In Defense Of Helen Keller
September 21, 2018
Speaking on behalf of at least HALF of the nation's third through fifth graders, I will today address what is arguably one of the most egregious educational injustices since the elimination of teeter-totters from the nation's school playgrounds.
I'm referring to the Texas State Board of Education's plan to remove Helen Keller from its history books. And because publishers tend to cater to Texas' requirements, maybe your history books, too.
We need to stop this right now. I'll tell you why.
OK, so remember grade school history class, which they called social studies, which I think was so the teacher could tell us we wouldn't have to memorize dates, which our parents appreciated?
Still, how much time did we spend, year after year, learning about Eli Whitney and his cotton gin, all with little or no understanding of: (choose one)
a) what a cotton gin was
b) why it was covered in a different chapter than George Washington Carver's 300 peanut-related inventions
c) which were WAY more impressive
d) but still
e) all of the above
My point is, a young person must endure a lot in social studies class. Take for example, battles. There were so many to keep track of. Not to mention kings. Henry VIII. George III. Alexander the Great. Peter the Great. Catherine the Great.
Let's be honest: they weren't all that great.
But we persevered. And why? Because we knew that, come springtime, all the various revolutions and wars and dynasties would be behind us, and we would come to the page in the book with the picture of the backyard water pump. The one that Anne Sullivan used when she spelled out the word W-A-T-E-R into Helen's wet palm, and Helen miraculously learned the meaning of words.
It was – and I'm not just saying this to spite the Texas Board of Education – the best page in the entire social studies book.
It taught you about overcoming obstacles. It taught you about discrimination against people with disabilities. It taught you how to operate a pump.
The fact that it teaches multiple lessons is important. That is the problem with school today: there is so much more to learn than there used to be.
That's why schools have to learn to double dip. For example, I firmly believe young people will gain a better grasp of early American history AND rap if schools just combined their music and history classes and taught children the score of "Hamilton."
Of course, schools can't teach everything. But instead of removing Helen Keller, let's cut something less consequential. Like stalagmites. Also, stalactites. No one can remember which is which without looking it up, anyway. And if you ever go in a cave, they're going to have signs that tell you.
In conclusion: think, Texas Board of Education, think.