolishness of Tom nearly gets the boys and Jim killed.

Twain's point:
Book smart or experience?
Full transcript