Discussion Topic

Maniac Magee's reasons for not attending school

Summary:

Maniac Magee does not attend school because he feels it is unnecessary and prefers to learn from his experiences in the real world. He values freedom and independence, believing that traditional education cannot provide him with the practical knowledge he gains from his adventures and interactions with people in different communities.

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Why doesn't Maniac Magee want to go to school in Maniac Magee?

Right from the start of the story, readers are told that Maniac Magee doesn't go to school.  It's a well known enough fact that grade school girls have a chant about it.  

Ma-niac, Ma-niac

He's so cool.

Ma-niac, Ma-niac

Don't go to school.

Readers go through about half of the book knowing that Maniac doesn't attend school with all of the other kids, but don't find out why until chapter twenty-three.  Maniac and Grayson are talking, and Grayson asks Maniac why he doesn't attend school.  Maniac gets very defensive and never actually says a reason.  Maniac simply tells Grayson that if Grayson tries to make Maniac go to school, Maniac will run away again. While Grayson isn't privy to Maniac's logic, readers are.  Readers get to "listen" to Maniac's thoughts about school.  Essentially, school reminds Maniac of the fact that he doesn't have a home with a mother and a father.  He doesn't want to go to school and be "home" with a school family during the day if he can't go home to a family at night. 

It had to do with homes and families and schools, and how a school seems sort of like a big home, but only a day home, because then it empties out; and you can't stay there at night because it's not really a home, and you could never use it as your address, because an address is where you stay at night, where you walk right in the front door without knocking, where everybody talks to each other and uses the same toaster. So all the other kids would be heading for their homes, their night homes, each of them, hundreds, flocking from school like birds from a tree, scattering across town, each breaking off to his or her own place, each knowing exactly where to land. School. Home. No, he was not going to have one without the other.

I'd like to make one thing clear about Maniac not attending school.  He might not enjoy being in the school building or classroom, but that doesn't mean he doesn't want to learn and like learning. Readers are made aware of that fact when Maniac meets Amanda for the first time.  He's amazed that her suitcase is full of books, and his wonder is palpable.  The books are so fascinating to Maniac that he practically begs to borrow one from her.

"Can I have a book?" he said.

"They're mine," she said.

"Just to read. To borrow."

"No."

"Please. What's your name?"

"Amanda. "

"Please, Amanda. Any one. Your shortest one."  

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Why doesn't Maniac Magee want to go to school in Maniac Magee?

As a little boy, Maniac Magee went to school like other children his age. When he ran away from his aunt and uncle's house, he left school behind. He did not return when he arrived in Two Mills.

When Grayson asks Maniac about going to school, the boy tells him that he refuses to go. Grayson asks him why. Ever since Maniac left his aunt and uncle's house, he had yearned for a home and an address of his own. To Maniac,

a school seems sort of like a big home, but only a day home, because then it empties out; and you can't stay there at night because it's not really a home, and you could never use it as your address, because an address is where you stay at night, where you walk right in the front door without knocking, where everybody talks to each other and uses the same toaster.

Maniac knows that if he goes to school in Two Mills, at the end of the day he will have no home to return to. The other children will go back home after school gets out each day. Maniac would be the only one with no home to return to. He decides that he will not attend school until he has a home to go back to at night.

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Why wouldn't Maniac Magee attend school?

In chapter 23, Grayson asks Maniac Magee, "What about school?" Magee's reply is quite defensive and macho, telling Grayson that he's not going and that they can't make him go if they can't find him. In reality, however, his reasons for not going are more based on insecurity:

It had to do with homes and families and schools.

In his view, school is more like a day home that empties out at night, and all the kids go back to what Maniac calls their night homes—their address where they don't have to knock on the door and "everybody talks to each other." As an orphan on the run, he doesn't feel he has this privilege, and as he says, "He was not going to have one without the other."

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Why wouldn't Maniac Magee attend school?

When Grayson asked Maniac Magee about his going to school, the boy was hesitant.  Maniac had his own ideas about school.  His opinion was that he would not go to school until he had a real home of his own.  To Maniac, school was "sort of like a big home."  It was a sort of home for the students while they were there during the day, in his opinion.  However, he reasoned, it was not like a real home.  The address of the school could not be claimed as the home address of the students there.  He believed that one's address was a place "where you walk right in the front door without knocking, where everybody talks to each other and uses the same toaster."  Maniac knew that after the school bell rang, all the students would exit the building and scatter, each heading to their own home.  Maniac knew that "he was not going to have one without the other."

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