Sunday, July 25, 2004

Helen Keller learns her colors

First blog -- wow.  I thought I'd start with something relatively noncontroversial.  Once I get my feet wet I'll dig into the biggies (politics, religion, ethics, and hamster pornography).

I had a big argument with a girlfriend back around 1989 concerning a story she heard of a child that had been blind since birth.  In this story, the child asked her parent what the color blue was.  The parent responded by holding an ice cube in the child's hand and saying, "This is blue."  The parent then took a freshly baked potato and, placing the potato in the child's hand, said, "And this is red."  She (my then-girlfriend) maintained that using the ice and potato was a perfectly legitimate way to teach such a child about colors. 

I took the position that this wouldn't work.  It's easy for most people to make an association between colors and temperature because we have the necessary equipment to perceive both atttributes of objects.  Both in the physical world and in the "human" (for lack of a better term) world, blue is often associated with colder temperatures and red with higher temperatures.

Blind people have poor to no perception of light and color (ask a blind person what their favorite color pants are and they'll say "corduroy").  Using the ice cube and potato example above, it would be easy for a blind person to get the impression that sighted people could complain about how "red" it is outside in July.  They are therefore unable to make the connection between both parts of the association.

I say it would be better to explain that color is a subset of light, which the child lacks the proper equipment/ability to perceive.  Light can be bright or dim and it can be different colors.  In and of itself, it is neither hot nor cold, sour nor sweet, smooth or rough, loud or quiet.

So . . . which of you intelligent, thoughtful people agree with me and which braindead, numbed-by-TV crackheads agree with my ex-girlfriend?


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