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Teacher: The One Who Made the Difference Paperback – September 9, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Like Dead Poet's Society, this memoir tells of an extraordinary individual who touched his students' souls and steered at least one of them Edmundson toward the life of the mind. Its setting, however, is not a New England prep school but a tough working-class Boston high school in the 1960s. Frank Lears, the young iconoclast from Cambridge, dropped into Medford High as if from outer space (On the first day of class, we saw a short, slight man, with olive skin... wearing a skinny tie and a moth-eaten legacy suit with a large paper clip fastened to the left lapel). He proceeded to plumb the depths of the jocks and greasers with depth, endurance, humor and wisdom (when Lears listened... it felt as though... you were being fed something, something very good and sustaining). The full cast of the '60s is here: SDS, race relations, Freud, sex and God. Edmundson's perspective, however, is not from the center of the swirl of politics and psychedelics, but from a boy on the brink of uncertain manhood. Lears seemed to me the spirit of the sixties... as much as the spirit of Socrates, says Edmundson, who is now a literary and cultural critic and professor of English at the University of Virginia. Free in himself, he tried as hard as he could to make others free. If the prose is at times larger than its subject, it deftly captures the spirit of the times. The carefully crafted vignettes can't help taking readers back to their own ordinary origins and cause them to reflect upon those teachable moments that made a difference in their own lives.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Although he is now a university professor and literary scholar (Literature Against Theory, Plato to Derrida: A Defense of Poetry), in 1969 Edmundson was a football-obsessed underachiever with a bleak future. That's when he and some rowdy classmates signed up for Frank Lears's high school philosophy course. The rumpled new teacher looked like an easy target for their sophomoric pranks, but he managed to persevere with some unconventional teaching methods that turned several of the slackers into thoughtful students. Lears made a big impression on the author when he rearranged seating, replaced the dry textbook with interesting reading materials (particularly Ken Kesey's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest), played phonograph records, posed provocative questions, and listened intently to the responses. There's little pedagogical wisdom to be gained from this now, but it was innovative and effective in Medford, MA, 30-plus years ago. Edmundson has a remarkable memory for details and emotions from his youth, and his descriptions of Lears's reactions to classroom situations are fascinating. This memoir could have benefited from more of those reactions and less of the author's nonscholastic conflicts, which detract from his academic transformation. Nonetheless, this often moving autobiography is a worthwhile read. For large academic and public libraries. Will Hepfer, SUNY at Buffalo Libs.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Also: I am by no means a prude, but I thought some of the language was unnecessary. Random f-words in otherwise clean narration evince a carelessness about tone and may make this book be deemed inappropriate by audiences that otherwise could gain something by study of and inspiration from it.
Edmundson's writing is compelling: his portrait of Lears brought to mind teachers who made a difference to me and the choices I made in life because of their influence. His descriptions of his friends could easily be those of my own. Teacher is more than a memoir; it reads like a testament to a generation.
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