by Norma Crosby
From the Editor: Norma Crosby is the dynamic president of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas. Her long and distinguished career in helping blind people was most recently exemplified in her work after hurricane Harvey, and many will remember that she was recognized, along with husband Glenn, with the Jacobus tenBroek Award in 2017. In response to a proposal being considered by the state of Texas to remove Helen Keller from the curriculum, Norma and a number of people from her state and throughout the nation have expressed their concern. In response, the board has delayed its decision until November, and there is some reason to believe the proposal will be amended. Here is what Norma said in an email which contains her letter to the head of the Texas Board of Education:
Hello everyone. This morning I have sent a note to the chairwoman of the Texas State Board of Education regarding the board’s recent decision to omit Helen Keller from the state’s required curriculum for elementary school students. I wanted to share it with you. If others wish to contact the agency, I will share the appropriate contact information here.
Donna Bahorich, Chairwoman
Texas State Board of Education
Here is the text of my letter.
Dear Chairwoman Bahorich:
I understand that the Texas SBOE is currently considering a final vote regarding the removal of Helen Keller from our state’s mandated curriculum. As the president of an organization that works to ensure that blind Texans can live the lives we want, I believe it is critical for both disabled children and those who do not have a disability to learn that blind and deaf-blind people have the capacity to participate actively in society and to make a difference in everyday life.
Helen Keller was such a person, and since disabled children have few role models to learn about in school, I believe it is critical that Helen Keller remain a part of what children are taught. In fact, I believe there is room to add other historically important figures who are blind to our curriculum.
For example, Kenneth Jernigan led the oldest and largest organization of blind people in the world for many years, and he was a critical thinker regarding blindness. He understood intuitively that it was necessary for blind people to learn the nonvisual skills necessary to compete on terms of equality with their sighted peers. He believed that with proper training and opportunity, blind people can work and be contributing members of society. I agree with his assessment, and I believe Helen Keller did as well.
We want blind and other disabled children to grow up with the attitude that they can and should work, own a home, raise children, and do all the other things their sighted peers do. We want sighted children to understand that blind people can do these things as well, and the inclusion of Helen Keller as a role model allows for a discussion of how blind and other disabled people can utilize the important skills necessary to accomplish our goals in life.
I urge you to consider what I have said here as you make a final decision regarding this matter, and I hope you will work with our organization to make sure the curriculum you adopt includes an opportunity for all children to learn about the important accomplishments of people with disabilities. I look forward to a respectful dialogue regarding this issue, and I welcome your response at your earliest convenience.
Norma Crosby, President
National Federation of the Blind of Texas