Harper Lee personifies education in To Kill a Mockingbird, through Miss Caroline's teaching style, the children's experiences, and Atticus' teaching.
Lee illustrates the significance of education through Miss Caroline's prejudiced, but strong teaching style. Miss Caroline's teaching style is the Dewey system "The Dewey Decimal System consisted, in part, of Miss Caroline waving cards at us which were printed 'the,' 'cat,' 'rat,' 'man,' and 'you.'"(23). The Dewey method of teaching is supposed to be a very active type of learning and yet it is not in Miss Caroline's class. Rather many of the students do naught and bore. Miss Caroline's bias is first demonstrated when Scout shows Miss Caroline she can read: "she discovered that I was literate and looked at me with more than faint distaste" (17). Miss Caroline then proceeds to do whatever she can to get her style back under control and tells Scout that her father is a bad teacher: "Your father does not know how to teach. You can have a seat now"' (17). Through Miss Caroline's paradoxical views, one sees that education in the town of Maycomb is viewed as unimportant, but in reality Lee is proving that one must learn and experience all at the same time. This is why Scout does not like her school even though she loves to learn. While Miss Caroline's priorities seem to be unorthodox, her intention to help educate her students is clear. The teacher only wants to show her young minds how to learn, but falters when they begin to think on their own. This ironic situation of education clearly shows readers that understanding is a precious thing that cannot reside in perfectly cut patterns.
Lee also exemplifies the importance of education through Jem and Scout's need for knowledge. Jem and Scout's eagerness to learn becomes real when they act out books: "Running through our list of Dramas based on [books]" (8). When they ask questions about life "I know it's not right, but I can't figure out what's wrong maybe rape...
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