In 1969, Mark Edmundson was a typical high school senior in working-class Medford, Massachusetts. He loved football, disdained schoolwork, and seemed headed for a factory job in his hometown—until a maverick philosophy teacher turned his life around.
When Frank Lears, a small, nervous man wearing a moth-eaten suit, arrived at Medford fresh from Harvard University, his students pegged him as an easy target. Lears was unfazed by their spitballs and classroom antics. He shook things up, trading tired textbooks for Kesey and Camus, and provoking his class with questions about authority, conformity, civil rights, and the Vietnam War. He rearranged seats and joined in a ferocious snowball fight with Edmundson and his football crew. Lears’s impassioned attempts to get these kids to think for themselves provided Mark Edmundson with exactly the push he needed to break away from the lockstep life of Medford High. Written with verve and candor, Teacher is Edmundson’s heartfelt tribute to the man who changed the course of his life.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of eBook: Teacher|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group|
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Chapter OneFIRST DAY
What have we here?
None of us had ever encountered anyone like Franklin Lears, at least not up close. On the first day of class, we saw a short, slight man, with olive skin-we thought he might be Mexican-wearing a skinny tie and a moth-eaten legacy suit with a large paper clip fastened to the left lapel. On his feet were Ivy League gunboat shoes, lace-ups designed in homage to the Monitor and the Merrimack. He had hunched shoulders, a droopy black mustache, and Valentino-type eyes: deep brown, sensuous, and penitential. Even when he strove for some dynamism, as he did on the first day, explaining his plans for the course, he still had a melancholy Castilian presence, the air of an instinctively comprehending reader of Don Quixote. Like the Don, Lears could somehow look dolorous and hopeful at the same time.
He walked into the room where we were assembled, fifteen or so of us, in our evenly serried desks, and stared out at us, his philosphers-to-be, the baleful look tinged with optimism, like a rainbow playing along the edge of a quiet pool. He slouched in his suit, two sizes too big, Chaplin on a dismal day. Then he gazed long and hard at his feet, as though expecting some sympathy from the gunboats. He began to talk.
Lears told us this was a philosophy course and that philosophy meant the love of wisdom, and that that was interesting and worth knowing but it was no end in itself, for it led you on to other questions: What was wisdom? How did you get it? Was there any- one who had it? He asked us if we knew anyone who might be wise. Of course no one answered, though he left open a silent vacuum, inviting...