Helen Keller, rendered blind and deaf after an infection as a toddler, learned the gift of language from her patient and determined teacher, Annie Sullivan. Their story is told in the play The Miracle Worker (and my daughter plays Helen in three more shows this weekend at Latrobe’s Cabaret Theatre).
As a young woman Helen Keller wrote her biography The Story of My Life, which also published some of Sullvan’s letters.
A few weeks after the events depicted in the play The Miracle Worker, Sullivan wrote:
I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Whereas, if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less showily. Let him go and come freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself, instead of sitting indoors at a little round table, while a sweet-voiced teacher suggests that he build a stone wall with his wooden blocks, or make a rainbow out of strips of coloured paper, or plant straw trees in bead flower-pots. Such teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of, before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experiences. –Annie Sullivan, May 18, 1887. Printed in The Story of My Life