What does the setting at school teach us about the town and its people in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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There is apparently only one elementary school that serves most (if not all) of Maycomb County. The children come from in town, outside town (Burris Ewell) and the country (like Walter Cunningham from Old Sarum). Many of the children are poor; some are barefoot and some are hungry, but some are clean (Walter) while some are filthy (Burris). None of the children mentioned hail from wealthy families, but we can assume that Atticus is probably more financially secure than most of the other parents of the first graders. Many of Scout's classmates are repeating the first grade: Some have probably failed, some quit school in order to work the family farm (Walter), while some show up only on the first day in order to keep the school truant officer off their backs (the Ewells). Scout is one of the only children who can actually read, yet the new teacher views this as a detriment since Atticus "does not know how to teach." Most of the children bring their own lunches in "molasses buckets"; a few can probably afford the 25 cents for a school lunch; and some who live in town, like Scout, went home for a fresh-cooked meal. Noticeably absent were Maycomb's African American children: The school was for whites-only, and there is no mention in the novel that there is a school for the black children. 


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