It appears to have gotten around my school that I have a slight dislike for Helen Keller. (Slight meaning I hate her.) This dislike was particularly unfortunate when I taught first grade, as Helen Keller is one of the Famous Americans required to be taught to Virginia's 6 year olds. I will sadly admit that in my class's year-long study of Problem Solvers, Helen Keller was our only Famous American not included on the ' Famous Problem Solver Wall'. That was wrong of me, I know. But what did she solve?
What's my problem with HK? Apparently in fourth grade, despite being a rather shy child, I decided to tell off my teacher when she tried to introduce the Helen Keller unit. My private school wasn't fabulous about planning a sequenced curriculum year to year and we managed to study Helen Keller every year starting in first grade. (This also explains why I am down on private schools). She was the only woman we ever studied about and all of the girls fought over dressing up as HK during our famous people costume days. So I snapped. I told my fourth grade teacher that Helen was really just a bratty child and that her teacher, Annie Sullivan, was the one who did all of the work. (Care to argue with me?) I told her that we really only studied her because she was the only woman anyone knew anything about, even if she didn't do anything as cool as be President.
A few years ago when I was googling HK images to put into a powerpoint for my first graders I came across some interesting information that solidified my feelings on the matter. HK was a self-reported socialist, and is even quoted saying that although she can not see the color red it is her favorite color and the red flag flies at her house. The FBI even had a file on her.
Ok, ok, I realize this is during the McCarthy scare and that the FBI had a file on everyone. I also realize that she was identifying with socialism at a time when The Jungle was being written and people were just starting to fight for workers' rights. Still. She was a Socialist. And you want me to teach about her values as a famous American to new citizens of our country? That seems un-American to me!
Last year someone RSVPed to my wedding as Helen Keller. (I believe this was my fantastic sister-in-law). Apparently my feelings on the subject have gotten around...
Now, just ask me what I think about George Washington Carver ;)