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The Theme of Education in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee August 24, 2009

Posted by KJ theBookGirl in To Kill a Mockingbird.
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To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

The education system in Maycomb is very contradictory and almost backwards in some cases, and this makes a significant point in the ideas of the novel.

The fact that the very institution preparing the next generation for the future is flawed and teaches narrow mindedness (in the case of Scout being reprimanded for learning outside the school), only can forebode the next generation being just as prejudice and discriminative as the current one.

The theme of education runs throughout the novel, although not always based in the school. It initially shows Scout realising that school is not what she was looking forward to, as the teacher is patronising and sensitive, where as the children are intelligent and used to a harsher environment. Miss Caroline doesn’t understand the ways of the small town, and the small town doesn’t understand the ways of Miss Caroline, leading to a breakdown in communication and general progress and therefore preventing proper education taking place.

This is shown when Miss Caroline is reduced to tears by Bob Ewell’s son being rude, and frightened by a “Cootie”. It is also shown when she doesn’t realise why Walter Cunningham doesn’t want to borrow money, and punishes Scout when she tries to explain nicely. This basic lack of comprehension on each side makes the education system dubious at the very least.

The school is changing its system from when Jem was the age of Scout, and this does show that things are moving forward, but it also seems pointless as Jem is just as well educated as Scout – it seems it is more to do with your background and therefore family and upbringing, than the school. This is also shown by how everyone is generalised – the Ewells are thought of as stupid because they only go to school on the first day, and that’s how it’s always been.

The main education throughout the novel is in the form of lessons learnt from Atticus, and these lessons are the moral life lessons preparing the children for adult life when issues such as racism, discrimination and cruelty are part of a daily routine. This education prepares Jem and Scout to be good people; wise as well as intelligent, and this is what matters when they have the power of knowledge.

The theme of education also comes from Aunt Al teaching Scout to be a lady, Cal teaching the children to behave properly, and Miss Maudie explaining what the children are afraid to ask others.




1. prakhar - July 22, 2010

nice one

2. Alt F4 - September 20, 2010

thanks so much
very helpful
your mother would be proud

3. chloe - October 5, 2011

excellent stuff right there

4. Sophie - March 4, 2012

This was really helpful, thanks! Also, while glancing at your top recommendations list, I was gleeful to see a number of my favourite books there.. You are high in my esteem!

5. naomi - May 12, 2012

this really helped me gather ideas for my exams, i can’t thank you enough!

6. littlemissannie3 - June 30, 2012

Reblogged this on Little Miss Annie and commented:
At the moment I am doing “To Kill A Mockingbird”in english, and this post has really helped me to understand the theme of education. Enjoy 🙂

7. jasmine - February 26, 2013

Thankyou!this is very good,very helpful and very facinating! keep up the great work 😀

8. Smiley - February 26, 2013

Really good, but can u pls explain in detail, how harper Lee portrays scouts school life( specifically education).
By the way can you pls have a page on your website for top book recomandations r 12-14 year olds- so nothing too complex, and nothing inappropriate, pls.
Thx again!

KJ theBookGirl - March 4, 2013

Scout’s school life is portrayed as not at all educational – in fact it begins as a hindrance to her education where she is asked not to read and basically discouraged from all her enthusiasm and curiosity in education. She learns basic things, but as most children her age in the community have had a far poorer upbringing that her, she is too advanced for the class she is in – and most likely is more learned than her teacher, purely because Atticus has taught her so much as she’s been growing up.
Her school life is probably typical of lives of children in the deep south of America at the time, especially in small communities where very, very few children would go on to use their education beyond basic trade when getting shopping and supplies for farms, or running village shops. If you think about how many adult characters have jobs that nowadays would require a university degree, you can see how little education was considered important beyond what is useful for farming etc.
I hope this helps get you started on the idea!

As for books for 12-14 year olds, I’m going to suggest ones which are more ‘classics’, as opposed to ones like the Ally’s World Series (which is awesome by the way), Inkheart, the Noughts and Crosses trilogy, and others which you probably come across. Although for popular bestsellers like those, check out http://www.spinebreakers.co.uk, it has reviews by teenagers about the books they love – and if you really love reading you can apply to review books for them, which they’ll send you for free, sometimes before they’re even published!
Ok, I would also say, reading things like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, George Orwell’s Animal Farm, and Homer’s The Odyssey are really fun. Austen is obviously all romantic and sooo funny so worth reading, Orwell is really political but quite good if you want to think about that sort of thing, and The Odyssey is an epic adventure story – I wish more people read it, because it sounds scary but is actually SO easy to read and better than any other fantasy/history stuff that’s out there at the moment! Hope you like them!

9. shaniqua - March 12, 2013

Thank you for such a good reply. I needed some notes for an essay and this helped heaps. THANK YOU SOO MUCH

10. iamrobinj - April 11, 2013

Indeed, knowledge is power wherever and whenever.

11. ?????????? - April 11, 2013

what book did you read?

12. bugfreak 585? - April 11, 2013

wow you stupid

Sanika Sandeep - January 10, 2017

Why? This was a great explanation other than the fact that it doesn’t talk about school.

13. Dylan - April 15, 2013

awesome! this really helped out with my journal entry i am doin for english! great job, and please come it coming!

14. jasperto - May 17, 2013

Very good article right there 🙂

I think scout learns more outside school than inside of school, represented by how most of the book is based in the summer holidays or after school. I would say that the trial forces Scout and especially Jem to grow up, another key theme, and they begin to realize the power of “maycombs usual disease” of prejudice over cold hard evidence.

rachel - October 19, 2013

I understand what you are saying

15. mata grzewcza pod kafelki - July 31, 2013

I simply could not go away your website before
suggesting that I actually loved the usual info a person provide
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16. rachel - October 19, 2013

hello I did not see how education is portrayed. for my exams they have given me this question: To what extent does Harper Lee show ‘learning’ in part 1 in to kill a mockingbird?

17. Hello hola - October 20, 2013

Thank you

18. chris janes - November 22, 2013


Bob Sanders - January 6, 2014


19. soumya - March 25, 2014

the education theme are very important but the quotation is not added in this cite other wise it helps all the students and goid reader

20. soumya - March 25, 2014

the education theme are very important but the quotation is not added in this cite other wise it helps all the students and good reader

21. to kompleksowe elektryczne ogrzwanie podłogowe oparte na produkcie jakim jest mata grzewczaa - June 10, 2014

When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added”
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Sanika Sandeep - January 10, 2017


25. Theme Of To Kill A Mockingbird – Download File APK - January 3, 2015

[…] The theme of education in to kill a mockingbird by harper […]

26. Dianna Arnold - September 24, 2015

I am needing help comparing the education between a student who learns through a “regular education” and the student who learns through a different special learning style as maybe present in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”(special meaning not learning the traditional way.) Scout understands that Tom is not educated the way she is educated. Because of this difference he is willing to let people know that he is educated. I am not sure if you are getting my point…how does Tom’s style of learning and the fact that this style does not make him part of the “norm” affect how he performs intellectually?

Any thoughts?

27. Jordan Bayon - May 17, 2016

terima kasih sudah berbagi, Saya sangat mengapresiasi apa yang di tulis dalam artikel ini. saya merasakan yang begitu besar setela membaca beberapa artikel di website ini. Terima Kasih

28. Emily Marilyn Pegley - January 5, 2017

Hi KJ theBookGirl,
I’m using this article for my english essay and am trying to figure out how to create a works cited for this article. If you could help me out that would be great!
Thank You,

29. Education Quotes In To Kill A Mockingbird | dl - May 30, 2017

[…] The Theme of Education in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper … – Aug 24, 2009  · The Theme of Education in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee … The theme of education in to kill a mockingbird by … of To Kill a Mockingbird, … […]

30. rue - December 4, 2017

this was really helpful, thank you 😉

31. todyonyy - December 16, 2017

Thank You! it was suuuuper helpful 😀

32. sexinthecity6641464 - February 4, 2018

this is sooo much helpful in my english home work thanks a great lott

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