Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 23, 2014

Would love to have taught Anne Frank

By James Turner | Nov 21, 2013

To the editor:

If I were to be asked who I would have liked to have had for a student it would be Anne Frank.

Why, you might ask? Because she represents for me the kind of student I always enjoyed teaching – curious, enthusiastic, smart, engaged, challenging on every level and full of the right kind of spirit: a free spirit with lots of surprising and interesting traits, a person who is still open to change and growth in an innocent and unassuming way – meaning that she is still a child, not at all cynical or jaded but full of questions and not ready to just accept what she is told.

I can think of more reasons since I just finished her biography “Anne Frank” by Melissa Müller, which is wonderful by the way. Anne Frank was a Jew, of course, a German Jew who hid from the Nazis in an Amsterdam suite of offices at the back of a factory used for her father’s business interests.

Anne represents so much more than her story might suggest on the face of it. She represents humanity, all of humanity, but especially all the children who might otherwise have lived a full life and contributed so much to the lives of others, children who face the worst of humanity’s failings and civilization’s cruelty and injustice. But as she once wrote so memorably in her diary, she never lost faith in humanity because she believed “In spite of it all, people are good at heart.” Simple enough.

I would add to her story the importance of her parents: her mother Edith who died at about the same time as Anne, and her father, Otto, who survived to publish her diary and who faced enormous challenges in doing so. Her father and mother made it possible for Anne to hold to her ideals. Their love for her and her sister Margot sustained them through the worst of their suffering and deprivation. It was Otto Frank who was left with the enormous responsibility of Anne’s legacy – the legacy of the words she wrote in her diary so many years ago. He more than lived up to that responsibility. It is beyond admirable what he did. He preserved a masterpiece for the ages. It is now and always will be an inestimable contribution to our civilization, indeed, to humanity itself.

I can’t help but think that it would have been an endless joy of discovery to witness her progress, her realization of her goals and dreams and the fulfillment of her enormous potential as a writer but also, of course, as a human being. A teacher always gains more than his students and learns more, too, from each and every one them. The best students make you want to be a better teacher, a better teacher for them. Although she died many years ago, Anne Frank is still able to inspire those ideas in me. I can only think of what might have been possible if she had lived.

 

– James Turner, Fairfield

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