How are characters used to show the limitations of thinking in the Maycomb educational system in "To Kill a Mockingbird"?Particularly the characters Miss Caroline and Miss Gates

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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miss Caroline, and Scout's scene in her first day of school, is a direct attack by Lee against the education system of Maycomb (and America in general, if we use Maycomb as an example).  First, Miss Caroline does not understand her students.  She is flustered by the Ewell boy, not knowing the history of the family and not understanding that some people do not value school.  Then she insults Walter Cunningham because she does not understand the pride that is so important to the family.  For a teacher, she has limited comprehension of human nature.  Finally, she scolds Scout for already knowing how to read.  As a teacher, she should be glad that a student is so advanced.  Instead, she is offended.  She arrogantly assumes that the educational system is the only system that can teach, and doesn't acknowledge outside learning - very limited.

Miss Gates shows limitations in her hypocrisy.  She is Scout's third grade teacher and teaches about Hitler and his treatment of the Jews.  She insists that Hitler is a tyrant and a criminal because he is torturing the Jews for their religion.  However, she herself shows prejudice, saying that the blacks in town shouldn't "get above themselves."  Scout is clearly angered and confused, and says this to Jem:

"how can [the people in town] hate Hitler so bad an' turn around and be ugly about folks right at home"

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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