This past September, the Texas Board of Education proposed changes to be made to curriculums of schools in the state. Their goal was to create a curriculum that would help the students understand themselves as people, as well as understand the world around them. One of the changes they wanted to make had to do with the social studies curriculum for the students, which was focused on citizenship and made use of important figures from American history. The board aimed to remove Helen Keller, along with other figures, from the current curriculum to save time in the schools. The preliminary vote approved the removal of Helen Keller from the curriculum, inciting protests against this decision. This kind of problem may seem trivial to some, but it is a serious concern for those who have seen Helen Keller as a role model in history. Why is Helen Keller so important to them?
Helen Keller was a woman who broke down barriers despite being deaf and blind. She lost her hearing and sight when she became sick as an infant. Despite her disability, she pushed to communicate with the people around her. She learned sign language using her sense of touch and learned to read Braille. Her teacher, Anne Sullivan, supported her through school and college. During her time, it seemed impossible for a deaf-blind person to be able to go to college, but that didn’t stop her. She went to Radcliffe College, a women’s college within Harvard University. As a college student, she pursued her passion of writing by publishing her famous autobiography, The Story of My Life. Her career as an author expanded to books, newspaper articles, essays and many speeches. Helen Keller went on to become the first deaf-blind person to graduate with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree. She used her passion for writing as an asset for activism towards various social causes; she supported women’s rights, labor rights, and disability rights. She would travel around the world, speaking about her experiences and pushed for more support to be given to people with disabilities. Even though Helen Keller is no longer with us, she has become a role model not only for many deaf and blind students, but also many people with disabilities.
The decision is not set in stone yet, and there are consequences if this proposal gets approved. Helen Keller was a exemplary citizen and activist, whose life experience and personal struggles carry significant value for students to learn about disabilities and success despite obstacles. Keller’s history helps open the conversation about disability and morality, it encourages the students to ask questions about how she was able to accomplish so many things in her life despite not being able to hear or see. If the proposal is passed, the schools will be taking a large step back in teaching disabilities to the students. Instead of taking Helen Keller out of the curriculum, more stories about people with disabilities should be taught inside the classroom. These stories teach students about the different ways that they can help create an inclusive environment for people with different circumstances, consequently broadening their views not only on disability, but also on figures with diverse backgrounds. We should fight for a curriculum that shows students that it is acceptable to be different in their world.
Helen Keller’s ability to get a ‘traditional’ education without the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is fascinating and admirable. Her story has inspired people to pursue careers to aid and support people with disabilities, who, despite being as important as abled people, are not always given the voices that they are entitled to. The Texas Board of Education doesn’t realize that they are making a move that sets them back, and that teaching stories such as Keller’s motivates students to become better people, better friends, and ultimately, better citizens. Helen Keller is an important part of American history as her story shows the strides that she took to be able to give her opinion and share her story. Deleting Helen Keller from the curriculum is a great disservice to her and everyone in the disability community.