September 21, 2007

The Price Of A Desk


I know that we find humor in a lot of things when it comes to kids, and the things they've learned, (or not) but I know that they are capable of learning valuable lessons, especially when they are blessed with teachers like the one in this story. A friend shared it with me, and I think that it is worth sharing with you.


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 permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she took all of the desks out of the classroom.

The kids came into first period, they walked in, there were no desks. They obviously looked around and said, "Ms. Cothren, where's our desk?"

Ms. Cothren said, "You can't have a desk until you tell me how you earn them."

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

"No," she said. "Maybe it's our behavior." And she told them, "No, it's not even your behavior."

And so they came and went in the first period, still no desks in the classroom. Second period, same thing, third period, no desks. By early afternoon television news crews had gathered in Ms. Cothren's class to find out about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of the classroom.

The last period of the day, Martha Cothren gathered her class. They were at this time sitting on the floor around the sides of the room. She said, "Throughout the day no one has really understood how you earn the desks that sit in this classroom, ordinarily." She said, "Now I'm going to tell you."

Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it, and as she did, 27 U.S. veterans, wearing their uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. And they placed those school desks in rows, and then they stood along the wall.

And by the time they had finished placing the desks, those kids for the first time, I think perhaps in their lives, understood how they earned those desks.

Martha said, "You don't have to earn those desks. These guys did it for you. They put them out there for you, but it's up to you to sit here responsibly to learn, to be good students and good citizens, because they paid a price for you to have that desk, and don't ever forget it."


I think that was a pretty valuable lesson taught by Martha Cothren, don't you?

18 comments:

Vin De Vine said...

What cost freedom?
I don't believe most people ever get past "free" when they look at that very large word.

Olivia Kroth said...

If you are looking at the protesters in front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., dear Jan, you might see that not all Americans think this way.

Are they "bad citizens" who do not earn a desk at school? If they pay their taxes correctly - which I hope they do - they earn a desk at school just like everybody else, because public education is paid by the citizen's taxes, no matter what they believe.

I think children should be brought up in a liberal spirit and be able to choose what they want to believe. They should not be brainwashed by teachers.

rockync said...

I'll bet those students looked at learning in a whole different light and will never forget their "history" lesson. We could use more teachers like Ms Cothern.

Jan said...

vin..I agree, and it is becoming more apparent by the day.

Jan said...

Olivia..that story was in no way about brainwashing, but about patriotism.

And the protesters in Washington,D.c.?

In this country, most do choose what they want to believe, and when they want to protest what others believe, they can do so without ending up in a gulag somewhere.

We have freedom of speech here, and it was bought and paid for with the lives of many brave Americans.

Most of us choose to honor them, and their sacrifice.

Jan said...

rockyn...amen to that! And I'm proud that I have the freedom to say, "amen."

Olivia Kroth said...

Hi Jan, thank you for answering me. I would like to ask you a few more questions:

If children only get a desk at school if they behave like good "patriots", there isn't much freedom of thought and speech left. What if these children refuse to be imbued by "patriotism"? What will happen to them? Will they have to stand in a corner, face to the wall? Or will they be expelled from school?

You Americans might have an unbroken, unchallenged view of "patriotism". We Germans - after our Nazi history - are mostly anything else but "patriots". We might be all kinds of things - for example intellectuals, liberals, greens, whatever - but certainly not "patriots". "Patriotism" has been a derogatory term in Germany since 1945. Only Neo-Nazis use it in a positive way.

sue said...

I agree, Vin.

Vin De Vine said...

I believe Jan's point was NOT that children must be patriotic to receive a desk, but just the opposite. In America every child is offered a "desk" or education whether they appreciate it or not. That education is not limited to public service either. Children have the right to pursue education privately or even home schooled if that is their families preference. The teacher in this article was merely making a point to her classroom that education IS NOT something to take lightly and should be given respect and enthusiastically embraced and not taken for granted.
Education is certainly more than classroom indoctination and I for one am not going to deny that a certain amount of that continues in our education system, but it is also the laying of a foundation for learning, supplying a fountain of information for thirsty minds. That requires free thinking, curious, motivated minds to go beyond every day knowledge and seek new wisdoms.
All this and more is made avialable my the sacrifices made by those students that came before. Soldiers, Sailors, historians, Scientists, Writers, and a myriad of other occupations that drive our society.
To me, that makes for a valuable and expensive desk.

GUYK said...

Yep, you Germans have always thought you had all the answers..and now you have a high rate of unemployment, no right to even own a firearm, pay church taxes even though you may not want to support a church, have absolutely no sense on manners..I spent time in Germany and saw the way the Germans refuse to stand in line and wait their turn and elbowed their way to the front.

Germany is the epitome of socialism...and the only difference in France and Germany is the language..and the Germans bath one a week and the French cover the smell with perfume.

This article was about the price that has to be paid for freedom..the price that the Americans and British..and for that matter the Soviets paid so that you can have your socialist Germany now...and the Americans spent Billions keeping the Soviets out of West Germany..and now I wonder if the world would not have been better off if the Americans had just let the Soviets have it and turn it into the lackluster economy that they built in E. Germany.

Yes indeed, Germany, a country that imports Turks for cheap labor but will not grant citizenship to even the Turks born in Germany..but will decry an article about an American school teacher trying to teach something about being a patriot. Well, I reckon that if I had been unfortunate to be born a German in Germany I would not want to be a patriot either..in fact I would be trying to get out as so many of the wise Germans have done..and I see that you Olivia are still there..and obviously teachinig the soicalist creed to the little square heads so they will grow up and follow the leader blindly..as the Germans have always done..

Yeah, I know Jan, I am attacking the messenger as well as the message. However I get pissed at the 'new Germans' who don't remember it was the Americans who built the W. German economy and kept the Soviets out for decades.

Jan said...

Vin..thank you for stating it so eloquently.

rockync said...

Leave it to guyk to just cut through all the crap! Not too "politically correct" there dude, but I have to agree with most of your observations. I think it's pretty tough for Europeans to understand Americans and our points of reference. Being a country built by rebels, we celebrate our rebels and encourage all citizens to think out of the box. The children in Ms Cothern's class did not get an indoctrination but rather a lesson designed to make them think, reflect and decide what its worth is to them. Our military has been upholding and defending our rights since the 1770's. I have the right to agree or disagree with current war issues and I have the right to cast my vote for change if I believe that's what is necessary. All Americans, whatever they believe should be united in the support of our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Olivia Kroth said...

Hi guyk,

I do not think that it is a bad thing not being able to carry a firearm. Who needs this? What for?

I am afraid, you are misinformed about church taxes in Germany. We do not have to pay any church taxes, if we do not want to.

Unfortunately, you are also misinformed about Turkish people in Germany. Many of them have German citizenship. Their children being born in Germany have German passports, too.

Also you are mistaken if you think that Socialists rule. We have a conservative government at the moment, with Mrs. Angela Merkel as Chancellor. Of course that might change again with the next election for Parliament.

I do not know, guyk, in which social circles you lived that you can say Germans bathe only once a week. The Germans I know bathe daily.

Can you read any German? You might read "Zeit online" or "Spiegel online" to update your antiquated views. By the way, they have an English section, too, for those who cannot read any German because we over here do not automatically suppose that we are God's chosen country and all the world has to understand our language automatically.

Most Germans also speak English and French, some speak Italian or Spanish. We try to keep an open mind and watch the world news. And we are also proud to be a member of the European Union.

Nancy said...

Leave it to a blogchild of K and Livey to stir up a storm across the seas........

LOL

Olivia, I don't carry a gun, but I don't mind if someone who wants to does. I do carry a knife or two, here and there. Comes in handy sometimes.

That's what the "right to bear arms" means.

And ain't "freedom of speech" a dandy thing too?

GUYK said...

Ah, the arrogance and snooty attitude of the Europeans..who have damn little to be arrogant about except a past when their ancestors were Romans..

Olivia Kroth said...

Hi Nancy,

you are right, let's calm down the storm across the seas.

Lydia said...

Olivia, Don't let anyone's insults get to you. You are a very smart, unique and kind person, who has tons of talent.

Jan said...

It would be a better world all around if we had the probity of children.