Why Isn’t Helen Keller a Bigger Deal?

My kids have never even heard of Helen Keller. Given the sort of topics that elementary schools emphasize these days (e.g., a few weeks back, it was national anti-bullying day; my 10-year-old has painstakingly spelled out “Save the Earth” on her bedroom door), shouldn’t Helen Keller be front and center in the curriculum?

I mean, think about it. She can neither see nor hear, yet somehow she graduates from Radcliffe, writes 22 books, and travels the globe giving public lectures (my father even saw her speak when he was in grade school).

She was a rabid socialist, but nobody’s perfect.

It doesn’t really even make sense to me how she pulled this off. The only thing that even brings it into the realm of plausibility is that she didn’t lose her sight and hearing until she was 19 months old, but still it is incredible. My graduate students can see and hear, but they can still barely give coherent public lectures. To their credit, at least they aren’t socialists.

Can anyone think of a single human’s accomplishment that is more remarkable than hers?

I think we need a modern adaptation of her life story on the big screen. If they can remake Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, why not The Miracle Worker?

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  1. Just saying says:

    If your kids don’t know who Helen Keller was then you’re not doing your job as a parent to educate them (don’t leave it up to the public schools to do that, they’ll just socialize your kids into being unthinking, uncritical, socialist, liberal Obamabots).

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    • Shep says:


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    • Noel711 says:

      What? Just saying??

      Don’t leave it up to public schools, after all they’ll just socialize your kids to be socialist, liberal…?

      You just described Helen Keller, and your ridiculous attitude is exactly the reason why Helen Keller
      isn’t held up as a role model. Yes, she was a socialist, a Union Supporter, a Wobblie;
      through her studies she saw the great inequalities of the world.

      Getting back to public schools, parents must play a role in educating their children, and supporting public schools. If you think your schools aren’t working, then get over there, say your peace, and do your part
      But don’t blame the teachers.

      I learned a lot about Helen Keller in my public school days. Sadly, there are far too many distractions for children, and suitable role models are lacking. Too bad some folks take issue with political leanings; children need to learn them all, and not by name-callilng, judging or disrespecting the president.

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    • David33957 says:

      To Just Saying: >> WHY must you bring politics and Obama into this question? He’s been president for about 25 months. Can you possibly add something constructive to this blog?

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    • cloudier says:

      >>don’t leave it up to religion to do that, they’ll just educate your kids into being believing, faithful, charitable Christians

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  2. ann says:

    Well, Johnny Depp would make an interesting Keller – or perhaps play the Annie Sullivan role?

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

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  3. Danb says:

    This is such a great point. There’s always a tone of admiration and amazement surrounding Helen Keller, but I think anything less than your reaction here is insufficient. With most accomplishments, one can map the steps in their head and imagine how the person/people did it. It’s impossible in Keller’s case and I just don’t get it.

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  4. Thaly Andrea says:

    Totally agree with you Steve!

    By the way, congrats on the new Freakonomics’ site.

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  5. Mike S says:

    Anne Sullivan’s?

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  6. Soquel by the Creek says:

    An excellent point.

    If she were alive today, she’d likely be exploited for political purposes.

    However, despite being a rabid socialist, the Left probably would disown her because she proves in the flesh that a person can overcome incredible obstacles to obtain success in life.

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  7. Brian says:

    They kinda already did, unless you were hoping for something with a higher budget. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0246786/

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  8. Stacey says:

    I have always been in awe of Helen Keller’s story. I read her biography when I was ten and have been curious about her ever since. She inspired me to learn ASL despite my having full vision and hearing abilities. The lesson I got from her was that the onus shouldn’t be on those who are without, but on those who have more than they can ever use in one lifetime. Socialist? Ok, in Canada it’s not a dirty word. In Canada, that means those who have more give to those who don’t. I’m down with that. In a big way. Could be just because I grew up in a housing project and went onto having my own hearing damage years later from hormones that she struck a few right chords in me, but I’m the better for it. I’m proud to be a “socialist” who isn’t materialist, who is generous and recognise there are others far worse off than me, so I should stop my whinging and life a happier life based on what I do have. I don’t live a big life. I’m not a hog or a hoarder, obsessed with status or things. I can’t say the same for most of my peers today.

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