Here's a small mental experiment to have fun with.
Take today, March 20, 2014, the Spring Quinox. About a century ago, Albert Einstein just published his Theory of Relativity. General MacArthur dropped into Australia to tell them, “I came out of Bataan and I shall return.” And in 1995, Japan suffered its brush with domestic terror with the Sarin Gas Attack.
What was the reality in 1776? Well, Slavery, including White Bondage, was alive and well. Torture in jail was commonplace, as were arrests for having debts filled the prisons. A popular and profitable trade topoic, human flesh was rarely ever so abused (except by church activities in Europe over the proceeding centuries).
Travel was problematic, with coastal voyages being for more preferable to dangerous and difficult paths further inland. Sewers were a rarity, running water a dream, and heat and light were provided by hours of toil and sweat (coal, coke, pete, whale oil, chopped wood).
There was an abundance of Indian Corn, roots, game, fish, and other healthy foodstuffs; at the same time, the still was operating in all 13 colonies at all hours of the day and night. Alcohol, and alcohol abuse, were common. If you were employed, you worked long hours, even longer during the summer, 6 days a week. No vacations, no holidays, no time off for any reason. By long hours, I mean 12-14 hours a day. Each day. Every day.
Newspapers were rare, and most were expensive. Libraries were either private or did not exist. News was most often carried by story-telling travelers, town criers, and rumor. Weekly Gazettes were probably the most read and shared with friends and family. While there were some educational efforts, especially among the yute, the whole of the 13 Colonies sported only three colleges or universities: Harvard, Yale and William and Mary.
Post Offices were just coming into vogue, and quickly became the centers of travel and society.
Education was something you mainly did on your own. If you had the time and the means.
So, imagine someone like Ben Franklin coming to your door, rapping loudly with his walking stick (The idea of doorbells would not arrive for at least 50 years). You invite him in and now, you have one week to acquaint him with modern life of his country. What would you do?
While the flavors Ben dealt with were strong, gamey even, given the sources, there wasn't much in terms of variety. I think each meal I would serve would be a small global trip, Viet Namese, Mandarin, Mexican, Russian, our ideas of French, and of course, the infamous Big Mac and Fries.
The variety will shock him. I wonder how he would feel about really nasty food.
Ben was a big reader. I have one of the last copies of Encyclopedia Brittanica, just before they discontinued paper versions and went solely online. There would be a good place to start. But that is dry, too much to handle, and impossible to digest without someone to explain context.
So, a couple of historical novels, some mysteries, and maybe a Rex Stout, Anton Chekov, Phillip K Dick, a couple Robert Parker, Grisham, Agatha Christie, and a few other popular writers would do far more to educate and stretch his concept of modern society than EB alone.
TV & Movies
Gone with the Wind.
2001 A Space Odyssey
Star Wars IV
The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly
Cosmos (both the old one and Neil's gems)
60 Minutes (vintage ones)
maybe 3-4 hours max of any military channel, with planes, tanks, and warships.
Lists, more lists, and hands on demonstration, starting with the toilet, and ending with the bathtub. A strong education about clothes washing, daily hygiene, and more.
At some point, Ben will either go crazy or start laughing at our own foibles and idiocies. I would hope it would be the latter, but there are no guarantees. Life today is so different on so many levels, that he might need a vacation from all of the above. That's when I hit him with the iPad, and show him how to use it, starting with games, and ending with Pages. And Safari.
I would imagine that along this process, I would learn as much, or nearly as much as Ben would learn about us. I wonder which world he would pick should he be given such a choice. For myself, If I could travel in time, it would always be forward. And then some more, and then, even further.