Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A History Lesson

I have spent the last two weeks getting ready for next semester. I have been making lesson plans, my syllabus, figuring out what to teach, etc., and am ready to just jump in and teach on Monday. I'm starting to feel restless. There's only so much planning that can be done.

Other teachers in my building have been warning me about certain students or overall classes I am getting. That's OK, but I am looking forward to a clean slate, both for these students and for me.

Today I was working on a lesson that I will be teaching in a few weeks about the US Bill of Rights. I was reading through the South African Bill of Rights and the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I have been very surprised at some of the issues covered in both of these documents, which the US Bill of Rights doesn't come close to covering.

Reading through the UN document, which was written Post-WWII, made me think of all the ways these rights have NOT been upheld in our world (especially in the US), and the implications these have on current events.

For example:

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. (Does this include for military or terrorist activities?)

Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country. (What about Mexicans coming to the US?)

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

And from the South African Bill of Rights:

Everyone has the right to life.
Everyone has the right ­
  1. to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and
  2. to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that ­
    1. prevent pollution and ecological degradation;
    2. promote conservation; and
    3. secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.
Every child has the right (to name a few...)­
  1. to a name and a nationality from birth;
  2. to family care or parental care, or to appropriate alternative care when removed from the family environment;
  3. to basic nutrition, shelter, basic health care services and social services;
  4. to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation;
  5. to be protected from exploitative labour practices;
  6. not to be used directly in armed conflict, and to be protected in times of armed conflict. (What about the children soldiers in Sudan?)
I am very appreciative of the United States Bill of Rights, but I also know we have a long way to go; however, just because they are written in a Constitution doesn't mean they are upheld.

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