On what pages of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird can good passages be found about education, individuality, child abuse, and stereotypes?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout the narrator frequently comments on the inadequacies of Maycomb County's public education system.

The first time Scout realizes the inadequacies of public education is on her very first day of school when her first-grade teacher, Miss Caroline, chastises her for already knowing how to read. Scout floors Miss Caroline by already knowing how to read the alphabet, "most of My First Reader and the stock-market quotations from The Mobile Register" (Ch. 2). However, instead of praising Scout for her precociousness and suggesting Scout should be promoted to a higher grade level, Miss Caroline orders Scout to tell her father to stop teaching her how to read, saying "he does not know how to teach," regardless of the fact that Scout insists no one actually taught her; it just came naturally to her. Scout is even later chastised for writing in cursive because, according to Miss Caroline, writing in cursive is not something that is taught in the first grade; only printing is taught.

Scout develops further distaste for public education when Jem explains to her that Miss Caroline is using a new method of teaching she learned in college that will soon be used in all the grades; he calls it the "Dewy Decimal System" (Ch. 2). The Dewey Decimal System is a means of classifying and organizing books according to subject. Therefore, in calling the new teaching method the "Dewey Decimal System," Jem implies that the new teaching method is a means of classifying and organizing information. Since Miss Caroline has classified and organized information, she feels that, as a first grader, Scout shouldn't know certain things, like how to read and write. But, since Scout already does know how to read and write, Miss Caroline's teaching method is very counterproductive, making Scout feel robbed of a real education.  

By the end of her first day of school, as well as at the end of her first year of school, Scout feels that she would be better off being educated at home, just like her father and uncle were educated at home by her grandfather and, in Scout's view, "knew everything--at least, what one didn't know the other did" (Ch. 4).

As page numbers will vary per version of the book, only approximations of locations for passages can be given. The above passages can be found towards the beginning and middle of Chapter 2 and the very first page of Chapter 4.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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