Do you believe that the author is being satirical in her description of the education system in Maycomb?

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shake99 | Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Harper Lee is probably being a little bit satirical about the educational system in Maycomb, in the sense that she’s poking a little bit of fun at it.

She uses a young, first-year teacher named Miss Caroline to accomplish this. This teacher doesn’t like the fact that Scout already knows how to read and write and tells her to stop learning anymore at home. She says that she will “undo the damage,” as though learning something this important could be damaging.

There is also some irony in this, because Scout tells the reader that, in reality, much of her precocious learning is the result of Calpurnia’s teaching.

Miss Caroline is also clueless about how to handle the student Walter Cunningham, mistaking his pride for obstinacy. When Scout tries to help Miss Caroline understand, she is scolded.

Miss Caroline finishes her first day in tears. If she is representative of education in Maycomb, then we are to conclude that this system does not know how to effectively deal with its own students.

Interestingly, Scout’s observations sound a lot like what we often hear about education now, 50 years later.


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