Transcript of Education In To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird Education in the Novel: In the novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird", Harper Lee mentions education, learning, teaching and school over 120 times. "Miss Caroline began the day by reading us a story about cats. The cats had long conversations with one another, they wore cunning little clothes and lived in a warm house beneath the kitchen stove. By the time Mrs. Cat called the drugstore for an order of chocolate malted mice the class was wiggling like a bucketful of catawba worms. Miss Caroline seemed unaware that the ragged, denim-shirted and floursack-skirted first grade, most of whom had chopped cotton and fed hogs from the time they were able to walk, were immune to imaginative literature. Miss Caroline came to the end of the story and said 'Oh, my, wasn't that nice?'" Lee, 16 Lee clearly thinks that education has an important place in the lives of many Americans and therefore gives it an important place in the novel. Education takes up a large part of any child's life. Lee uses many references and anecdotes about education in the lives of Scout and Jem to reflect this. "'Now tell your father not to teach you any more. It's best to begin reading with a fresh mind. You tell him I'll try and take over from here and try to undo the damage--' Lee, 17 "'We are a democracy and Germany is a dictatorship. Dictator-ship,' [Scout's teacher] said. " Over here we don't believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced.'" Lee, 245 and 247 'Ma'am?' 'Your father does not know how to teach. You can have a seat now.'" "'We don't write in the first grade, we print. You won't learn to write until you're in the third grade." Lee, 18 "'Well, coming out of the courthouse that night [Scout's teacher] was-- she was goin' down the steps in front of us, you musta not seen her-- she was talking with Miss Stephanie Crawford. I heard her say it's time somebody taught 'em a lesson, they were gettin' way above themselves, an' the next thing they think they can do is marry us. Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad an' then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home--'" These quotations show Lee's belief that the education system is rigid, and ill-suited for many children. These also show Lee's disapproval for the teaching methods of many educators, and the educational system itself. In the first quotation, Miss Caroline serves to personify education. She, like the education system as a whole, is willfully ignorant of her ineffectiveness. This also alludes to the corruption in the system as the methods of teaching were in effective and improperly suited to many of the pupils. This ineffectiveness, while explicitly stated, is highlighted by Scout's simile "the class was wiggling like a bucketful of catawaba worms". This simile, which has been described as "Disgusting", contrasts the imagery of the story Miss Caroline reads, which depicts "[cats which] wore cunning little clothing". Lee seems to be suggesting that, while the education system acts as though all children think in terms of cats, many would be better taught in terms of cows, or coyotes, or, indeed, catawba worms. It also shows the systems inability to recognize the backgrounds of the pupils in its schools. Lee also depicts another rigidity in the education system in the novel; rigidity towards treatment of those who have learned beyond there age. This class of students is portrayed by Scout, who has known how to read since she was born, at least according to Jem. Miss Caroline does not approve of this. Her sentiment that "It's best to start reading with a fresh mind" and that Scout's ability is "damage" reveal Lee's belief that the education system is so rigid that it cannot adjust to anything unexpected. Lee sees this rigidity as a weakness. Atticus, portrayed throughout the novel as a virtuous character, later suggests that Scout should ignore her teacher by continuing to read with him. In these exchanges, first between Scout's teacher and the class and then between Scout and Jem, Lee depicts the teachers of Maycomb as just like the other citizens of Maycomb, and thus humanize them. This is in contrast to the depiction of teachers earlier in the book as foreign to Maycomb. This humanization of the teachers is not necessarily a good thing, though. It comes in the form of a shared fault - racism. All of Maycomb, with the exception of Atticus, seems to be racist. As this includes the teachers of Maycomb, they, and the education system they represent, are brought to a more human level. This has two effects - it allows more sympathy for teachers, but also shows Lee's belief that the faults of the people will be reflected in their education. Now, we should reexamine this image. Does it reflect the inflexibility of the children taught, or those who teach them? "I was the last to leave, i saw her bury her head in her arms"Full transcript
Lee 22 Miss Caroline standing in the middle of the room, sheer horror flooding her face..."I was walking by and it just crawled out of his hair"
Lee 26 "And Burris," said Miss Caroline, "please bathe yourself before you come back tomorrow"
Lee 27 "Ain't no snot-nosed slut of a school teacher ever born c'n make me do nothin"... He waited until he was sure she was crying and shuffled out of the building"
Lee 28 These quotes are all examples of Harper Lee's disapproval of the teachers in the Alabama educational system. These quotes clearly show that Miss Caroline is unable to control the first grade children that she is teaching. When Burris Ewell insults her she cries and then the children who are very young must comfort her in order for her to stop crying and teach the class. These quotes also show that along with Harper Lee's disapproval of the teachers in the Alabama schooling system, that they are some how under prepared and ill equipped to teach.This shows that she believes that these teachers should have some more training before they are thrown into a class, to make sure that they are prepared to handle the challenges of the classroom.