Describe Scout's teacher, Miss Caroline Fisher. What is irrational about her teaching methods in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Miss Caroline has been a student of theories of education to which she fervently believes she must adhere.

Miss Caroline Fisher does not notice that the class fidgets during her reading, and she displays her lack of insight when she fails to recognize that most of the class knows the alphabet. Her negative reaction to Scout's ability to read demonstrates that the woman is a programmed product of her educational institutions. It is also irrational that Miss Caroline believes in experiential learning, but when Scout demonstrates her experiential learning, she is critical of it, telling Scout to inform her father not to teach her.

Clearly, she feels threatened by the precocious Scout. This is why she asks Scout to read the stock market reports--an irrational request made just to cause Scout embarrassment. However, she is defeated in her attempt because the child is able to read such reports, and so Miss Caroline embarrasses herself. All she can do is tell Scout to have her father not teach her any more.

Atticus displays the best understanding of Miss Caroline's treatment of Scout when he talks about education in his summation at the trial of Tom Robinson:

The most ridiculous example I can think of is that the people who run public education promote the stupid and idle along with the industrious--because all men are created equal, educators will gravely tell you, the children left behind suffer terrible feelings of inferiority. (Ch.20)

Not wanting the other children to be embarrassed by Scout, perhaps, or not wanting any student to get ahead of the group, Miss Caroline makes efforts to embarrass Scout into being quiet. Scout does not fit neatly into a box; no one in first grade is supposed to know how to read so well or, certainly, to write in cursive. She does not want Scout to possess more knowledge than the average first-grader. After all, she lacks experience and seems to lack the imagination to consider what to occupy the girl with if she already knows the things that others will take a year to learn.

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readerofbooks's profile pic

readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Miss Caroline Fisher was, indeed, Scout's teacher. The first detail that we should point out was that she was a young teacher. According to the book, she was only twenty one years old. Apparently she just graduated college or took some classes in college. Furthermore, she thought that she learned better ways in college to teach children. So, when she put the alphabet on the board, and she learned that Scout already knew how to read, she told Scout to tell her father not to teach her to read anymore. 

This sentiment of Miss Fisher is ridiculous. How can a teacher discourage reading? She just discouraged the most intelligent student in the class. 

After this incident, Miss Caroline asked Scout to read stock-market quotations from the Mobile Register! What teacher makes a child read stock quotes?

Finally, when Scout was writing in class (in script), Miss Caroline yelled at her again and said that she should not be so advanced. Scout should start writing in third grade. Here is the quote:

Miss Caroline caught me writing and told me to tell my father to stop teaching me. “Besides,” she said. “We don’t write in the first grade, we print. You won’t learn to write until you’re in the third grade.”

In short, Miss Caroline stultifies learning. 

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