How does Scout define democracy in Chapter 26 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

Asked on by rckfstr

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

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During Miss Gates' history lesson in Chapter 26 of To Kill a Mockingbird, she explains to her class that there is a big difference between the United States and Germany.

"We are a democracy and Germany is a dictatorship. Dictator-ship."

When she asked if anyone could explain what a democracy stood for, Scout volunteered a quotation from "an old campaign slogan Atticus had once told me about."

     " 'Equal rights for all, special privileges for none,' " I quoted.

Miss Gates congratulated her for her succinct answer, and then she made the children repeat, "We are a democracy." Miss Gates went on to explain that Adolf Hitler's treatment of the German Jews was deplorable before moving on to their arithmetic lesson. But her lesson left Scout confused, since she remembered a racist remark that Miss Gates had previously made about the black community in Maycomb, leaving Scout with the impression that Miss Gates did not always practice what she preached: that her teacher did indeed believe in special privileges for some.

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gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

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In Chapter 26, Scout is participating in a Current Events activity in her third grade class when Miss Gates asks the class to give her the definition of a democracy. Scout raises her hand and responds by saying,

"Equal rights for all, special privileges for none" (Lee 150).

Miss Gates then proceeds to explain to the class that America is a democracy while Germany is a dictatorship. Miss Gates goes on to say that in America people are not prejudiced and do not persecute others. She contrasts American society with Germany's under Hitler's rule. Miss Gates' statements confuse Scout, who recognizes her teacher's hypocrisy. Later that day, Scout asks Jem how Miss Gates can ridicule Hitler for persecuting Jews, then turn around and treat people in an ugly manner at home. Unfortunately, Jem does not answer Scout's question and instead yells at her for bringing up the trial.

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