How the Lack of Education During the Great Depress Essay

This essay has a total of 1378 words and 6 pages.

How the Lack of Education During the Great Depression Affected Southern Society

During the Great Depression receiving an education was becoming more and more difficult
for southerners. From not being able to afford the required supplies needed, to not being
able to pay the tutions, many people found it nearly impossible to attend school. The
novel, To Kill A Mockingbird written by Harper Lee shows how the lack of education in
society during the Great Depression affected Southerners lives, not allowing them to
change their futures for the better.

The public school system changed drastically during the Great Depression. Society started
to notice the changes during the years of 1930 and 1931, when conditions were at their
worst. Many students did not have the right clothing, supplies, and textbooks because
parents could not afford the costs. The price of school supplies ran from $1.00 for a pen
to $3.85 for a pair of shoes (Editors of Time-Life 29). In To Kill A Mockingbird, Scout's
teacher, Miss Caroline, asked one of her students where his lunch was. He then explained
that he did not have a lunch because his parents could not afford it. "He didn't forget
his lunch, he didn't have any. He had none today nor would he have any tomorrow or the
next day. He had probably never seen three quarters together at the same time in his life"
(Lee 20).


In addition, student's schoolwork and progress began to decline due to undernourishment.
Many children were not able to stay in school because there was not enough money to keep
the schools open. A third of a million children were out of school during the Great
Depression (Farrell 14). Also, children of poor families dropped out of school because
they felt obligated to help support their family financially. In To Kill A Mockingbird
Scout describes the Ewell family, who only attends school the first day of every year
because their family is poor:

They come the first day every year and then leave. The truant lady gets'em here ‘cause
she threatens ‘em with the sheriff, but she's give up tryin' to hold ‘em. She reckons
she's carried out the law just getting' their names on the roll and runnin' ‘em here the
first day. You're supposed to mark ‘em absent the rest of the year (Lee 27).

In cases like these, the purpose for leaving school was to help out the family with chores
like tending to the farm and crops.

Teachers were impacted severely during the Great Depression. Many teachers suffered
through excessive losses in money during this time. As the Depression worsened debts owed
to the teachers increased. At one time twenty million dollars in debt was owed to the
14,000 teachers in Chicago, IL. That is a debt of $1,400 per teacher. In addition, 3,177
out of 6,315 teachers said they had a loss of $2,367,000 in bank failures during this time
(Wilson 145).


Teachers' salaries were another big issue that was affected by the Depression. Some
teachers' salaries were cut to as low as $40.00 a month. Even though this was such a small
amount of payment teachers were pleased with the money because jobs were so rare (Sutton).
However, in some states annual salaries from 1932-1934 were $1,227.00 for a public school
teacher (Editors of Time-Life 26). This was a generous salary for teachers, but in some
schools out of the thirteen school months, teachers were only paid their salaries five out
of the thirteen months (Wilson 145).

Qualified teachers during the Great Depression were very difficult to find and when they
were hired their habits were very unacceptable. For example, "Teachers in the middle and
southern states were so frequently drunkards that the alcoholic schoolteacher became a
stereotype" (Collins 106). It was very difficult to find qualified male teachers during
this time because there were other jobs that were better and paid more. There was a
shortage of male teachers in 1833 of 30,000 (Collins 106). Due to the shortage of male
teachers it made finding qualified teachers more difficult because over three-fourths of
the United States' school districts would not hire married women; they would only hire
married males (Collins 363). However, in To Kill A Mockingbird, Scout's teacher, Miss
Caroline, was an unmarried woman who was hired to teach the first grade. Unfortunately,
Miss Caroline did not succeed in her duties as a teacher. She proved to be underqualified
for the job and unable to teach the students. "Miss Caroline's progress next door could be
estimated by the frequency of laughter; however, the usual crew had flunked the first
grade again, and were helpful in keeping order" (Lee 58).
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