Lance Scranton: The wisdom of Atticus Finch
April 17, 2012
It's a commonly celebrated ideal in our country that differences make us stronger as a nation.
It's hard to disagree with that.
Without differences I'm certain we would be living in the kind of sterile world only George Orwell's "Big Brother" would appreciate.
The thing about making a difference is that it requires something different from each one of us. Each teacher in our school district brings something different to the classroom each day and each student brings something different to school each day as well.
Every parent hopes schools are serving a full menu of learning opportunities for their children. If we could, I wish every teacher could give each student the menu of their choice, to order what they please, so that we could guarantee their success.
But sometimes after serving our "best dishes" the grumble of an unsatisfied customer resonates, and try as we might, the service is criticized, the menu selections are critiqued, and forget about a tip.
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When students in our American Literature classes begin reading Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird," some dig right in, some fret and fume, and others, at least, make us think they are reading.
Students take different approaches to reading this classic that echoes throughout our American history but, try as we might, some students just think it's one more book they are being forced to read.
Students who give the book a chance and make an effort to "dig in" tell us it's one of the best books they read while in high school.
When students begin to comprehend the sheer magnitude of the main character Atticus Finch's brave decision to make a difference in a small community, they realize that being different and making a difference will be challenging of our character and demanding of our time.
Atticus helps the town of Maycomb, Ala., realize how narrowly focused they are on keeping some traditions alive though it means convicting an innocent man.
Atticus is threatened, spit on, and his children are attacked because he exposes many in the community for what they really are.
Atticus can teach us all something about making a difference in our community:
He doesn't worry too much about getting his own way but serves when called upon.
He seldom tries to voice his own opinion but does a whole bunch of listening.
He isn't very good at casting aspersions but lets facts catch the truth.
He seldom gets caught up criticizing others because he's too busy taking care of his own business.
He has little regard for social cruelty because he realizes the inalienable value and worth of his fellow man.
He simply does what is right because he knows that in the "long run" it makes the biggest difference.
I hope this is the "different difference" we will make as we continue to explore and discover what will mark our schools as being better able to serve our children.