Little Rock Central High School

The Names Not Etched in my Head Through the US Education System

This post is a bit off-topic from the usual fare here, but I wanted to share this experience because it was definitely thought-provoking, and since we know I like to share thought-provoking things around here, I’m sharing it.

On Monday, before leaving Little Rock, Arkansas we stopped at Little Rock Central High School. If you’re not familiar, this is the school where the Little Rock Nine were the first black students to attend the desegregated Little Rock school system, escorted in by US 101st Airborn troops.

There are nine benches around the pond in the photo above. They each have a name:

As I looked at the benches, it was obvious that these nine benches had the names of the Litte Rock Nine, but what I felt was not awe or anger about what they went through. Rather, it was a disappointment that I didn’t recognize a single one of those names. They were not etched into my brain the way other names in history were as a kid. Standing in front of the school facing nine names, I could suss out who they were. Looking at that list outside of that context, I would have had no idea who these people were. I was at once glad for the opportunity to visit the site and learn the details, and angry that those details were never really taught to me in school. (Yes, see also many other historic events, the Tulsa Massacre, the Stonewall riots, etc. that I learned about much after my formal education ended.)

This is the kind of history we should talk much more about, not less. It was not lost on me that just prior to this we visited a statehouse that is currently run by people who would rather not teach anyone about this history, that literally occurred just down the road. They don’t want kids to know that the good people of Little Rock once voted to shut down the schools for a year rather than give up segregated schools and blamed the Federal government for kids not being able to go to school.

Take a few moments and think about that. People in power would rather burn it all to the ground than share that power. They would rather not send their own kids to school than give the kids of the unempowered group an assist in getting the same education. And it will always be someone else’s fault.

The parallels to current events are not hard to see.

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” – George Santayana

To some in this world today, that quote isn’t a warning, but a playbook.


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