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Save Helen Keller from the Texas State Board of Education



Save Helen Keller from the Texas State Board of Education



Last week an appointed committee of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) recommended removing Helen Keller, among others, from a list of notable historical figures Texas students should study. 

 Helen Keller.  Jan 5, 1950

Helen Keller.
Jan 5, 1950

Texans for Special Education Reform, TxSER, pushed hard for authentic representation on this committee when it was formed last year, arguing that, as the largest minority group, the perspective of people with disabilities is essential, especially given the prolonged history of neglect with respect to effective and responsive special education policy in our state. Our efforts were rebuffed, and this decision illustrates that failure of vision by the SBOE.

Helen Keller is one of America’s great stories. As a woman who was both deaf and blind, she not only overcame her disabilities, she became a highly accomplished individual who made significant contributions to American history. Keller was an author and teacher, a suffragette, a co-founder of the ACLU, a supporter of the NAACP, instrumental in building the American Federation for the Blind, and an activist in improving the lives and rights of American workers and Americans with disabilities. She was assisted in her education by Thomas Edison, was a friend of Mark Twain’s, and was respected by presidents and world leaders. Her relationship with her teacher, Anne Sullivan, is one of the greatest stories in history of the power of educators to impact the lives of children, and has inspired many Americans to become teachers. Helen Keller is also one of very few individuals with disabilities – sometimes the only one – that American children learn about in school. Hers is a great American story that every child should know.

 Temple Grandin, Ph.D. Coauthor of  The Autistic Brain  (2013) and  Animals Make Us Human  (2010).

Temple Grandin, Ph.D. Coauthor of The Autistic Brain (2013) and Animals Make Us Human (2010).

Rather than “saving time” by eliminating Ms. Keller, the SBOE should in fact be adding the study of many other notable Americans with disabilities, including but not limited to Texans Justin Dart, Pat Pound, and Les Friedan who were instrumental in passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act; contemporary figures like the great scientists Stephen Hawking and Temple Grandin; and many other notable artists, entrepreneurs, and leaders with disabilities.  

Disability is a natural part of human existence. The significant percentage of Texas children who live with disabilities – and their non-disabled peers – should have the opportunity to find both inspiration and empowerment in the study of Americans with disabilities who accomplished much and contributed greatly to the American story.  As Helen Keller herself once wrote, “Knowledge is love and light and vision.” 

This decision is not final. A vote by the elected members of the SBOE will be held in November. SBOE members represent single-member districts.


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How can you help? Make your voice heard!


Find who represents you on the Texas SBOE.

Click HERE.


Find your SBOE representative’s contact information.

Click HERE.


Tell your Texas State Board of Education representative:

I DO NOT support the removal of Helen Keller from the Texas social studies standards.

I DO support TxSER’s call for a disability representative on appointed SBOE subcommittees.


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We envision a state in which all individuals with disabilities are identified, and receive an education that maximizes their future potential for post-secondary education, employment, community participation, and independent living.

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