How does the issue of education affect the main character and the protagonist in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scout receives two very different types of education in Harper Lee's famous novel.  First, after Scout begins with a history of Maycomb and discusses Jem's broken arm, she flashes back to right before she is set to begin her first year of "formal" education.  Lee uses Scout's character and her experience in school to satirize problems in the education system of her day and to highlight the hypocrisy of authority figures. For example, Scout learns from Miss Caroline that just because someone is "educated" it does not mean that she is experienced or wise (i.e., Miss Caroline strangely telling Scout not to read).  Later in the book, Scout learns from Miss Gates that teachers (and others who have public forums) often say one thing but do another; for Miss Gates berates Hitler to her students because his prejudice but then sides with the town in racism against Tom Robinson.

Scout's informal, home education is much for influential (thank goodness).  Her wise father and mother figure (Calpurnia) not only teach her to read, but they also instill in her values that other children--and adults for that matter--desperately need in the small town of Maycomb.  Likewise, Scout learns from Miss Maudie and Dolphus Raymond that not everyone is who he/she appears to be and that her father is truly a hero.

Ironically, Lee's novel, published almost 50 years ago, stresses the current dichotomy between what a student should learn in school or home and the reality of what teachers and parents are teaching, especially in regards to values.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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