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Helen Keller

By aurumgrl Oct 17, 2005 1518 Words
The Truth About Helen Keller
In Learning Dynamics, the authors, Marjorie Ford and Jon Ford, choose to include an excerpt from The Story of My Life by Helen Keller to show learning from experience. The excerpt titled "The Most Important Day of My Life" mainly draws from Helen Keller's early childhood as she begins her education on the third of March in 1887, three months before she became seven years old. Keller recounts her early experiences of being awakened to a world of words and concepts through the brilliant teaching methods of her teacher, Anne Sullivan. Sullivan taught Keller new vocabulary by spelling words into the young girl's hand. At first, she does not understand the meaning of each word, but eventually learn to connect a word with the physical object it represents. Sullivan often left Keller to spend much time in nature as a way to develop her senses. In time, Keller not only discovers the physical world, but also a world of intangible concepts, ideas, images and emotions. Furthermore, she contributes much of her learning to Anne Sullivan, which she wrote, "I fell that her being is inseparable from my own, and that the footsteps of my life are in hers. All the best of me belongs to her."

Realizing that words could be put together to evoke a mental image, Helen Keller is able to paint many visual images in the readers' minds through her unique and eloquent usage of poetic language. Her writing style captures both her emotion and experiences. She writes, "Have you ever been at sea in a dense fog, when it seemed as if a tangible white darkness shut you in and the great ship, tense and anxious, groped her way toward the shore with plummet and sounding-line and you waited with beating heart for something to happen?" Here, the usage of metaphor creates a powerful picture of her anticipation and isolation, which is much more effective than a straightforward description might have been. By comparing her experience to being lost at sea, Keller demonstrates a rich visual image for the reader. The metaphor helps one to connect with the experience emotionally. Another example, "a child's mind is like a shallow brook which ripples and dances merrily over the strong course of its education." Again, the use of metaphor describes the experience she had with learning, which come comes to realization that education is a continual journey.

Another way that Helen Keller is able to get her point across is through the usage of senses and imagery. However, much of her senses and imagery is embedded within her usage of nature. "The afternoon sun penetrated the mass of honeysuckle that covered the porch…My fingers lingered almost unconsciously on the familiar leaves and blossoms which had just come forth to greet the sweet southern spring." She draws in our mind an image of the sun shining down on the porch and the plants surrounding the house. The view that she see in her mind epitomizes her affinity with nature. In addition, she describes the mimosa tree using many nature related words to paint the image. "Yes, there it was all quivering the warm sunshine, its blossom-laden branches almost touching the grass. Its delicate blossoms shrank from the slightest earthly touch." The language Keller uses is as important to the story as the events that took place. Keller is able to share her world through descriptive writing, and the reader is able to experience what it might be like to live in world deprived of both sight and sound.

In the introduction of Learning Dynamics, the Fords quote from Helen Keller, "Any teacher can take a child to the classroom, but not every teacher can make him learn. He will not work joyously unless he feels that liberty is his." In "The Most Important Day of My Life", Helen Keller seems to make this piece of writing an attribution to her teacher who had help her to develop the appreciation for learning. The real story of Helen Keller is Anne Sullivan, as Keller points out "the most important day I remember in all my life is the one on which my teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan, came to me." However, the idea of individualism instilled in the American dream causes the misconception of Keller as one woman who overcomes her disability because he puts her mind to it. Rather, Helen Keller constantly reminds us that her success is due to her teacher in her story.

Anne Sullivan's teaching style plays an important key on Helen Keller's writing. "How much of my delight in all beautiful things is innate, and how much is due to her influence," wrote Keller. Keller developed a poetic style in her own writing because Sullivan introduced Keller to many works of great poets including Shakespeare. Even as a child, Keller is "sweep of thought in line of Shakespeare." Not only did Sullivan use poetry as an academic subject to be studied, but would use it to emphasize lessons in Keller's other areas of study. Thus, it is not too surprising that much of Keller's writing is depicted with great imagery. As Keller notes, "Everything Miss Sullivan taught me she illustrated by a beautiful story or poem." The American transcendentalism movement was occurring during Keller's time, which had a great effect on educator who view that nature had holds valuable lessons. Thus, Anne Sullivan exposed nature as a learning tool on Keller. Keller as a young girl spends much of her time wondering in nature. As an adult, much of her experience is portray through nature. In the opening of the short biography of Helen Keller, the authors of Learning Dynamics wrote, "Helen Keller is best known for her inspirational triumph over the limiting effects of deafness and blindness." The problem with this sentence is that it makes the assumption that Keller is only known for overcoming disability. Furthermore, the biography preceding the excerpt only mentions the typical media portrayal of Keller and the best-known film about Keller, "Miracle Worker." In reality, Keller was much more than a deaf, blind and mute who prevailed incredible obstacles. According to Ruth Shagoury Hubbard, "The ‘Helen Keller story' that is stamped in our collective consciousness freezes her in childhood; we remember her most vividly at age seven when her teacher, Anne Sullivan, connect her to language through magical moment at the water pump." Helen Keller was a socialist who believed that she was able to overcome many difficulties in her life because of her social class privilege, a privilege not many people similar to Keller shared. Her parents were able to afford a teacher that practically spends her entire life teaching and guiding Keller. Keller stated, "I owed my success partly to the advantages of my birth and environment." Furthermore, the Fords quote a eulogy at Keller's funeral that sated, "…the woman who showed the world there are no boundaries to courage and faith." In reality, Keller knew that she had advantages that most people of disability did not. "I have learned that the power to rise is not within the reach of everyone," she said.

The common school often teaches that "if she can do it, you can do it" distorts the true image of Keller as the person who enthusiastically advocate of the poor. James W. Loewen point out, "Consistent with the American ideology of individualism, the truncated version of Helen Keller's story sanitizes a hero, leaving only the virtues of self-help and hard work. Keller, herself, while scarcely opposing hard work, explicitly rejected this ideology." Even is textbooks, pictures and media; all illustrate Keller as a passive character, one that the fit the American ideology of heroism.

In reality, Keller was a radical and activist. In her autobiography in 1929, Keller declared, "I resolved that whatever role I did play in life, it would not be a passive one." Even in her writing, "The Most Important Day of My Life", Keller writes mostly on her consistently eager and hunger for knowledge, not how she overcome blindness and deafness. Although it took a much longer time for her to learn, she reveals that "I had now the key to all language, and I was eager to learn to use it." Her education does not stop at the word "W-A-T-E-R", but she went on to universities and learned many other languages as well.

Keller makes a strong argument that her succeed is a result of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, "My teacher is so near to me that I scarcely think of myself apart from her." Even the Fords stated, "Anne Sullivan showed her (Keller) that love and learning are intimately connected." Keller is an extraordinary person not because she overcomes blindness or deafness rather she should be great for her contribution to achieve social changes. Helen Keller should be appreciated for her honesty in realizing that she was privilege to an education, and uses her knowledge and wisdom to help those less fortunate.

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