What does Scout think of current trends in education?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Not much! Scout is baffled by the illogic of current trends in the educational system as pronounced by her new teacher, Miss Caroline Fisher, who, Scout notes, is from Northern Alabama and unfamiliar with the southern part of the state of which Maycomb is a part.

As a first year teacher, Miss Fisher has her preconceptions of what the children will know and not know.  Scout, however, surpasses all of these ideas by not only knowing the alphabet, but by being able to read "the stock-market quotations from The Mobile Register." Miss Caroline, "with faint distaste" instructs her to tell her father not to teach her any more because it will interfere with her reading, proclaiming,  "Your father does not know how to teach."  These direction surprise Scout as she believes that her father has not really "taught" her anything since there is no connection between how she has learned and Miss Caroline's "teaching."

Scout deliberates how one knows that one is being "taught."  After school, Jem explains that Miss Fisher has a new method in which students do not "learn much out of books."  Miss Caroline waves cards with "sight words" on them, and the class looks on silently.  Scout sees no point to this either.  Miss Caroline also insists that the children print, but Scout has already learned cursive from Calpurnia.  As such a bright girl, Scout finds the Language Experience Approach of Experimental Learning method of John Dewey, popular at that time, to be nonsensical and uninteresting. (Jem calls this the Dewey Decimal System--a malaproprism that adds to the humor of this chaper.)

In addition, Scout finds Miss Caroline's methods of dealing with the children insensitive.  When Walter Cunningham does not have a lunch with him, Scout tries to intervene and explain.  But, Miss Caroline punishes her, feeling that Scout is overstepping her position as a student.  Since she has been treated as an equal by her father, Scout does not understand this chastisement, either.

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