Human Rights in the School

Foreword

This guide will be welcomed by all educators interested in building an environment in which our students can learn to understand, respect and promote basic human rights for all. While human rights education is becoming an area of increasing interest across the country, resource materials are needed to support this area of study.

Happily, a good deal of national and international legislation today reflects a clear concern for human rights. Our own Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is an example of such an effort. However, while laws are necessary, they are not a sufficient means of protecting human rights. It is the responsibility of all of us to take positive steps ensure that the fundamental principles reflected these laws are observed. This commitment begins with ensuring that our own behaviour reflects our belief in human rights.

As individuals, we must recognize that our own attitudes and conduct either threaten or promote the dignity and rights of others. It is therefore necessary a conscious effort to analyze our behaviour. We can begin with a willingness to look within ourselves and our families, organizations, institutions and other groups and consider our behaviour in relationship to the principles of human rights. This kind of examination has most often followed gross violations of human rights. By emphasizing the need for an ongoing examination of our attitudes and conduct, resources such as this guidebook may reduce the incidence of human rights violations.

Human rights curriculum material is currently being developed and implemented in Manitoba and across the country. Its effectiveness will be severely limited if the climate in which it is taught does not exemplify the fundamental principles of justice and human rights. Our schools must reflect a belief of the basic equality of all people, irrespective of race, sex, cultural background, physical or mental ability, sexual orientation, family status, age, economic status or other characteristics. Schools and classrooms present opportunities to model just social systems which respect the rights and freedoms of all participants.

Reviewing the extent to which our schools meet basic human rights can be a threatening exercise. However, our visions of tomorrow will be influenced strongly by our practices of today. If we cherish the ideal of shaping a future based on values that are consistent with a humane, just and democratic society, then we must be willing to put forward the extraordinary effort and commitment necessary to help us move closer to this ideal. This guidebook will assist us on that journey!

Strini Reddy
Chief Superintendent
Frontier School Division 1985-91

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