Book Discussion: To Kill a Mockingbird – Education

Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.
– Scout, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I’ve chosen this quote to start my discussion on the educational system because it referred to reading and as you all know, this being a blog on books and all that, I thought it fitting. Of course, the quote implies more than what you now see. I strongly suggest that you read To Kill a Mockingbird first before you click on the “read more” button as the second part won’t be spoiler free. If you want to know more about this book without being spoiled, you’re more than welcome to check out my review and come back once you’ve read the book.

Not only did I chose this quote because it referred to reading but I like how brilliant and simple it is all at once. We don’t understand how much we love something until it’s taken from us. We take so many things for granted that we sometimes forget the luxury for having it. The fact Lee compares this to breathing, strengthens the impact. How often do we ponder about the fact we’re able to breathe? I don’t and yet, if I had a respiration disability, I would appreciate it all the more.  Lee let us know that although reading is something you and I are able to do, we can’t understand how precious this is until we’re put in a situation  when it’s taken from us.

I came across this while googling for an image. I thought it was too cute to not share it with you :’)

This brings me to the part when Scout is afraid of losing her after-school reading moments with Atticus and why there’s something amiss with the educational system.

*spoilers from this point onwards*

The reason why Scout is afraid of losing this, originates from a clashing moment between her and her teacher Miss Caroline earlier that day. As soon as she finds out Scout’s competency to read without the guidance of her own teaching methods, Miss Caroline is dismayed. She immediately discourages Scout, dictating the young girl to stop reading at home at once so she can focus on undoing the damage Atticus has caused. With a weaker character, this could destroy someone’s confidence, especially because Scout doesn’t understand why this is wrong. This shows Scout’s intelligence but instead of being praised, Miss Caroline breaks her apart and it only reflects her own shortcomings as a teacher more than anything else. It’s difficult to imagine such teaching methods in a time when stimulating diversity is promoted.

Another stab towards the ridiculous system appears when Burris Ewell is introduced. Ewell explains how he only comes the first day of school and then won’t return. He has been doing this for the third time without any consequences. Miss Caroline is baffled at first but then wishes for him to leave her classroom and to go home. It confuses Scout that the law accepts a student to come to school once a year while she gets rebuked for knowing how to read and write. This shows that both the teaching methods and law fail, giving you an inkling of what is to come later.

At the same time, imagine the difficulty parents would have to face when their children come home and don’t want to go back to school because this Ewell boy doesn’t have to either? The “you have to go because everyone else has to” no longer applies in this situation and I love how this problem is being handled by Atticus when Scout mentions not going back. Atticus finds a compromise: if Scout continues to go to school, then he will continue reading to her. Before the matter is settled, he adds to not mention this at school – making this a secret between them. Which is clever when you think about it: if there’s one thing that children like, it are secrets; especially when they have to keep them from the authorities!

Is there something you take for granted?

Have you experienced a narrow-minded teacher at some point? Or do you agree with Miss Caroline? Do you think this has changed over the decades?

Is there anything about the educational system today you find pointless/ridiculous? What do you think is great? Would you change something if you could?

Do you agree with Atticus’ method of stimulating Scout to go back to school?

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