The Theme of Education in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee August 24, 2009Posted by KJ theBookGirl in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Tags: Atticus, bestseller, characters, education, English Literature, GCSE, Harper Lee, KJ, lessons, Lessons learnt, Novel, Plot, theBookGirl, TKAMB, 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.