March 9, 2010

"I am not dumb now."



(Via Terry Teachout.)

44 comments:

traditionalguy said...

You are making us cry, Professor. That was a great teacher.

Doug Wright-OldGrouchy said...

TG is right! We should cry with joy for both Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan!

Jimmy said...

Thank you for sharing that. I remember reading about Helen Keller in grade school. Anne Sullivan was indeed a special lady!

TMink said...

Wow. What a powerful thing to watch. It makes me feel so humble in comparison. Just amazing.

Trey

David Walser said...

It was amazing. It left me wanting to hear more, a lot more, from Helen Keller.

SMGalbraith said...

Terrific.

The nobility of the human spirit.

And it's great that you linked to the brilliant Teachout. His bio on Louis Armstrong is wonderful.

As he said, Keller was a secular saint.

SMGalbraith said...

And this:
With an IQ of 160, Helen Keller went on to graduate from Radcliffe, learned several languages, wrote 13 books, helped standardize Braille, gave hundreds of lectures and organized committees to aid the disabled. Beginning with Grover Cleveland, she met every US President until her death in 1968.

Makes you weep, doesn't it? It does me.

Palladian said...

Wonderful to behold. Sadly, she was dumb in another way: she was a radical socialist and a member of the Socialist Party.

Bob Ellison said...

How does one pronounce "Teachout" with vocal chords aimed at persons who can hear them with ears?

Skyler said...

Inspiring. My deaf wife watched in amazement that whoever made this didn't include captions!

Alex said...

She's was a socialist. *spit*

dcbyron said...

@Skyler Here's the captioned version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdTUSignq7Y

Skyler said...

Thanks!

former law student said...

Among her other accomplishments, Helen Keller brought the first Akitas to America.

Methadras said...

Stunning and brilliant. I'm dumbfounded at the sheer spirit of will and triumph of adversity over a seemingly debilitating disability. I've read the story of Helen Keller, but I've never seen this before. It's amazing. Just amazing that both of these women overcame an obstacle such as this. Truly a win for the individual and the indomitable will of a human being to achieve that which appears unachievable. Great post.

Palladian said...

Yeah, unfortunately she also believed in the revolutionary overthrow of the government and the confiscation of private property in the establishment of a socialist government.

Amazing what she achieved in overcoming her physical obstacles. But it would be patronizing and insulting to her as an educated and highly intelligent woman to gloss over her bad ideas because we respect her for her triumph over disability.

reader_iam said...

There is no substitute for passion--no, none at all.

There's pretty much no antidote to it, either, except--and then, at best, only maybe--passion itself.

***

wv: grato

Methadras said...

Palladian said...

Yeah, unfortunately she also believed in the revolutionary overthrow of the government and the confiscation of private property in the establishment of a socialist government.

Amazing what she achieved in overcoming her physical obstacles. But it would be patronizing and insulting to her as an educated and highly intelligent woman to gloss over her bad ideas because we respect her for her triumph over disability.


I'm just giving were credit is due. Her politics were repulsive to be sure, but I can't ignore the fact that one human being was able to bring another human being with such an imprisoning disability to become something more. Socialism/communism as I've said ad nauseum here is a blight on the human condition. It needs to be eradicated wholesale for the evil that it is. If it's practitioners find themselves on the other end of that eradication, then so be it. One less idiot to spread more idiocy.

ricpic said...

Incredibly moving.

Pogo said...

My son's high school just did "The Miracle Worker", and my son played her father.

I'll have to show him this clip; it's quite beautiful. Her spirit was large enough to overcome near-total isolation. Sullivan was equally impressive in her own right.

Highly intelligent people often have crackpot ideas. She was blind to the misanthropy in socialism, though that error is shared even by Presidents.

mun said...

That was wonderful!
Helens smile at the end is beautiful.

Shanna said...

I'll have to echo...Wow. I learned about her in school of course, but I never saw a real clip of her. That is amazing. I can't watch a clip like this and care about her politics. Just the idea of being trapped in yourself with no way to communicate with everyone else and then to have someone come along who releases you...it's amazing. Truly.

rdkraus said...

Keller referred to the members of the International Lions Clubs as "Knights of the Blind" because of our work for the visually handicapped.

Inspirational.

(Sometimes you can put aside your political views. I don't think Keller is often cited for hers.)

k*thy said...

Shanna and traditional guy, I agree on each point. It's amazing what can happen when we reach out and help another. It's a great way to start the day.

amba said...

The way her face lights up!

Shanna said...

Sometimes you can put aside your political views.

Not to mention that this story is just as much about Anne Sullivan as it is about Helen Keller, and I don't know or care about her political views either.

rogerz said...

While the acquisition of the mechanics of spoken language in Keller's case is impressive, much more amazing was bridging the gap to language-based conceptualization. The scene from the Miracle Worker, where Keller first understands what "water" (spelled on her hand) means - if true - captures the essence of what was required to bring Keller into the world of communication.

This does not mean, of course, that she was "not fully human" prior to having this linkage. She had an internal conceptual framework without language; she could not have survived without it. But, unlike almost everybody else, she needed to learn explicitly to link words with ideas, and it took a heroic teacher to be able to effect that understanding - in an individual that did not first have the ability (think about it - it's the _fundamental_ chicken and egg)!

Palladian said...

It's just too bad that the amazing process of bringing Helen Keller into the world of communication resulted in her writing essays for Industrial Workers of the World. She called people who objected to her radical socialist philosophy "socially blind and deaf".

Again, I'm treating her as the intelligent and capable woman she was. Though her victory over her disabilities is a miraculous story and one for which both she and Sullivan deserve great praise, it doesn't negate the necessity to criticize her later philosophical and political development.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I may be socially blind and deaf, but I sure play a socially mean pinball.

Lynne said...

Ms. Sullivan did what all great teachers do- help the student find what she suspected lay already within herself, and give the student a way to express and channel that something, so she could give it to the world.

And I seem to recall some commenters here recently remarking on how "unimportant" teachers are...

Robert Cook said...

And what was wrong with the IWW? You can thank many of the job benefits we today consider to be standard to the efforts of the Wobblies and other labor agitators. Cheers to them!

traditionalguy said...

Lynne...Teachers are the most important people we ever associate with. The know how to E-du-cate others. That means draw them out into a new territory of thoughts and impart a language to express those thoughts. The Administrators are the problem in Education today, by acting like they are watching and correcting the teachers just to justify a high paid Bureaucracy career.

Lynne said...

Thank you, TraditionalGuy. My sweetheart thanks you, too, and so does my Aunt and my dear departed Granny, who got her start in a one-room country schoolhouse.

Sorry to sound snide. Coffee underdose, I suppose.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I hate to be a wet blanket on all this awe and inspiration...but.

How do we know that the young Helen Keller understood the meaning of the sounds that she was able to produce by imitation? Did she really understand the concept of "dumb" or the concept of time coveyed by the word "now"? Or was the video just a neat performing trick, like the horse who could count by pawing on the ground?

I mean, just making the sounds doesn't equate to congnition or language. Porpoises and cats can imitate our sounds but I don't think my cat or the porpoise is really talking to me.

How do you convey the meaning of words and language to someone who can't see AND who can't hear? I can understand one or the other skills being absent and then being able to understand language....but both??

reader_iam said...

Helen Keller became blind and deaf due to an illness contracted at 19 months.

Interestingly, Laura Bridgman--born 50 years before Helen; the work with her laid the groundwork for that with Helen--also became blind and deaf at 20 months due to illness.

In both cases, the girls could see and hear at birth and for a key formative period thereafter.

DBQ, the Wikipedia entry about Bridgman goes into some detail about the methods developed to enable her to gain language. (Helen actually started her formal "rehabilitation" with Annie Sullivan much farther along the road.) I'm sure there are better sources, but I don't have time to look them up. But from what I remember from extensive reading about both girls decades ago (it was an intense interest of mine, for a while), the Bridgman Wikipedia article gives a good thumbnail sketch of the mechanics of the training, better than the Keller one does.

reader_iam said...

Annie Sullivan learned the manual alphabet from Laura Bridgman and in turn taught it to Helen Keller.

Irrelevantly, I taught myself the manual alphabet from a page at the back of book about Helen Keller that I read in about 1969. It came in quite handy 6 years later, when I happened to end up in class with the first, or at least one of the first, deaf students to be mainstreamed in NCCO, DE. She taught me my first actual "signs" in ASL.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Interesting. Thank you Reader.

Still.. I can see learning the names/signs of objects: Knife, fork, doll. And learning the ideas associated with some non object related things and concepts: hot, cold, wind, up, down. Maybe even good versus bad.

However, I just can't imagine how you would teach someone like Helen Keller time concepts: now, later, before, after. How you could you teach even more abstract concepts like God, Heaven, Hell as mentioned in the Bridgman biography?

I remain sceptical at the scope of the claims. Probably a lack of imagination on my part.

Impressive achievements, nevertheless. How very sad to be locked inside your head at such a young age.

reader_iam said...

DBQ: You might find it interesting to read this, starting at page 47, and taking special note of remarks made in the first full paragraph on page 49, which touches upon the idea of innate qualities in the human brain (as opposed to, say, cats etc.).

SMGalbraith said...

I always thought that Kubrick had it wrong in "2001: A Space Odyssesy".

The most powerful instrument man has created is language, not a hammer.

So, the black monolith should have pushed the pre-human apes up the evolutionary ladder by having them express words and not wield a animal bone.

Yeah, but then you don't have a movie.

Kubrick was right after all.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

DBQ: You might find it interesting to read this, starting at page 47,

Yes. Very interesting.

Also interesting to contemplate those, such as autistics, who seem to lack some of the 'hard-wiring' in certain areas that allow communication and have extra 'circuits' in other areas, such as mathematics.

The brain is indeed a mysterious and wondrous thing.

MochaLite said...

What a beautiful and inspiring story these two ladies offer us!! I don't give a flip about Helen's politics, or Anne's either - what they achieved together is just amazing.

Thanks for sharing this, and may God bless both of their souls.

Penny said...

Interesting, reader. I also learned manual sign language in pretty much the same way. I worked with three deaf and dumb people, and respected them so much for what they had overcome, that I thought it was the very least I could do. We previously communicated in writing, and sadly went back to writing again when all of us lost patience with how long it took me to sign! lol

pj (lowercase) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave said...

She called people who objected to her radical socialist philosophy "socially blind and deaf".

Looks like the person she was criticizing called her stupid because of her handicap.