Education In To Kill A Mockingbird

How is the role of education described in To Kill a Mockingbird? Also talk about the lack of education of blacks and formal education of Scout.

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mlsldy3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The role of education is important in the entire book. At the beginning of the book, Scout is getting ready to start the first grade. She is excited for this, however after school starts, she decides she hates it. The school system is starting a new curriculum for the students. Scout has been taught how to read by her father, Atticus. Scout's teacher, Miss Caroline, is angry about this and tells Scout not to learn anymore outside of school. This upsets Scout very much. 

Harper Lee goes on to show us that education is not just found in schools. The education Scout and Jem learn from Atticus, is the most important education the children will ever get. Atticus wants them to have a formal education though. He believes this will help him them grow into productive adults. Scout also gets very important education from Aunt Alexandra. Aunt Alexandra teaches Scout how to be a lady. Since Scout is growing up without a mother, it is important for Aunt Alexandra to be the female influence Scout needs. Calpurnia is another form of education for Scout and Jem. She teaches them how to behave and have proper manners. Atticus teaches his children not to be judgmental of other people and to treat all people the same.

The lack of education for the black community and also the poorest children, differs greatly. The blacks do not go to school with Scout and Jem. They have their own schools, but most of them don't go. They also get their education from their parents and family. The poorest children in Maycomb County, don't have much chance for an education either. We see the Ewell's only come to school on the first day, and that is just the way it is. Other children don't have food for lunch. 

Throughout the entire book, we see that education is not just about school. The education that Scout and Jem get when Atticus defends Tom Robinson, is one that they will carry and remember for the rest of their lives. Harper Lee shows us that education often lies on the parents as much as the teachers. 

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Harper Lee presents the education system as flawed, unimaginative, and rigid throughout the novel. Scout, who is a talented, intelligent girl, has terrible experiences in the classroom. Scout's first-grade teacher chastises her for reading with her father and writing outside of school. Instead of fostering Scout's advanced abilities, Miss Caroline discourages Scout from her intellectual pursuits. In chapter 4, Scout comments on Maycomb's education system by saying,

"I could not help receiving the impression that I was being cheated out of something. Out of what I knew not, yet I did not believe that twelve years of unrelieved boredom was exactly what the state had in mind for me" (Lee, 22).

Harper Lee also presents moral education as superior to the standard state education system. Scout learns much more from her experiences and lessons from Atticus, than she does in the classroom.

Due to Jim Crow laws, African Americans are not allowed to attend white schools. In the small community of Maycomb, the black children do not go to school. When Scout visits First Purchase African M.E., she learns that very few black citizens can read. Reverend Sykes, Calpurnia, and Zeebo are the only literate members of the black church. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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