Co-Founding the ACLU, Fighting for Labor Rights and Other Helen Keller Accomplishments Students Don’t Learn in School


While the world marked International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Dec. 3, the history of people with specials needs is still not completely taught in schools. In the U.S., if American schoolchildren find out about any individual with impairments, they discover that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once had polio and utilized a wheelchair in workplace, and they learn more about Deafblind activist Helen Keller. A lot of students learn that Keller, born June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Ala., was left blind and deaf after contracting a high fever at 19 months, which her teacher Anne Sullivan taught her braille, lip-reading, finger spelling and ultimately, how to speak. Trainees might see the Oscar-winning 1962 motion picture The Miracle Worker, which illustrates these milestones as miraculous. Keller has become a worldwide symbol for kids to overcome any barrier. At the U.S. Capitol, there is even a bronze statue of 7-year-old Keller at a water pump, influenced by the movies representation of a genuine turning point in Kellers life in which she recognizes water coming out of the pump after Sullivan spells the word “water” into the childs hand. Nevertheless, there is still a lot about her life and her accomplishments that many individuals do not understand.

Without any sort of controversial overtones to it.DESCRIPTION: Image of Helen Keller typing.GEORGINA KLEEGE: Its like Helen Keller worked tough and she got educatedDESCRIPTION: Image of Helen Keller in cap and gown.GEORGINA KLEEGE: and thats all we require to know.DESCRIPTION: Montage of images of Helen Keller throughout her life.DESCRIPTION: Montage of special needs rights activists.TEXT: The History You Didnt LearnTEXT: The Full Story of Helen KellerDESCRIPTION: Image of Helen Keller as a child.NARRATOR: Pretty much everybody learns about Helen Keller in school. From picture books to the film The Miracle Worker.DESCRIPTION: Scene from The Miracle Worker.NARRATOR: Shes a staple in kidss education but we onlyDESCRIPTION: Image of water pump.NARRATOR: learn about one aspect of a multifaceted and complex person.DESCRIPTION: Image of Helen Keller.HABEN GIRMA: The dominant story about Helen Keller is not by Helen Keller.DESCRIPTION: Disability Rights Lawyer Haben Girma speaking.HABEN GIRMA: Its by spotted, hearing people putting forth Helen Kellers story.DESCRIPTION: Footage of Haben Girma at the White House.NARRATOR: Haben Girma is a disability rights attorney who is also Deafblind.DESCRIPTION: Image of Haben Girma and her dog.NARRATOR: For Girma, getting Helen Kellers story right is personal.DESCRIPTION: Footage of Helen Keller as a kid with her teacher.HABEN GIRMA: The story focuses on her being 6, 7 years old and things taking place to her. For Helen Keller, it was all of a piece.DESCRIPTION: Montage of images of Helen Keller and confidants.HABEN GIRMA: You cant promote for impairment rights if youre not also promoting for racial justice and gender equality.DESCRIPTION: Helen Keller getting a pin at a ceremony.NARRATOR: Critics of Helen Keller point to one significant exception in her advocacy for individuals with disabilities.DESCRIPTION: Image of Helen Keller typing.NARRATOR: She was as soon as an advocate of eugenics, a now-reviled school of idea that looked for to improve human populations by breeding out particular qualities, like for example specific disabilities.DESCRIPTION: Image of Helen Keller typing.HELEN SELSDON: Thats absolutely real. We need to forgive individuals when they acknowledge theyve made mistakes.DESCRIPTION: Image of Helen Keller looking out of the window.DESCRIPTION: Image of Helen Keller at a radio station.NARRATOR: Still, Helen Kellers prominence is another pointer of how our American history typically focuses on the stories of rich white people.DESCRIPTION: Footage of Helen Keller at event.DESCRIPTION: Anita Cameron speaking.ANITA CAMERON: I dont have a point of view on Helen Keller. Helen Keller is definitely not the only impairment rights champion we ought to be discovering aboutDESCRIPTION: Montage of images of Helen Keller and impairment rights activists.NARRATOR: but finding out about her work and her activism more totally is a step towards understanding the contributions so many other disabled Americans have actually made and continue to make to our shared history.GEORGINA KLEEGE: She was born in 1880, and she passed away in 1968 and it was an extremely long life.DESCRIPTION: Footage of Helen Keller listening to music.HELEN KELLER: That was beautiful!DESCRIPTION: Montage video of Helen Keller.GEORGINA KLEEGE: So I think when we forget about the causes that she supported it does damage to our understanding about disability.DESCRIPTION: Montage of images of Helen Keller.HABEN GIRMA: Some people have a complex relationship with Helen Keller, because shes been forced on us a function model to never grumble, which is not true.

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” Since society only depicts Helen Keller as a little woman, a great deal of individuals unconsciously discover to infantilize handicapped adults. And Ive been dealt with like a child. Many disabled adults have been treated like kids,” Girma says. “That makes it hard to get a job, to be treated with respect, to get excellent quality education and health care as a grownup.” Or just recall at what Keller herself articulated in her 1926 narrative My Key of Life about the effect of inclusive education: “The highest result of education is tolerance.” RECORDS
Without any sort of questionable overtones to it.DESCRIPTION: Image of Helen Keller typing.GEORGINA KLEEGE: Its like Helen Keller worked tough and she got educatedDESCRIPTION: Image of Helen Keller in cap and gown.GEORGINA KLEEGE: and thats all we require to know.DESCRIPTION: Montage of images of Helen Keller throughout her life.DESCRIPTION: Montage of impairment rights activists.TEXT: The History You Didnt LearnTEXT: The Full Story of Helen KellerDESCRIPTION: Image of Helen Keller as a child.NARRATOR: Pretty much everyone discovers about Helen Keller in school. For Helen Keller, it was all of a piece.DESCRIPTION: Montage of images of Helen Keller and confidants.HABEN GIRMA: You cant promote for special needs rights if youre not also promoting for racial justice and gender equality.DESCRIPTION: Helen Keller getting a pin at a ceremony.NARRATOR: Critics of Helen Keller point to one notable exception in her advocacy for individuals with disabilities.DESCRIPTION: Image of Helen Keller typing.NARRATOR: She was once an advocate of eugenics, a now-reviled school of idea that sought to enhance human populations by breeding out particular traits, like for example specific disabilities.DESCRIPTION: Image of Helen Keller typing.HELEN SELSDON: Thats absolutely real. Helen Keller is definitely not the only impairment rights champ we should be learning aboutDESCRIPTION: Montage of images of Helen Keller and special needs rights activists.NARRATOR: but finding out about her work and her activism more completely is a step towards understanding the contributions so many other handicapped Americans have made and continue to make to our shared history.GEORGINA KLEEGE: She was born in 1880, and she passed away in 1968 and it was a really long life.DESCRIPTION: Footage of Helen Keller listening to music.HELEN KELLER: That was beautiful!DESCRIPTION: Montage video footage of Helen Keller.GEORGINA KLEEGE: So I think when we forget about the causes that she supported it does damage to our understanding about disability.DESCRIPTION: Montage of images of Helen Keller.HABEN GIRMA: Some individuals have a complicated relationship with Helen Keller, because shes been required on us a role design to never ever grumble, which is not true.

What scholars of disability explain is that when trainees discover Helen Keller, they frequently learn about her efforts to communicate as a kid, and not about the work she did as a grownup. This limited instruction has implications for how trainees perceive people with specials needs. If trainees learn about any of Kellers achievements as an adult, they find out that she ended up being the very first Deafblind graduate of Radcliffe College (now Harvard University) in 1904, and worked for American Foundation for the Blind from the mid-1920s till her death in 1968, promoting for schools for the blind and braille reading products. They dont discover that she co-founded the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920; that she was an early advocate of the NAACP, and a challenger of lynchings; that she was an early supporter of birth control. Sascha Cohen, who teaches American Studies at Brandeis University, and composed the 2015 TIME article “Helen Kellers Forgotten Radicalism”, argues that Kellers participation in workers rights can assist trainees understand the roots of the workers rights and inequality issues that persist today: “The Progressive Era when she was sort of working politically in various companies was a duration of quick industrialization and so there were these brand-new conditions in which employees underwent this sort of increased inequality and even danger and danger physically. She pointed out that a lot of times people went blind from accidents on the store floor. She saw this real kind of imbalance in power in between the employees … and the sort of what we would call the 1% or the extremely couple of owners and supervisors at the top who were making use of the employees.” A few of the factor schools dont teach much about Kellers adult life is because she was associated with groups that have been viewed as too extreme throughout American history. She was a member of the Socialist Party, and corresponded with Eugene Debs, the celebrations most popular member and a five-time presidential candidate. She likewise checked out Marx, and her associations with all of these far-left groups landed her on the radar of the FBI, which monitored her for ties to the Communist Party.

Write to Olivia B. Waxman at [email protected] and Arpita Aneja at [email protected]

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To some Black impairment rights activists, like Anita Cameron, Helen Keller is not radical at all, “simply another, regardless of specials needs, privileged white person,” and yet another example of history informing the story of fortunate white Americans. Soon after the board opened the draft for public remark, Haben Girma, a Black special needs rights legal representative and the very first Deafblind Harvard Law School graduate, was one of numerous who spoke out on the significance of mentor Helen Keller. Girma concurs that more need to be done to teach the full life and profession of Helen Keller, and encourages students to check out more of her writings to discover more about who she was as a grownup.


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