Insights on College from Helen Keller


Compiled and Commented on by

Barb Shelton




If you are finding it difficult to consider anything but college as being a valid option, I gently encourage you to take this matter before the Lord. There is so much more to consider than merely getting a degree. Especially if "just" getting further education is your goal, consider that college is not necessarily the best or the only way to get it. 


As I read chapter 20 of Helen Keller: The Story of My Life I found that she expressed some of my very thoughts about college. She wrote:
       "I began my studies with eagerness. Before me I saw a new world opening in beauty and light, and I felt within me the capacity to know all things. In the wonderland of Mind I should be as free as another [with sight and hearing]. Its people, scenery, manners, joys, and tragedies should be living tangible interpreters of the real world. The lecture halls seemed filled with the spirit of the great and wise, and I thought the professors were the embodiment of wisdom... But I soon discovered that college was not quite the romantic lyceum I had imagined. Many of the dreams that had delighted my young inexperience became beautifully less and "faded into the light of common day." Gradually I began to find that there were disadvantages in going to college. The one I felt and still feel most is lack of time. I used to have time to think, to reflect, my mind and I. We would sit together of an evening and listen to the inner melodies of the spirit, which one hears only in leisure moments when the words of some loved poet touch a deep, sweet chord in the soul that until then had been silent. But in college there is no time to commune with one's thoughts. One goes to college to learn, it seems, not to think. When one enters the portals of learning, one leaves the dearest pleasures solitude, books and imagination outside with the whispering pines. I suppose I ought to find some comfort in the thought that I am laying up treasures for future enjoyment, but I am improvident enough to prefer present joy to hoarding riches against a rainy day."
I have created something I call "Shelton's Theory of Brain Receptivity."  This is a theory I came up with myself -- so it's very "unofficial" -- that basically just states that the human mind has an optimal "functionability," and the schools push you way beyond what's "optimum." I quote a Far Side cartoon in which one student in a classroom has his hand raised and is asking the teacher, "Mr. Osborne, may I be excused?  My brain is full now."  I think this is so true!  Here is what Miss Keller had to say about this:

"There are times when I long to sweep away half the things I am expected to learn; for the overtaxed mind cannot enjoy the treasure it has secured at the greatest cost. ... When one reads hurriedly and nervously, having in mind written tests and examinations, one's brain becomes encumbered with a lot of bric-a-brac for which there seems to be little use. At the present time my mind is so full of heterogeneous matter that I almost despair of ever being able to put it in order.  Whenever I enter the region of my mind I feel like the proverbial bull in the china shop. A thousand odds and ends of knowledge come crashing about my head like hailstones, and when I try to escape them, theme goblins and college nixies of all sorts pursue me, until I wish oh, may I be forgiven the wicked wish! that I might smash the idols I came to worship."

Even aside from the "full brain" issue is the fact that so much of the knowledge is unrelated to anything in the student's life!  Heads are being filled, but minds are overloaded with "stuff" they have no connection with or application of, and in the process I believe much time and knowledge is wasted! Heads are filled, but with no profitable fruit.  Miss Keller said it much more eloquently...

"Many scholars forget, it seems to me, that our enjoyment of the great works of literature depends more upon the depth of our sympathy than upon our understanding. The trouble is that very few of their laborious explanations stick in the memory. The mind drops them as a branch drops its overripe fruit. ... Again and again I ask impatiently, "Why concern myself with these explanations and hypotheses?" They fly hither and thither in my thought like blind birds beating the air with ineffectual wings. I do not mean to object to a thorough knowledge of the famous works we read. I object only to the interminable comments and bewildering criticisms that teach but one thing: there are as many opinions as there are men."

Miss Keller's thoughts astounded me! Not so much her actual views because she put into words exactly what I have felt but because she expressed them so eloquently and then dared to speak them out to the world!


College is such a "high place" in our culture; in fact, I believe her term "idol" is very accurate and no exaggeration! Allow the Lord to examine your heart about this matter and let Him breathe truth and life into your perceptions, values and goals. I can guarantee you, only because the Word of God guarantees it, that you will thoroughly enjoy the peace and secure confidence you'll receive as a result of letting God have His way in your and your child's views and life.


I got the big red pencil (below) from:

...the background from:

...and the diploma from:





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