I believe formal education, even at the higher level, is a tool both for innovation and conformity. I know it is contradictory but the curriculum universities follow are a reflection of the elite's take on science, history and politics. Students are given these valuable clues to understand their reality and it is up to each individual mind to accept them, and do what Helen Keller's quote says (lack ideas, imitate, recycle and shy away from originality) or it is also possible that once people understand the system they come up with a new angle or a new wave of social and political understanding.
Education through institutions, even if it is not meant to do it, stifles creativity. People can revive it and use the knowledge to support new ideas, but it is easy to be numb. Some go to college/university to get a degree, that will get them a job, that will help them have a standard life. These people are not out to innovate and generate ideas. They are out to design a life style and that is respectable. Others acquire higher education seeking inspiration and wide horizons. If people stay true to that project, I am sure they can overcome the institution and go for the knowledge that empowers and drives new ideas.
Academia is a hard thing to go against. Keller spent her entire life being an exception to the norm, as a woman and as a person with disabilities. I am not an expert in her life (or anything close to that) but perhaps this comment is a reflection of her own experience, as a pioneer for disabled women who tried to change things and inspire change but was met with the apathy and comformity that characterizes those who are in positions of power. College professors and authorities are not above the influence authority and prestiege. They can and do prevent innovation sometimes, in order to protect their own research and positions. It is possible that she encountered a few of these people during her career.