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by Laurie Eckery
[PICTURE] Diane McGeorge (at the microphone) introduces students of the Colorado Center for the Blind at the 1988 NFB Convention in Chicago. Mrs. McGeorge is the President of the NFB of Colorado and the Director of the Colorado Center for the Blind.
Editor's Note: At one time, a residential school for the blind was the only educational option a blind child had. Many parents today think of it with horror; but was it really "bad'for the children ? Isn 't the proof, as the old saying goes, in the pudding? Reprinted below are portions of an article written by Laurie Eckery and published in the News From Blind Nebraskans (the newsletter of the NFB of Nebraska) some years ago. I kept it because it helps me keep my perspective about what is really important in the education of blind children.
"Our earliest perceptions come from those with whom we have our earliest contact. Usually, it is our parents (or other guardians) and our teachers. For some of us, those early perceptions of life came from houseparents and teachers who were far away from our homes~the staff of the Nebraska School for the Visually Handicapped. It was a trauma indeed for some of us to leave our homes in order to receive our academic education. However, as Mr. Regler stated in our 1975 Centennial Yearbook, 'It takes a special kind of love to be able to send children from their homes to school, and allow someone from outside the family to have the privilege of participating in their daily learning experiences. I hope we have been worthy of your trust.'
"Now that I am once again involved in academic education, I realize the origin of my strong academic training. It also has occurred to me during an intense study of my family that it was at Nebraska City that I learned that other people outside the family could be okay. I think that this is part of the key that may allow me someday to have 'not just a living, but a life.'
"As a part of the 1975 Centenial Celebration for the Nebraska School for the Visually Handicapped, Laurie and Barbara Beach (now Laurie Eckery and Barbara Walker) composed a song featuring the philosophy of Samuel Bacon, the founder of the school. ...The words follow:
Not just a living, but a life of dignity,
Not mere subsistence, but a chance to really be.
Not degradation, but equal education.
Not just a living, but a life for you and me.
In the 1800's 'bout a hundred years ago,
A blind man, Samuel Bacon, knew we had the right to grow.
And today we profit by his life of dedication
He founded our school and wrote these words of inspiration.
As we live our lives today, it is quite obvious,
His words so true for yesterday remain a guide for us.
We still need more than jobs to gain our full emancipation,
We need love, respect, and families, and friends as our foundation.
"During the composition of this song and during the rest of the festivities of our celebration, we were not only reminiscing about the blind of the past and the present, for it was also the blind children of tomorrow who held our concerns. Though we support public school education for blind children, we also support [residential] education of blind children. We strongly believe that blind children should be given alternatives and the chance to choose which form of education works better in a particular child's particular circumstances."
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