Friday, April 22, 2011

Helen Keller--one of the great icons.

Imagine if you were a small child who was placed in a room where you could not see or hear--and you were placed there permanently. This happened to Helen Keller when she was just a year and a half old--she caught scarlet fever, an illness that left her deaf and blind. Her story is referred to in our book Witness, a novel about the Ku Klux Klan coming to Vermont. I spoke with the students about dismay when I heard the lyrics from a popular song (even my four year old granddaughter knew the some of the lyrics). Here's what a recent article has to say about this song:

A catchy new pop song that references Helen Keller is being played all over the local airwaves, but it's also creating quite a controversy.

The music video for the song titled "Don't Trust Me" shows band members from "3OH!3" wearing wrestling attire and dancing in their underwear with scantily clad young women.

But for parents, the lyrics are even more disturbing than the outfits. Near the end of the song, the band sings, "Shush girl. Shut your lips. Do the Helen Keller and talk with your hips."

"Helen Keller embodies the achievements of generations of us, whether or not we have a disability. This lyric perpetuates the stigma of disabilility," says Cleveland Sight Center Executive Director Steve Friedman.

Friedman says the song's lyrics aren't just offensive to those with disabilities. "It's perpetuating the sexualization of women, the objectification of women.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Taos Blue Lake

In 11th grade history, students are learning about the American Indian Movement. This last summer I received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to study in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We were taken to the Taos Pueblo, outside of Taos, New Mexico to learn more about their sacred river, and its source, Taos Blue Lake.

Taos Blue Lake is in the mountains above the Pueblo. The setting is beautiful, and it is patrolled by Native Americans who try to keep the site sacred and pristine, for to them, it is the source of the Pueblo peoples.

During the disorganized and predatory time of reservations and land grabs, Taos Blue Lake ended up in the hands of the federal government. After years of advocating for the return of their lands, Richard Nixon signed the return of the lake to the Taos Pueblo. He said,
“this is a bill that represents justice, because in 1906 an injustice was done in which land involved in this bill, 48,000 acres, was taken from the Indians involved, the Taos Pueblo Indians. The Congress of the United States now returns that land to whom it belongs… I can’t think of anything more appropriate or any action that could make me more proud as President of the United States. For this act, they revere him. If you google Taos Blue Lake, you will only find one picture. For the Taos people, it is so sacred, that they do not want it seen by those who are not of the tribe.