What does Scout think of current fashions in education in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Scout is not at all impressed with current fashions in education as employed by her first grade teacher Miss Caroline.

Naturally precocious, Scout is looking forward to going to school.  She already knows how to read and write, and she feels lonely without her brother Jem around.  Yet first grade is not at all what Scout expected.  Her teacher begins by reading the class a book about talking cats.  They are not impressed.

Miss Caroline seemed unaware that the ragged, denim-shirted and floursack-skirted first grade, most of whom had chopped cotton and fed hogs from the time they were able to walk, were immune to imaginative literature. (ch 2)

Scout is also not pleased with the idea of the “Dewey Decimal System.”  This new system of education is supposed to involve projects, but it seems a waste to Scout because she already knows how to read and she is not allowed to.  Her school days are therefore unproductive.

Indeed, they were an endless Project that slowly evolved into a Unit, in which miles of construction paper and wax crayon were expended by the State of Alabama in its well-meaning but fruitless efforts to teach me Group Dynamics. (ch 4)

Scout’s biggest problem with school is that she already knows everything they are trying to teach her but she can’t use it.  She learned to read naturally, by her father’s elbow as he read the evening paper.  Reading was like breathing to Scout, and she therefore found school stifling.

The theme of coming of age is apparent here, as Scout tries to navigate an important part of growing up.  School is one of Scout’s earliest exposures to irony.  She gets in trouble for being smart.  She is not allowed to learn.  She finds the process frustrating, disheartening, and confusing.  Her father tries to get her to cope by teaching her empathy and the art of compromise, so that she can learn to go along with what others are doing and try to see things from their point of view.



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To Kill a Mockingbird

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