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Human rights and philosophy should be taught in school!

As a member of the Sudanese community, where human rights are constantly violated and where people, mostly the younger generations, do not tend to engage in critical issues affecting the whole nation, I believe that Education should be changed and transformed into teaching the students how to think philosophically and lay the foundation for that since nursery school, rather than indoctrinating them with ideologies and beliefs that would just dull their minds and make them incapable of questioning things, and taking initiative to find solutions to problems.
Many people here are very unaware of their rights, know nothing about vital issues like economics, for example, and completely oblivious to what's written in the Constitution.

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    Feb 28 2013: I totally agree with you. Especially concerning human rights.
    When I was in school, I had a class called "Civil sciense". During this class we were exploring the law of our country. We also touched some part of human rights, but only the surface of it.
    I believe it's critical to know your rights. Knowing is the first step for changes.
  • Feb 26 2013: Education is more than subjects been taught in school:human rights we not only should be taught in school but aso spread around our society.the same philosophy:taught in school as well as we have philosophical consciouness to solve things in the world.
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    Feb 19 2013: But even philosophy and education is a form of indoctrination. I'm not so comfortable with the talk about human rights that does not go hand in hand with responsibilities.

    Violation of human rights should not be condoned by any nation. It is not easy not to be a coward in nations ruled by dictatorial and intolerant governments, but there is only one risky solution: the rejection of oppression by citizens in every sphere of the society. I assume that oppressive governments would be reluctant to permit the teaching of human rights in schools. This is a clarion call to Pro-democracy organisations and the media.

    In apartheid South Africa, school children joined the call for an end to apartheid, and a lot of them died for the cause (June 16, 1976 comes to mind)

    In the end, we have to choose between two not-so-attractive alternatives:
    1. Remain curled up like a sick cat and think that help will come without effort.
    2. We face our fears with courage, and stand up for our rights.
    • Feb 21 2013: How beautiful! x
    • Feb 25 2013: i agree with your point about responsibilities. so many people these days are so wrapped up in their rights and freedoms without considering the fact that we can't do as we please because we live in a society of many and are likely to impinge on the rights and freedom of others.

      some examples are the right to live a vegan lifestyle vs the right of a child to be properly nourished (a terrible story about a baby who died because of their parents' vegan beliefs last year), the right to pursue religion vs the right to be free from it, and the right to give out medical advice vs the right to be protected from false facts.
  • Mar 4 2013: Do you also mean teaching them how to think critically and question the information which they are presented? I don't know much about Sudan but it sounds like your people are in dire need of education. My first step would be to build a network to help promote the idea that education is important. A series of lessons on the development of the idea of human right might be somewhat effective. It's what we do here in the US and it instills the idea that human rights are things that had to be fought for and won from those in power and is not just an inherent ambiguous "thing" that just supposedly exists somewhere because some people they don't know somewhere they don't know said so. Explain that these don't just come about but are achieved and maintained through the actions of people. What can be lost seems to a person to be much more important than something that is simply inherent and immutable.
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      Mar 5 2013: Sure, sure, That's why I brought up the idea of teaching "philosophy" in the first place, because It entails exposing the students to critical thinking, and teaches them how to think for themselves rather than passively following the outcome of group think, we are on the same page.
      "Explain that these don't just come about but are achieved and maintained through the actions of people." Exactly ! They are not necessarily inherent, we should work together to make them a solid constituent of our communities.
  • Feb 28 2013: As a junior in high school and a leader of my school's gay-straight alliance, this couldn't be more relevant or important. I just want to thank everyone for having this conversation, it really will help move society forward.
  • Feb 28 2013: I agree with you 100%. Teaching human rights and philosophy is very important to improve as an evolving democratic society. Philosophy is a tool that encourage critical thinking and although human rights is not perfect, without a dogmatic environment it can evolve and keep providing us an updated ethical code as we grow.
  • Feb 21 2013: Maybe we should stop teaching ourselves and others what to believe and observe things as they really are.
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      Mar 5 2013: I agree with you on the fact that we shouldn't impose our beliefs on others, and that we should give the students room to conclude what human rights are instead of us dictating them what they are.
      That would really engage their minds and connect them to the issue more deeply, our role should only be preparing a venue for them to express their thoughts,
  • Feb 19 2013: Hello all!

    I have enjoyed reading all of your thoughts and ideas.

    I recently attended a "Day of Remembrance" event - forum to remember and discuss the American Internment of the Japanese during WWII. Luckily, 5 Japanese Americans that were interned spoke as part of a panel discussion. Several of them spoke about the excellent education that they received while in the camps, and one went into detail about the discussion forums that were held in one class. He vividly recounted 2 discussions, one about the Constitutionality of Internment and the Morality of Stealing - many of the internees "borrowed" lumber from the general area to make furniture for the barracks they lived in - chairs, tables, dressers, etc. Moral/ethical debates are the foundation to greater understanding and learning since they can be applied to topics that directly effect students.

    In one of the classes that I took in High School (10th Grade) we had weekly debates where a topic would be presented and students would sit on sides of the classroom to reflect their opinions. Then students were able to debate their stances, and students were also able to "switch" sides at anytime.

    Definitely some great ideas out there to mold and shape the leaders of tomorrow!!
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      Feb 22 2013: I'm glad to hear that panel was happening. I feel like Japanese internment is way underplayed in American high school history curricula, as are other moments that it's easier to gloss over than to truly grant a mea culpa. Teaching human rights in school is tough, because EVERY country has things in its past that would look a little hypocritical in that light -- but of course that's exactly why it's important.
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    Feb 16 2013: If by philosophy you mean something like the Socratc method and teaching how to ask questions and think critically then by all means a firm yes, It can be taught at many levels appropriate to the age. Simply getting people to understand how much is asserted without evidence and how much is just arbitray cultural baggage would go a long ways. We also need to instill in the young a skeptical mindset, especially when it comes to accepting things on authority. Compassion and human rights should also be taught as worthwhile human attributes. Examining the great ideas which many philosophers, and scientists, wrestled with, while encouraging students to voice their own thoughts, should be part of the curriculum in any country.
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      Feb 16 2013: Yea, teaching young students the history of the world in a political context along with teaching them human rights and philosophy will make them fully prepared to be future leaders :)
      I also think that teaching students about the different types of governments and the various political ideologies existent is really essential; today's generation know nothing about these things.
      I like the idea :)
  • Feb 6 2013: Hi.
    I completely agree with you.
    Other than humans going forth and making "Human Needs" into actualized, universally legal and mandated Human Rights,
    the children of today, everywhere, must be taught how to change their governments or their systems, to recognize everyone, to maintain freedom or provide it for everyone, to break all those chains that we humans suffer in the constraints of.

    We need to teach and educate children in how to do this rather than how to be successful in systems that are patently unjust, wrong, immoral, evil and by default corrupt thus, they are systems that can only survive on corruption, greed, crime, inequality, slavery, poverty, tension, war and death.

    To be successful in such unjust systems, one will have to become corrupt, unethical, criminally-minded, self-serving and a "team player" to the corrupt team.
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    Mar 5 2013: A great way to biuld a better society
  • Mar 4 2013: So long as these philosophical teachings and 'human rights' doctrines do not contravene the constitutional fabric of that given society.
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      Mar 5 2013: But what If the constitution it self is faulty and deprive others of their rights? an unjust law is no law at all :)
      what do you think ?
      • Mar 5 2013: I agree with you! Especially in this country where our government is so divided and there is so much controversy, I think it would be beneficial to educate the youth of our country on their basic rights. Our Constitution was created centuries ago, and I feel like its time to revise and make it relevant to our society. What are your thoughts?
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    Mar 4 2013: Human rights OK and History, the real one, too. They are connected.
  • Mar 1 2013: To be honest, I think that it is a question that goes beyond education. Our educational system (not just where you live but everywhere) is based on the society that 'supports' it. If you want to change the way people think then you should change the way society thinks. Education is indeed the best place to start but you have to know that change there is not as easy as It may sound.

    I was trained as a highschool teacher. I'm allowed to teach History (my favorite), geography and Catholic religion (God, forgive me). In all 3 of these subjects human rights has a place. Yet, when I tought it (currently I am not longer a teacher) I always had a feeling that neither my students, nor my mentors seemed to think that is was more than 'something that you were obliged to learn'. Their minds, their interests were not focussed on this. Some students, not all of them, were like 'whatever'. My heart bleeds everytime I see that. To most here in Belgium, human rights is something they hear about on television, right before they zap away to watch their favorite show. To most students, it is something they can earn an extra credit with if they write a lettre for the release of a political prisoner.

    It is so hard to motivate students, or make them aware that these problems even exist. I remember that one time when I had prepared a class about the Iraqi war and all the controversy that surrounded it. After class my mentor told me that I should chose another subject for my next class, she said: "For them, it is a far-from-my-bed-story." She didn't even mind. I didn't understand because to me it seemed that a subject like that deserved attention from everyone. I had intended to make that class more aware of the problems out there but they were simply not interested.

    I blame society in general for this: people are not concerned as long as it does not affect them directly. It is society that has to change. Education needs to change but will society let it?
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      Mar 5 2013: Allow me to ask you a question, what do you suggest to overcome this problem, the problem of society interference with education?
      In my point of view, I think education extends far beyond the boundaries of educational institutions, and It should be achieved with a holistic approach; Schools and their curricula only formulate a single tool that is very powerful, but its not the only tool there.
      we can use the things that influence the masses the most, the media for example, music, art..and the list goes on.
      In some parts of my country Music is the most influential tool, in other aspects dancing can be very influential.
      What do you think ?
      • Mar 5 2013: exellent idea, the holistic approach!
        I quiet agree with you. I suppose that it has to start with the nurture we give to our children, the values that we teach them. Unfortunatly, so far society has done nothing but undermine this. The problem is that society is focussed on consumption, mindless consumption. One isn't suppose to create, one is suppose to consume without question. The education of people is only second to this, and even then... it is nearly always directed towards efforts to make us productive citizens, not independent thinkers.
        All of this creates the problem of how to educate our children (and adults) about human rights, how to make them more aware of their rights. In the society I just discribed, people like that are threath.
        As for the use of media... It's an excellent idea and it is already set in motion: think of the internet... But the great TV-stations almost all have an 'agenda' of their own. In their opinion entertainment isn't suppose to educate us, it's suppose to keep us happy.
        Off course, not all programs are like that. And an attentive person will still be able to learn from shows on TV.

        You are right to say that education goes far beyond the boundaries of schools. And the use of media is absolutely necessary for the education and to create awareness. It is not an easy task, certainly not one that can be accomplished in 1 generation. But all journeys start with a single step. Music is certainly a good idea; here in Belgium there are some great musicfestivals. I have never heard of a musicfestival responsible for creating violence among people, if anything: it allows us to come together and form new bonds. (Unfortunatly they are also very expensive to attend)

        I think that the only way to make people make the first step is to keep trying, to keep offering them a way off learning. In the end, we can not force people to overcome their fear (cause that is essentially what keeps them back) but we can offer them opportunities.
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    Mar 1 2013: I agree that this should be a principle in schools. Ideally I feel it should be prepared as a focus in history classes of middle schools around the ending year.

    Then in high schools it should be a required credit to graduate. A class available to be taken after a student's first two years in high school. Of course this would be a shocker to some and maybe deemed unacceptable but really it shouldn't be. Growing up here in Southern California it wasn't uncommon to even know about such material. One thought that comes to mind is: why do we hold such a valuable field from the youth when it would probably help the world?

    The only main problem I can see is who will teach the classes in high school?
    One would have to be a great teacher of the sorts yet able to hold control of how they teach it all.
    The class of course would be regulated and a waiver should be signed by the child's parent(s)/guardian(s).

    There is so much I can go on about this and I wish it were a reality.
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    Feb 27 2013: Human rights come with a lot of gore. If you were to focus on human rights, you cannot ignore the fact that there have been so many times that human rights have been abused. Take the situation in Darfur, or South Sudan. Should one bare one's soul by explaining what is happening in Darfur, or shouold one protect the children's minds and save the horror for a later time?

    So the moral dilemma boils down to whether you want to expose the kids to such gore and horror at such a young age.
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      Mar 5 2013: Curricula can be tailored to suit the minds of young children, Exposing children to terrible scenes isn't the only way to teach them about human right.
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        Mar 5 2013: So how would you tailor the curriculum to teach younger children about human rights?
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    Feb 25 2013: What is there to talk about, you are most correct.
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    Feb 25 2013: You might be interested in watching a few presentations by Prof Peter Boghossian who discusses the kinds of thinking processes which are more likely and less likely to lead one to truth. Many on YouTube

    One such lecture at PhilosophyNews:
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    Feb 25 2013: I agree. Human rights and responsibilities (as Feyisayo mentions) perhaps with some ethics classes and a history of how these rights were identified and developed over the years e.g. the Enlightenment etc.
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    Feb 22 2013: I couldn't agree more with the need to teach human rights, and I'd like to add to that current events. At least in the U.S., students could use a MUCH better education about what's going on in the world -- in history classes we're expected to memorize every detail, and current events are often thrown in as an afterthought, where we're asked to read two articles of our choice this week, or similar. Awareness of human rights and awareness of what's in the news should go hand in hand.
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  • Feb 18 2013: I strongly support the idea of teaching the basics of human rights in school, which will give the students an overview of legally binding framework in sphere of human rights protection. Naturally, students are supposed to get an insight of recognised and inherent rights of every individual, but I suppose that such aspects as violation of HR and opportunities of seeking legal remedies and legal protection would be of crucial importance as well. The problem is, however, is that in some countries (maybe in Sudan too?) school curriculums are designed and approved by the relevant govermental authorities. That might be a barrier when trying to introduce new schemes of secondary education.
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      Mar 5 2013: Yea, everything is designed and approved by governmental entities, That makes the problem even more complicated :)
      I believe that Through NGOs we can raise people's awareness about human rights along with fighting our battle against the current regime.
      also, we can do it indirectly at schools without having a fixed curriculum, until the conditions get better.
  • Feb 18 2013: i agree that human rights and philosophy should be taught to children. the problem that arises is trying to get them into our schools, which happen to be a venue with a purpose we cannot even accurately define.

    yes, we all believe that school is a place of education, but the schools here in America seem to have a different purpose altogether. the curriculum at any given public school seems to be designed to pick out the individuals who can be made into semantic drones and data shufflers, and leave the rest to fall into the lower class, with some incredibly apt, prodigious individuals climbing out of all of the white noise and making their own success. on a completely frank note, i didn't retain anything after the 9th grade level other than how to take a test and get a higher score with less studying. having high test scores does not mean you are smart; it means you have concentrated aptitudes, which is a trait we observe in the film "rain man".

    with this considered, i can't say it's a good idea to teach human rights and philosophy in public schools. the exposure might have a positive effect on our children, but adversely, human rights might become another dogmatic burden in the minds of our youth. i shudder to think of a day when, all across the world, there is a generally negative reaction to the topic of how to fairly treat other human beings, or how to legitimately think.

    my answer: fix the system first.
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    Feb 18 2013: G'day Bashayer

    I brought this up on a spiritual forum that all schools should teach philosophy, strangely enough it wasn't well received.

    Yes of course it should be taught in schools without question.

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    Feb 5 2013: I hope an education focused on questioning and critical thinking is in the future of the children of the Sudan.
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      Feb 6 2013: and everywhere else
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      Mar 4 2013: i agree with Alan. it doesn't really happen anywhere and if it does happen in school sometimes, those people will end up working in corporations where they'll be told that it's not that important
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        Mar 4 2013: I think that critical thinking is a focus in many classrooms and has been increasingly so over decades.

        I also do not think people in corporations are told that critical thinking is not important.

        I know many people hold these beliefs about schools and corporations, but that does not mean these assumptions are empirically justified.

        The first speaker on the last day of TED 2013, a scholar from New Zealand, spoke to this issue. He attributes the large increase in measured IQ to these sorts of changes over the twentieth century, sharing which parts of IQ measurements have increased by so much- the parts that involve critical and abstract thinking.
        • Mar 5 2013: "A 2006 study from Brazil examined data from testing children during 1930 and 2002–2004, the largest time gap ever considered. The results are consistent with both the cognitive stimulation and the nutritional hypotheses."

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    Feb 6 2013: human rights, no doubt

    philosophy is more problematic. i would like it in schools, but what philosophy? which philosophy? there is no consensus within the field, so it is impossible to create a "proper" curriculum.

    economics, also agree. i even started to design a series of classroom games, but then had no time to develop.
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      Feb 6 2013: Philosophy should be a way of thinking and living, rather than just a subject full of theories of different types that we have to memorize and get examined on by the end of a school year .
      That’s why it’s the mother of all sciences, It entails economics, human rights, biology, maths, politics, religion…and the list goes on. Teaching all these subjects with a philosophical perspective, i.e, analyzing why did these sciences arise in the first place, and discussing the reasons behind the various theories we live by and often don’t question, I believe is going to be a major turning point in the history of nations.

      I can see where you’re coming from when you state that philosophy is problematic! But once you embrace it as a “ way of thinking” like I mentioned above, Don't you think it'll turn out to be very rewarding?
      I’m very impressed with your idea;Teaching economics to children, I hope we get the chance to talk about it soon in depth.
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        Feb 6 2013: okay, but what to teach if we can't agree which philosophy is true?

        economics class: how soon? :) i can describe what i came up with so far if you wish
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          Feb 6 2013: Well i think teaching about great thinkers would be good enough.
          Should include history of philosophy and also what branches of philosophy exist.
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          Feb 16 2013: We don't have to agree on any philosophy, the mere exposure of students to different lines of thought will stimulate their brains and improve their analytical skills, and it will also make the teaching process more realistic and would probably make the students more confident getting engaged in issues that they normally feel intimidated by like politics for example :).
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          Feb 16 2013: Dont think about teaching in such a narowminded fashion of one person standing infront and presentig facts, that system is hugely flawed anyways.

          when teaching philosophy dont teach facts, dont tell, but ask thats what philosophy is about.
          You could start out with presenting questions to your students like "is it right to harm someone"
          there will in the optimal case be 20 diffrent opinions in one classroom and students will quickly figure out that there is no easy answer. From this point you could step on to reasoning what reasoning means, how mathmatical reasoning is done, just teaching the basic concepts of logic and reasoning.
          Then making another step and asking those deeper questions how would a perfect society look like. Once youve figured out those basic principles inside your classroom (the principles a perfect society would have to fullfill ) you could step back to those specific rules as (is it right to harm someone) and see if the outcome will be diffrent this time around.
          Ofcourse opnening up to all subjects students may stumble upon (maybe someone comes up with talking / discussing economic systems ... well go ahead and discuss).

          What this would require though is a completely neutral teacher and a grading systems which doesnt look for answers but the way in which an answer is presented and wether said answer has been given before (just repeating what youve read in a philosophers book should be valued lesser then creating own thoughts.)

          So the goal of the class would be to create students who think for themselves, at least thats what i would like to see.
  • Feb 6 2013: Just Sudan?
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      Feb 6 2013: Not necessarily, I'm not fully aware of the educational systems outside Sudan, but I believe that many other countries would also need that change in Education given the fact that world peace isn't achieved yet :) , if anyone here feels that he/she can relate to this problem please share your opinion with us..