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Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird

1094 words - 4 pages

Controversial subjects and events have arisen since time began. When these topics are emerging, developing, and being discussed, the perfect opportunity arises for people to formulate their opinions and support and develop them based upon their current knowledge, values, beliefs, and morals. There are always people who tend to voice their opinions louder and more obnoxiously than what is necessary or appropriate; conversely, there are also people who develop their own opinions and feel just as passionate as the loud people but don’t know how to go about expressing their opinions and, therefore, remain unheard. In the middle of this spectrum fall the people who either cannot seem to develop their own opinions, are too indolent, don’t care enough, or do not want to be pulled into and engaged with the situation and, therefore, choose to remain neutral. There is fault within all three of these choices because none have gone about properly expressing their opinions. Fortunately, there is an alternative to these three types of people: those people who have a strong opinion and firm beliefs, but know how to properly express themselves. They rely on their personal experiences to connect to and support their opinions, and they express these beliefs so as not to force them upon people, but to make a statement. A perfect example of this characteristic is found in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird; Lee uses her own childhood experiences to bring to the public’s attention many controversial subjects and, through skillful storytelling, portray where she stands on these subjects. One important subject Lee subtly, but effectively, addresses is the ineffectual and counterproductive state of public education and the importance of learning in one’s own home environment.
Lee’s semi-autobiographical main character, Scout, and her brother, Jem, participate in public education but seem reconciled to knowing it is pointless and boring. Scout’s first grade teacher, Miss Caroline, seems to be entirely unengaged with the reality of her students’ lives and experience, reading them puzzling “imaginative literature” the kids are “immune to” and “waving cards” with words on them, expecting no response, so the students sit, perplexed, silent, and bored (Lee 23). When Miss Caroline discovers that Scout is already an accomplished reader and writer, she is vexed. “Now you tell your father not to teach you anymore,” she instructs, claiming that she would “…try to undo the damage” (Lee 22). Jem informs Scout that Miss Caroline’s teacher college training has brought about “…the new way they’re teachin’ [sic] the first grade…” (Lee 23) based on the theories of Progressive educational reformer, John Dewey, who believed “Education should give every child the chance to grow up spontaneously, harmoniously, and all-sidedly [sic]” (Warde). Miss Caroline represents the over-theoretically educated teacher who doesn’t see the student as a person, but as a subject for the theories that she...

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