Recently, a gentleman by the name of Robert West called, praising our efforts to carry on since the passing of founder, editor, mentor Ed Barker. He said that he is still a dedicated reader, but he misses Ed. “When he wrote about ‘being human,’ civility and common sense, it helped me to see that there was still kindness in the world; that the fight was still worth it.”
At the end of the conversation, he asked if we’d consider re-running some of those editorials that lift the human spirit up and make people smile.
Mr. West, we hear you. And we miss Ed, too. This reprint is dedicated to you. Thank you for your kind words. We hope you enjoy the article. And we promise it won’t be the last rerun. Ed Barker will always be a big part of our News Staff; his words continue to guide us, even as we move into new projects and broader venues. We will always strive to make “Papa” proud!
Stand and Deliver
By Ed Barker
It’s the policy of Arkansas schools to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each morning at the start of classes. Ms. Martha Cothren, a social studies teacher at Joe T. Robinson High School in Little Rock, was having trouble getting her students to stand during the pledge, so, with the permission of her principal, Ms. Cothren had all the desks removed from her classroom on the first day of school in 2005.
I learned of this event when a friend emailed me about it last week. I called Ms. Cothren and we talked on the phone for a few minutes. Nice lady.
She told me the students came into first period and there were no desks. They looked around and said, “Ms. Cothren, where’s our desks?”
She told them, “You can’t have a desk until you tell me how you earn them.”
They thought for a while and finally said, “Well, maybe it’s our grades.”
“No,” she said. “It’s not your grades.”
“Maybe it’s our behavior.”
“No, it’s not your behavior.”
The students then stood while saying the pledge and spent their first period without desks.
Second period, the same thing, and third period and so on. By early afternoon, local television crews had gathered outside of Ms. Cothren’s class to find out about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of the classroom.
Ms. Cothren’s students attended classes all day, sitting on the floor or standing around the sides of the room. Then came the last period of the day.
During her last class, Ms. Cothren finally announced to the classroom, “Now I’m going to explain to you how you earn those desks.”
She went over and opened the door of her classroom, and, as she did, 27 U.S. military veterans, wearing their uniforms, walked into the classroom, each one carrying a school desk. They placed the school desks neatly in rows, and then stood along the walls as the students took their seats.
After the room quieted down, Ms. Cothren explained, “The fact is, you don’t have to earn those desks. These guys did it for you. They paid a price for you to have these desks, and you have the responsibility to be good citizens and stand when you say the Pledge of Allegiance.”
Ms. Cothren, whose father was a P.O.W. in Germany in World War II, reminded her students and all who hear this story, that we enjoy our freedoms because of ordinary people who do extraordinary things.
I’ve lived in Apache Junction for a long, long time and can vouch that it’s one of the most patriotic communities in the country. I’ll bet most people who are reading this column feel a blush of pride.
We have the “Trail of Flags” here and an annual Veterans Day Parade that’s much bigger than many larger cities. Hardly anyone in Apache Junction would sit through the Pledge of Allegiance, and knowing all that makes me wonder why almost 90 percent of the voters sat through last month’s election.
We’ve got another election in May. Don’t sit through that one.
You don’t earn the right to vote. Just like Ms. Cothren’s desks, if you’re not a veteran, someone else has done that for you.
*Remember to vote in the Primary on August 28, 2018. Several local candidate races will be decided then!