Essential: Education in Democracy and Human Rights

Friday, March 30, 2012

From subjects to full citizens. “Educated” citizens, that is, citizens who act upon their own reflections. “Free and responsible”, as defined in Article 1 of the UNESCO Constitution. People capable of fully using the distinctive creative capacity of the human beings, able of inventing their own future, which should never be accepted as inevitable. Fatalism and dogmatisms must be eradicated, enabling them to shake the weights off their wings and to fly high in the infinite space of the spirit.

Citizens who are dedicated and committed, who don’t allow themselves to be intimidated, who know how to overcome the fear that thwarts the free will of so many.

For centuries we have been subjected to the absolute power of men. We have been passive spectators rather than actors; mere recipients of often biased information; witness afraid to act. Silenced, silent.

For that reason “free and responsible” education for citizenship is essential, education that in the words of the first paragraph of the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can “free us from fear”.

Convinced of the essential importance of education in human rights and democracy, as Director General of UNESCO I organized a world congress with thousands of educators to address the best way to implement it, taking advantage of the experience of all of them. It was held in Montreal, Canada in March, 1993. The result was the “Action Plan for Education in Human Rights and Democracy”, and I recommend that it be read by those who for partisan or religious motives support another type of civic education that logically lacks the conceptual and practical rigor of this document, which was prepared taking into account the multiple aspects that it must include.

The Action Plan was so well received at the Universal Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna in 1993 that it was included in its final text.

I was perplexed by an article published in ABC’s March 8th Alfa-Omega supplement entitled “Thanks Mom and Dad for encouraging me to reject Education for Citizenship!” Until children reach the age of majority it is the task of their parents and tutors to choose the religious and ideological framework that they consider most appropriate. But prompting them to “reject” education for citizenship, as in the case just described, is exposing them to growing up fearful and dependent.

Read the 1993 World Plan that is intended for all people, families, educators, students, leaders… of the World. And perhaps they will recognize that there are areas that were duly clarified years ago, and with all types of full guarantees…