Patriotic Lesson: What have our War Veterans Earned for Us?

A social studies classroom.

Image via Wikipedia

This newspaper story contributed by Murray Scott has been circulating for some time. The teacher is inspirational. More lessons like this will help change the attiude of the public and our children. However, we have since learned that the location and time is incorrect. This is the correct setting for the following story: Little Rock, Arkansas in 2005: BONNIE


On the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a Social Studies school teacher, did something not to be forgotten.

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

When the first period kids entered the room, 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 earn 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 desk-less classroom, Martha Cothren said, ‘Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he/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) War 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. 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.’

Please consider passing this along so others won’t forget that the freedoms we have in this great country were earned by War Veterans.


About Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen

Bonnie's Blog Posts invite our readers and free spirits everywhere to share life's adventures with us. I talk about writing my novels, reading books, chatting with other writers and John's and my journeys around the world. We welcome your anecdotes to our experiences and discussions.
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6 Responses to Patriotic Lesson: What have our War Veterans Earned for Us?

  1. This is a very powerful post! I am an American war veteran that spends considerable time speaking on the behalf of injured veterans. I can not tell you how much veterans around the world appreciate little acts like this. I was once told by a great friend (even better soldier) that the greatest reward he received for his service did not go on his uniform. He said it was not the “Thank you” he got over and over again from people he met. He told me that the greatest reward was the self-satisfaction in knowing that another generation of his fellow countrymen would be afforded the same opportunities that he was. He told me that he wanted to take the freedom he had been given and merely preserve it for the next generation.

    That type of self-humility and sense of responsibility still speaks volumes to me today. Thank you for posting this great article.

  2. Thank you for responding, Anthony. I received the story from another war veteran because I had not read about it.

    Politically correct Canada has discouraged instilling patriotism in its students since, in the late 1980s, provinces banned morning exercises that included singing the national anthem, reading the Bible and saying The Lord’s Prayer — courts ruled these acts contravened Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. So, this teacher’s ingenius approach is even more outstanding, as is her support from her principal, superintendent and building supervisor for allowing her unique lesson.

    • hoeech says:

      While I applaud what this teacher did to instill an appreciation for what our vets have done for our nation, I have to disagree with your position on prayer and Bible readings in public school classrooms. Why would Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist children want to read from the Bible when it has nothing to do with their beliefs? Would you be as open to the idea of reading from the Quran or the Torah in class? Teaching our kids the value of the sacrifices of our vets is a noble and necessary thing, but religion should be left to the families of the children and their community’s spiritual leaders.

  3. This IS a true story (sort of). Except that instead of taking place in Bobcaygeon, Ontario in 2011, it took place in Little Rock, Arkansas in 2005:

    So, it’s a nice story, and apparently true, in the method a teacher used. But it seems like a cynical misuse of it by suggesting that it happened at a Canadian school, and so is relevant to Canadian Remembrance Day, because it didn’t.

    It would have been more convincing if you had actually changed the name of the teacher — because Martha Cothren is the name of the teacher in Arkansas — and a few of the details of the event. As it is, by simply cutting and pasting in the name of a Canadian town, you negate the power of the story.

    You say schools have discouraged instilling patriotism. But is it any more ethical to simply copy an event that happened elsewhere and transpose it into a Canadian context?

  4. Greg Thurston says:

    Thank you Michael for pointing out the correction, and for the good points you made. It is not clear where the Canadianization actually originated, and perhaps not with this site, but it bothers me too, for the reasons you cite. I hope that it gets changed to reflect the actual facts.

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