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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Desk Jockey


Often glurge is long on inspiration and short on truth, so it is refreshing to encounter a story that reports the facts with little (if any) embellishment.

The story that now circulates in email was drawn from former Gov. of Arkansas Mike Huckabee’s March 2nd, 2007 address to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Wash. DC.  It recounts events from the first day of classes in Fall 2005 for students enrolled in Martha Cothren’s military history class at Joe T. Robinson High School in Little Rock.

Here is the story: 

A lesson that should be taught in all schools . . and colleges.
Back in September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a social studies school teacher at Robinson High School in Little Rock , did something not to be forgotten. On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal, and the building supervisor, she removed all of the desks out of her classroom.

When the first period kids entered her classroom they discovered that there were no desks.

'Ms. Cothren, where're our desks?'

She replied, 'You can't have a desk until you tell me how you have earned the right to sit at a desk.'

They thought, 'Well, maybe it's our grades.'

'No,' she said.

'Maybe it's our behavior.'

She told them, 'No, it's not even your behavior.'

And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period. Still no desks in the classroom.

By early afternoon television news crews had started gathering in Ms. Cothren's classroom to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room.

The final period of the day came and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the deskless classroom, Martha Cothren said, 'Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he or she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I am going to tell you.'

At this point, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it.

Hardearnedmedals Twenty-seven (27) U.S. Veterans, all in uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The Vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then they would walk over and stand alongside the wall. By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place those kids started to understand, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned..

Martha said, 'You didn't earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. Now, it's up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens. They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. Don't ever forget it.'

By the way, this is a true story.

Please consider passing this story along so others won't forget that the freedoms we have in this great country were earned by our proud and courageous U. S. Veterans.


With the missing furniture borne in at the end of the day by a group of veterans, each vet carried a desk and set it down, as the teacher gave her lesson on the cost of things taken for granted and the debt owed to those in the armed forces. 

I wrote to Martha Cothren about that day and also about her military history class.  This daughter of a WWII POW regularly has veterans visit her classroom – it’s one of the ways she teaches her course on the history of WWII and the Vietnam War.  Her class doesn’t yet have a textbook (she is busy writing one), so she uses less typical methods of imparting knowledge about wars past and present to her students.  Part and parcel of what she teaches is an appreciation for the members of the armed forces.

In May 2005, she and her class organized a Vietnam Veterans Recognition Week, including an official “Thank you Ceremony” held in the Joe T. Robinson High School auditorium.  Veterans from WWII and the Korean War also attended, as did people from all walks of life, to honor those who have served our country.  During that week, students videotaped veterans as they recounted their war memories, thus preserving their stories for later generations.

Cothren and her students have sent numerous care packages to U.S. military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  They also write letters to soldiers in those theaters, sending off 1,200 missives in 2005-2006.

In 2006, the Veterans of Foreign Wars named Martha Cothren their “Teacher of the Year.”  I can understand why.  We need more teachers like Martha Cothren.  

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