Teaching Human Rights – Start at Home

On Friday I visited Philadelphia’s Independence Charter School, where the entire school day was dedicated to an inspiring Human Rights Day program for all the kids.  I plan to write a full piece on that soon, but in the meantime wanted to share a few ideas on International Human Rights Day, which was this past weekend.

Here’s the link to a video from UNICEF highlighting the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most ratified global treaty – ever.

(UNICEF) Overview: Convention on the Rights of the Child

The video gives a clear idea about what the Convention on the Rights of the Child is, and emphasizes seeing children as actors that can make a difference in our society.  This means seeing our children with new, respectful eyes.  Listening to them, caring for them, educating them in meaningful ways that ensure they will have the wherewithal to make impact for an ever-advancing civilization.

UNICEF’s website includes curricular materials starting with middle grades: http://teachunicef.org/explore/topic/child-rights-crc.

For younger children, I believe human rights begins with a discussion of how we treat the people all around us.  This means siblings and parents, and even self-care and consideration.  The ever-present issue of bullying is relevant here.  I wrote a short piece for PBS Parents on how instilling a global vision in kids can serve as an antidote to bullying.  It’s linked here.  At Independence Charter, they started the discussion with kindergartners, beginning with watching the film Ant Bully.  As kids got older, the films got more serious and intense, corresponding with the maturity of the grade. (K-8) (Film list forthcoming, too.)

The UNICEF video starts with stark pictures of desperate kids mostly in very poor countries.  Some kids (and adults) are feeling a backlash to being fed desperate images to get them to think about anything other than videogames, TV shows and the like.  If parents want to start a thoughtful conversation about Human Rights Day, or “Have you ever thought about human rights and what it means?” they could start with an open-ended question at the dinner table or a car ride to just launch thinking about the issue.  Make it personal.  What does it look like in YOUR life?  What about in the life of a friend or relative who emigrated to this country?  What conditions might have been different there?  How can we take our human rights into our own hands? What virtues are displayed when you consider human rights, and especially when you take your rights into your own hands?

Then, after ideas are kicked around, look at the UNICEF materials and videos, to add definition and clarity.

We never have to wait for International Day of (Fill in the Blank) to focus on an issue, but it helps spur our consideration.  Hopefully, every day will be human rights day!

You also can weigh in here, or on my FACEBOOK page.  Thanks!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *