Edmundson´S “Teacher: The One Who Made the Difference”

There are such kinds of people who awaken others to new understandings and open a whole new world never known before. The book by Mark Edmundson called Teacher: The One that Made Difference is a wonderful memoir of the current professor of English at the University of Virginia. The book is amazing in terms of unveiling the main merits of a teacher who managed to change at least one student’s blurry future. The author tells us about his high school years at Medford High in 1960s. He encountered a teacher of Philosophy named Frank Lears in the book, whose first appearance did not arouse any students’ feelings but to tease and make him another target for pranks. It was Boston’s working-class high school, where Frank Lears was able to teach students Philosophy in a very extraordinary manner for those times and eventually won their utmost recognition. He set a notion of freedom by teaching students a thinking skill through his own example of having lots of inner freedom. The book unveils come-of-age story of maturing through showing how working-class students realized their importance and ability to think and relate themselves to politics, history, and social issues.

One of the lessons Lears taught his students was expressing their thoughts as a group. Frank Lears proved that they were vulnerable to groupthink. It was amazing how he neglected all boring Philosophy obligatory subjects and instead carried out psychological experiments. The talks about Vietnam War were prolific to crack the students’ shells and show that deliberations can open a whole new journey world. Lears had a representative of Students for a Democratic Society elaborate on the Vietnam War. There were people who ‘kept coming back, maimed in one way or another’ (Edmundson, p. 192). However, the S.D.S. was still forced to be quiet. Lears, however, seems to care about the students’ having thoughts and opinions only, even if those were the thoughts against his own view.

Another way in which Lears woke up students’ self-importance to this world was the discussion about politics, the race issues in particular. Edmundson tells how he got interested in rock lyrics first and then they advanced to Hemingway, Steinbeck, The Autobiography of Malcolm X. It was significant for students that once Lears showed that path it turned out to be interesting and leading to themselves. The talks about politics aroused their rebellion to authority and surprisingly it mattered to them, the new world meant a lot to students, they lived it through with the teacher. Edmundson shared: “I read in rage, ”that so much that was palpably my business had been kept from me”. (Edmundson, p. 251).

This coming-of-age story is magnificently embroidered with elaborations of Lears being modern Socrates in his class as if he was in contemporary acropolis. The teacher enabled students and Edmundson in particular to stand against the authorities (school administration and other teachers), who did not get visional issues because of their being midst. Edmundson compares Lears to Socrates ‘the homely Athenian, who never accepted anything on faith, questioned all matters under the sun… and knew how to laugh.” (Edmundson, p. 203). So did the teacher – always had unbiased meaning no matter what. Thus, students appreciated it and liked the class unlike all other school courses – students thought to be doomed to further difficult jobs and the school was just a short time to hold pens. Hopefully, Lears turned their intentions for better.

So, Edmundson paid a great tribute to his high school teacher and the book is marvelous memoir that showed how 1960s were crawling with different kinds of events: S.D.S., race issues, politics, Vietnam War, sex, and God. Thanks to Frank Lears the students of Medford High revealed that they cared about this country’s issues as well. They found out what freedom meant – it was the ability to relate themselves to the important social aspects and understand they may influence it through personal opinions and inner freedom.


Edmundson, Mark. Teacher: The One Who Made the Difference. New York: Vintage, 2003. Pint.

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