Lesson Learned (July 2)

On June 10, the Administrative Council for the Fred W. Eberle Technical Center made steps for the re-opening of classes at the Morton Avenue, Buckhannon campus. The technical education offered is more hands-on and practical, so the role of experienced teachers is vital to the learning process. Learning takes place by students looking over the shoulder of their teachers doing skillful tasks. It is similar to my experience studying medicine—we observed, did a clinical treatment under supervision, then we performed alone. 

My Lesson Learned is a reflection on Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790). Throughout his life, this great man referred to himself as a printer. Of course, Franklin was an American polymath and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. We know he played an important role in our US history; after all, his picture is on the $100 bill.

Franklin was the 10th son of 17 children. His father made soap and candles, considered to be one of the lowliest of the artisan crafts. At 12, he was apprenticed to his brother James, a printer. He mastered the printer’s trade between 1718 and 1723. He was proud of this mastery to the end of his life.

Probably Benjamin Franklin is our most famous tradesman. Quite startling is the fact that he only had two years of formal education. Obviously, he was a lifelong learner. My lesson learned from the life of Ben Franklin is that any student pursuing a technical education should hold his/her head high. Maybe circumstances in life, like being the 10th of 17 children in a family, means starting life on the bottom rung of the ladder of life. However, this is the land of equal opportunity. Franklin finished life strong as a leading writer, printer, political philosopher, politician, Freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat.

Remember his famous discovery of electricity? And thanks to his foresight we have the Post Office. My favorite pursuit of Ben Franklin goes back to his printing trade, especially “Poor Richard’s Almanac.” He adopted the pseudonym “Richard Saunders” or “Poor Richard” for this endeavor. The Almanac was a perennial bestseller in early America. The colonist loved pithy sayings like:

“God helps them that help themselves.”

“When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.”

“When you’re good to others, you are best to yourself.”

“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

In closing, I must pay homage to a great teacher from Buckhannon-Upshur High School. Lynn Westfall, my junior-year English teacher, made time for me to read “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin” with him after school. What a learning experience! I know the wit and wisdom of Ben Franklin meant a lot to Mr. Westfall. He instilled that in me. Hopefully, I just passed on the same appreciation to you who read this column and to our current students at the Fred W. Eberle Technical Center.


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