How a US teacher showed – not told – a crucial history lesson

In honor of US Independence Day, here is the true story of how a schoolteacher from Robinson High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, USAgave the most graphic and powerful history lesson I’ve ever heard of. Please share it on: thousands, if not millions more school children could learn something very valuable from it.  

HTWB US vets

This was shared with me by Janet M, my cousin and a special needs teacher in Toronto. (Original author unknown, but this has been verified as a true story by Snopes.com.)

A history lesson no-one could ever forget

In September of 2005, Martha Cothren, a social studies 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 in her classroom.

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

‘Ms. Cothren, where are our desks?’

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

They thought, ‘well, maybe it’s our grades.’

‘No,’ she said.

‘Maybe it’s our behaviour.’

She told them, ‘No, it’s not even your behaviour.’

And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period.

Still no desks in the classroom

Kids 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 room.

The final period of the day came and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the desk-less 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.

27 US military veterans, all in uniform, 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.’

‘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.’

By the way, this is a true story. And this teacher was awarded Veterans of Foreign Wars Teacher of the Year in 2006. She is the daughter of a WWII POW (Prisoner Of War).

Do you think this is worth passing along so others won’t forget either, that the freedoms we have in this great country were earned by our veterans?

I did.

Let us always remember the men and women of our military and the rights they have won for us

I agree … and not just for students in the USA, either. Sz.

Let’s talk – drop Suze a note for a chat on suze@suzanstmaur.com

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