The One Who Made the Difference
By Mark Edmundson
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780375708541, 288pp.)
Publication Date: September 9, 2003
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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.
Mark Edmundson is a professor of English at the University of Virginia. A prizewinning scholar, he has published a number of works of literary and cultural criticism, including Literature Against Philosophy, Plato to Derrida. He has also written for such publications as The New Republic, The New York Times Magazine, The Nation, and Harper’s, where he is a contributing editor.
"For any reader who has been, or is currently, either a teacher or a student—that is to say, everyone—this is a book to be savored." —The Boston Globe
“Edmundson’s message of the world-changing importance of good high school teaching is more than ever one we need to hear. It’s rarely delivered with such passion, good humor and sympathy.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Wonderfully clear-eyed about the pains and pleasures of learning . . . One of the more inspiring days at school in recent memory.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A testimony to the magic that can occur . . . when the right teacher meets a receptive student.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“A brilliant memoir, smart, vividly dramatic, and wry.” —Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air
“One of the best traits of Teacher is the author’s honesty. . . . By the book’s end, it’s a good bet a reader might think, ‘Hey, I wouldn’t mind taking a class from that guy.’ That’s about the highest praise a teacher can get.” —San Jose Mercury News
“Chockablock with wit, detail, and surprisingly clear-eyed memory. . . Powerful.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Rich with metaphoric prose and inlaid with lovely storytelling. . . . Brings to mind Robert Coles’s memorable writing about Perry Miller.” —The Washington Post
“An affectionate but unsentimental homage. . . We are taken on a compelling journey down the corridor of that most perilous and fateful of institutions–the American high school. A terrific book.” —Billy Collins, Poet Laureate and author of Sailing Around the Room
“Masterfully demonstrates the power of one man’s belief in the power of ideas to change lives.” —The Charlotte Observer
“We suspect it happens every day, but not often enough. . . A teacher makes a difference. Finally, here is the testimonial we are looking for. . . Hurrah to Mr. Lears and thanks to Mark Edmundson for validating the dream.” —Tampa Tribune
“A poignant memoir, a self-analysis that shares revelations and insights that widely apply to those gawky teenage years, and the liberation that comes from intellectual awakening.” —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“A touching tribute. . . A humorous, vivid recollection of friends, teammates, and antagonists who accompanied [Edmundson] through high school in the ‘60s. . . Sure to resonate deeply with readers.” —BookPage
“A worthwhile read. . . Teacher is written in two voices: Edmundson as a high school student and as an accomplished academic. . . [He] weaves these two conversations into a thoughtful and engaging memoir.” —Rocky Mountain News