How does Scout lose her innocence on the first day of school in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Scout has long looked forward to attending school, enviously watching Jem and his friends on the playground.

I never looked forward more to anything in my life... I longed to join them.  (Chapter 3)

But by the end of the first day, Scout doesn't even want to go back, begging Atticus to let her be home-schooled just as he was. Scout is by far the brightest student in the class, one of the few who can read; she can also write cursive, taught by Calpurnia. But her inexperienced new teacher, Miss Caroline, is fresh out of college and full of progressive ideas about education. She criticizes Scout for already knowing how to read and write, blaming Atticus for being a bad teacher. The teacher refuses to pay attention to Scout's suggestions about why Walter Cunningham Jr. has no school money, and she ends up being "whipped" and sent to the corner. Scout takes out her frustrations on Walter by "rubbing his nose in the dirt" of the school playground, and then is punished by Calpurnia when she is rude to Walter at dinner in the Finch house. School is no better in the afternoon, when Miss Caroline is brought to tears by the lice-ridden Burris Ewell. Scout explains the events of the day to Atticus, who refuses to allow her to give up. He suggests a compromise--

"If you'll concede the necessity of going to school, we'll go on reading every night just as we always have. Is it a bargain?"  (Chapter 3

Scout agrees, and then Atticus provides her with some advice about tolerating others, particularly Miss Caroline.

"You'll never understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."  (Chapter 3)

For Scout, school never reaches the great expectations she has imagined, and

     The remainder of my schooldays were no more auspicious than the first.  (Chapter 4)


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