I credit this year’s Blog Action Day with getting me to read the Human Rights Declaration created by the UN. In general, I found it a good basis for global civilization’s expectations and practice – though the reality falls far short of realizing it, even more than 60 years later. This declaration was completed before I was born; yet I am definitely “mature”, fast approaching 60 years of age.
From The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
• (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
• (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
• (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
Related to Article 18.
• Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, … and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his … belief in teaching, practice, … and observance.
From reading this, I was led to sign a petition this year in support of the proposed Parental Rights Amendment to the US Constitution, due of the provisions in a UN Treaty identified as “CRC – Convention on the Rights of the Child” (Comment 1 on “The Aims of Education” – http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(symbol)/CRC.GC.2001.1.En?OpenDocument).
Though homeschooling has made huge strides of acceptance in the United States, it remains at times and in some places “under fire”. There was a recent news story about a family who was homeschooling their children, actually losing custody of their children in Germany – on the basis of a point in this proposed treaty, similar to what is found under Comment # 1 regarding Education intended to provide “an enhanced sense of identity and affiliation (29 (1) (c)), and his or her socialization and interaction with others”. The German youth welfare officials are seizing custody of children based upon the belief that children not in school, lose the opportunity for socialization and interaction with others, and live socially isolated lives.
Further comments there regarding the UN perspective on Education include the use of the word “home” in connection with education but do seem to indicate some compulsion regarding – “8. Second, the article attaches importance to the process by which the right to education is to be promoted. Thus, efforts to promote the enjoyment of other rights must not be undermined, and should be reinforced, by the values imparted in the educational process. This includes not only the content of the curriculum but also the educational processes, the pedagogical methods and the environment within which education takes place, whether it be the home, school, or elsewhere. … education must be provided in a way that … enables the child … to participate in school life.”
This comment does address in item # 8 one of our own objections based on stories from parents with children in the local school system regarding the use of corporal punishment without parental consent – “The Committee has repeatedly made clear in its concluding observations that the use of corporal punishment does not respect the inherent dignity of the child nor the strict limits on school discipline.” We do agree.
We feel the methods that we employ in educating our children at home include the perspective addressed in item #9 of that comment – “the curriculum must be of direct relevance to the child’s social, cultural, environmental and economic context and to his or her present and future needs and take full account of the child’s evolving capacities; teaching methods should be tailored to the different needs of different children. Education must also be aimed at ensuring that essential life skills are learnt by every child and that no child leaves school without being equipped to face the challenges that he or she can expect to be confronted with in life. Basic skills include not only literacy and numeracy but also life skills such as the ability to make well-balanced decisions; to resolve conflicts in a non-violent manner; and to develop a healthy lifestyle, good social relationships and responsibility, critical thinking, creative talents, and other abilities which give children the tools needed to pursue their options in life.”
We feel that the methods we employ in educating our children at home include the perspective addressed in item # 12 – “12. Fourth, article 29 (1) insists upon a holistic approach to education which ensures that the educational opportunities made available reflect an appropriate balance between promoting the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional aspects of education, the intellectual, social and practical dimensions, and the childhood and lifelong aspects. The overall objective of education is to maximize the child’s ability and opportunity to participate fully and responsibly in a free society. It should be emphasized that the type of teaching that is focused primarily on accumulation of knowledge, prompting competition and leading to an excessive burden of work on children, may seriously hamper the harmonious development of the child to the fullest potential of his or her abilities and talents. Education should be child-friendly, inspiring and motivating the individual child. Schools should foster a humane atmosphere and allow children to develop according to their evolving capacities.”
The proposed Parental Rights Amendment reads -
The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children is a fundamental right.
The parental right to direct education includes the right to choose public, private, religious, or home schools, and the right to make reasonable choices within public schools for one’s child.
Neither the United States nor any State shall infringe these rights without demonstrating that its governmental interest as applied to the person is of the highest order and not otherwise served.
This article shall not be construed to apply to a parental action or decision that would end life.
No treaty may be adopted nor shall any source of international law be employed to supersede, modify, interpret, or apply to the rights guaranteed by this article.
The petition can be found and signed, at this link – https://www.thedatabank.com/dpg/385/personal2.asp?formid=signup
I am also staying informed regarding and have looked into the movement known as – Common Core State Standards (http://www.corestandards.org/).
I recently came across this quote, on an old “tweet” – “Peace is the respect for the rights of others.“ (El respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz) – Benito Juarez
I am not against public or private educational systems per se. I see they serve a purpose in society and that some professions definitely require more advanced and specialized educational opportunities. I am inspired and encouraged by the story of the Harding family of Montgomery, Alabama who have 10 children, all home-schooled. Their perspectives match my own – their mother says “We find out what their passions are, what they really like to study, and we accelerate them gradually.” This has resulted in 6 of their children entering college at age 12. Their children are gifting society by becoming a doctor, an architect, a spacecraft designer and one is a college freshman who realized at age seven, that he wanted to be a military archaeologist.
College may sound like too much pressure for the pre-teens to handle, but the Harding parents insist their kids are thriving, not suffering. “All our children would have to tells us is, ‘You know, this isn’t fun any more’,” says their mother, Mona Lisa. “And we’d do something about that.” Kip agrees with his wife: “The expectation is that you’re going to have a fun day,” he said as he watched his children play in the backyard. “Not that you’re going to come home with A’s.” Indeed, the couple insists that despite their accelerated education, the children have led normal lives. “We didn’t limit their experience,” said Mona Lisa. “They’re taking college classes, but socially, they are just teenagers.”
This has been our own perspective as well. Inspired by a book by an unschooling friend of mine, Rain Perry Fordyce – “I Am Learning All The Time”, her title became my mantra. We go out of our way and have experiences we might not choose otherwise, except for wanting to give our children breadth, depth, and a stimulation of their creative imaginations. In response to concerns about “socialization”, we have only to look back upon our own public school experiences to know clearly that putting our children with only their own age group, predominantly, would not serve our intentions that they be independent thinkers and unconcerned about social pressures to have premature sexual experiences or to participate in the usage of recreational drugs of unknown purity and origin. Our children are NOT being socialized to such experiences but they are socialized to the whole range of humanity – from infants to the elderly – and we believe that is a superior kind of socialization for them. Mature adults are primary role models for our children, not their peers who are still undergoing early development.
Certainly, the public education system frees parents to work outside of their home and have lives not focused solely on their children’s growth and development. It is quite freeing, and in most cases necessary, for parents to put their trust in strangers, and let the government make choices regarding what their children will learn and experience in school. However, I don’t believe that those of us who have the luxury (my husband and I work from home, so we are here anyway, and we are older parents, so we do selfishly desire as much time with our children as is possible to us) and the inclination to be the primary educators of their children, should be hindered from doing so. That is the “universal right” closest to our hearts – the right of educate our children in the ways that we as their parents feel is for their highest good as productive citizens contributing fully to tomorrow’s realities.
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