In Bambara’s “The Lesson,” Sylvia and her friends seem to understand the objects from F.A.O. Schwarz in terms of their “use value,” not in terms of “commodification.”   How does Miss Moore figure in this criticism? Use two secondary sources that focus on the story itself.

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The point of Miss Moore's lesson is to show the kids the reality of socioeconomic inequality. The children have a variety of responses to what they see in the store. Sylvia feels uncharacteristically self-conscious entering the place. The $1100 sailboat the children see in the window of the store elicits all sorts of responses. The responses reveal the varying social aspirations of their families. Mercedes, for instance, is certain her father would buy the boat for her, but Sylvia compares the expensive toy to the one she can get for fifty cents.

While the children recognize that toy boats, regardless of price, are frivolous objects likely to get lost, sink, or be broken, they also recognize the beauty of the boat in the window. Their rejection of it is a kind of defensive mechanism, a way of asserting the validity of their experience even if, as they have just learned, they are poor.

Sylvia, in particular, has had her consciousness raised, and this was precisely Miss Moore's goal in bringing the kids to the toy store. Her lesson about the (mis)uses of money is meant to show the children how money divides people into categories like "rich" and "poor."

The lesson also confirms what they already know about money, which is that it is used to buy things you need. All the children recognize the sailboat as something they might want, but do not need. Sylvia's own desire for the toy clown falls away when she reflects that the $35 it costs could also buy new bunk beds or pay for the whole family to visit their Grandfather. As a teacher, Miss Moore quite astutely eschews explaining these facts. She merely provides the conditions under which the kids can learn them for themselves.

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