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You can choose any person from history to teach you any topic you want. Who’s your teacher, and what do they teach you?

That’s a hard choice — so many fine people, so many great ideas. I guess the question is what do I need to know, what do I need to learn. What would give me enjoyment and enlightenment, and what type of teacher would inspire me? The following are some people I though about for different reasons:

Take for example Vincent Van Gogh, Leonardo Da Vinci, or Michelangelo, (I love art); their focus, single-mindedness, and egos would prevent them, I think, from being good teachers.

While I really like Plato’s Republic, and find it still relevant, I would find many philosophers too wrapped up in their own deep thinking to be able to teach what they know best — or think they know. Philosophy is after all an amorphous subject. I often wonder too if making a career of trying to find form, shape, and purpose for man’s existence isn’t a bit egotistical. We human beings are meant to DO, not just think, even though we have an obligation to be educated enough to make good decisions.

I often marvel that Jesus lived on this earth a short time; he left us with many lessons and advice on how to treat others. We have a Bible that gives us historical and spiritual background, and an elucidation of his teaching by those who passed along their knowledge of him as well as specific writings like Paul’s letters. Jesus was a practical man. Yes he preached and entered into religious/philosophical dialogue with other learned men, but the point was to apply his teachings to our relationships with others. Christianity is an action program. Yet looks at the tons of tomes that have been published by philosophers and theologians on Christianity (in narrow and broad terms). I don’t know how such a body of work could have come out of a relatively short life and common sense, basic moral teachings about God and his Son (and the Holy Spirit).

There’s the saying we all know, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Thus I would choose as my teacher Benjamin Franklin. He was not only a practical problem-solver (which should be a goal of all education), but he never lost his curiosity. He was dedicated to finding answers. He brooded over problems and how they could best be solved. He established fire companies, post offices, fraternal organizations, scientific exchange of ideas. He didn’t just want to find out IF electricity existed — that was known — put how to harness it and prevent its destructive tendencies. His inventions were designed to solve problems, and for that gaining a good deal of scientific knowledge was required.

He was a loyalist (to the Crown) until it became obvious that course of action was no longer viable, then he turned his organizational talents to preparing his city, colony and his country for independence.  He wanted to maintain the relationship with Great Britain and offered many solutions to problems that existed between the administration of the colonies and their Protectors, but few met with approval. He shared his knowledge freely and globally to contribute to a growing body of knowledge in different areas.

Franklin quoteI think a lot could be gained from being taught by Ben Franklin. He was not only a doer but a thinker and a teacher (in the broadest sense). He had the ability to be flexible in this thinking and readjust when facts or other discoveries put his ideas into question. I am deficient in science and math and I think he could do a lot to educate me and pique my interest in those areas as no other teach has ever done. He had a local and an international view. His “philosophies” came out of real-life experiences. His god was “Good”, doing the right thing and furthering the interests of and in the common man. He did not place himself above others, but knew well what he did not know and was always the student — as all teacher should be.