object lesson

a practical or concrete illustration of a principle.


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World English Dictionary
object lesson
1.  a convincing demonstration of some principle or ideal
2.  (esp formerly) a lesson in which a material object forms the basis of the teaching and is available to be inspected

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Example sentences
If the series offers an object lesson in how to elevate the tone of public
  discourse, all the better, its creators say.
The experience of the past year is an object lesson in the limited power of
Now it's virtually an object lesson in how not to make a movie out of a theater
That's our object lesson for today's space environment.
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