Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

"Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready." - Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Martha Cothren Teaches Her Students "Freedom Is Not Free"


This story has everything to do with, as former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee put it, "the cost of things taken for granted and the debt owed to those in the armed forces."

In September of 2005, Martha Cothren, a History teacher at Robinson High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, did something her students will never forget.

On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she had all of the desks in her classroom removed.

When the first period kids entered the classroom, they discovered that there were no desks other than the teacher's. The classroom was vacant of all desks for them to sit.

"Ms. Cothren, where are our desks?" the students asked.

She replied, "You can’t have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk?"

One student said, "It’s our grades."

"No," she said.

"Our behavior." said another student.

Martha Cothren told them, "No, it’s not even your behavior." 

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

The students called their parents to tell them what was happening and by early afternoon television news crews had started gathering at the school to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her classroom.

The final period of the day came and again like the other periods the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the vacant classroom. 

Finally Martha Cothren explained why there were no desks on their first day of class. She 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. 

Twenty-seven (27) U.S. Veterans, all in uniform, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. One by one the Vets began placing the school desks in rows. After each had positioned a desk, they would then walk over and stand at alongside a wall in the classroom. 

By the time the last Veteran 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.

But if they didn't get it, this was one teacher who would make sure they do.

Martha Cothren informed the class, "You didn’t earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you.  They went halfway around the world, giving up their education and interrupting their careers and families so you could have the freedom you have.  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."

This is a true story. I first heard about this in an e-mail. I checked it out and found out that it really took place. 

Martha Cothren is the daughter of a World War II POW and regularly has veterans visit her classroom. It's one of the ways she teaches her course on the history of WorldWar II and the Vietnam War. Besides teaching events and dates, she teaches an appreciation for our 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 World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, and the Iraq War attended, as did the students, parents and the community in general, all to honor those who had served. During that week, students videotaped veterans as they recounted their war memories, thus preserving their stories for later generations.

Martha 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 recognition for her great works, Martha Cothren was voted "Teacher of the Year" by the VFW in 2006.

In his March 2nd, 2007 address to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, DC., former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee related the story, the lesson, Martha Cothren taught her students.

In his speech, he recounted what took place on that first day of classes in Fall of 2005 for students enrolled in Martha Cothren's history class at Joe T. Robinson High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

He said, "Martha Cothren's classroom was indeed devoid of desks on that first day of instruction, with the missing furniture borne in at the end of the day by a group of veterans. Each veteran 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."

At the 2008 Republican National Convention, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee again referenced Martha Cothren and the story of what she did.

I first heard about this in an e-mail. I checked it out and found out that it really took place. Most all of the information above has been compiled from different sources,

In a time when there are some teachers who would rather teach their students to stomp on the American Flag, America needs more teachers like Martha Cothren who teach why we should love America and respect our Veterans.

All teachers should instruct their students, as former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said, "on the cost of things taken for granted and the debt owed to those in the armed forces."

The above article was sent to me. I hope you didn't mind me sharing it with you.

Best Regards,
Tom Correa

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