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In the second chapter of To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee uses Scout's classroom to reveal the social system of Maycomb and makes some biting commentary on the educational system. We meet Scout's teacher, Miss Caroline, and right away we see she is an outsider. She clearly is green in terms of experience as a teacher and how the town of Maycomb works. Miss Caroline establishes herself as an outsider in her first few words to the class, and she does not realize the importance of what she is saying when she states:
'"I am from North Alabama, from Winston County." The class murmured apprehensively, should she prove to harbor her share of the peculiarities indigenous to that region. (When Alabama seceded from the Union on January 11, 1861, Winston County seceded from Alabama, and every child in Maycomb County knew it.) (Lee 18).
She continues to show her lack of local knowledge and her inexperience with small town life when she interacts with Burris Ewell (in chapter 3) and Walter Cunningham. Walter Cunningham represents the poor but proud part of Maycomb; they struggle to make it but they are good hard working, honest people. When Walter does not have money for lunch, Miss Caroline tries to force a quarter in his hand, and Walter will not take it because he cannot afford to repay it. Everyone understands that the Cunninghams won't borrow what they can't repay but Miss Caroline, and Scout tries to explain by simpling stating, "'Miss Caroline, he's a Cunningham.' I sat back down" ( Lee 31). Everyone in the classroom realizes this is enough of an explanation except for the uninformed Miss Caroline.
Miss Caroline also shows a backwardness in the educational approach of a one size fits all teaching. When Scout shows she is able to read well above her level, Miss Caroline reprimands her and tells her to stop her reading with Atticus because she won't learn it until the third grade (Lee 33). This idea of every student learning the same material at the same rate without any room for individual differences and talents is clearly something Harper Lee is critical of.
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