English Schools to Offer Lessons on Human Rights
A human rights programme that is currently being taught to more than a million students in the US and around the world has been brought to schools in England.
The programme, Speak Truth to Power, was designed by human rights activist and lawyer Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the US politician Robert F Kennedy.
Robert F Kennedy – also known as RFK or Bobby Kennedy – was brother and campaign manager to the assassinated president JFK. He was also a huge advocate for human rights around the world and actually won his own presidential campaign a few years after his brother’s death. Sadly, he was shot that very night and died the next day.
His daughter, Kerry, is carrying on with the work in his name, and now wants human rights lessons brought to the UK. She founded RFK Human Rights, an organisation of people who are passionate about realising RFK’s dream of a “more just and peaceful world”.
Speak Truth to Power tackles such topics as slavery, religious freedom, political violence, and repression. Students can also learn about human rights activists who have challenged oppression and who have faced torture or imprisonment.
Ms Kennedy explained that the idea of the programme is to blend human rights into what schools already teach, so that it becomes a part of the curriculum and not something just tacked onto the end of it.
Material for the lessons will be available to teachers online, and training will be funded by the organisation. This online material will also help teachers discuss with their students current news about the refugees fleeing Syria.
Ms Kennedy said that she would love to see teachers across the UK bringing the curriculum to their students, and “creating the tiny ripples of hope to lead to real and lasting change”.
The programme is hoped to encourage debate about the rights of refugees arriving from the Middle East. Ms Kennedy is also hoping that it will help young people learn to challenge extremism, and show them that intolerable views are not acceptable.
At the moment, the biggest threat to human rights around the world is hate, she explained. Whether in the form of oppression of women in Nigeria, or the political repression and violence in Syria, violations of human rights is something that needs to be severely addressed.
She added that the language of prejudice is even something that be heard in the school playground, which, in most cases, is learnt behaviour. But the programme aims to teach young people to challenge intolerance instead of feeding it, and learn how to stand up to it.
Speak Truth to Power was officially launched in South London on Monday, at the Lilian Baylis Technology School. Alongside Ms Kennedy at the launch was Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, who believes the human rights lessons will encourage students to become more active and engaged citizens in the future.
“We want all young people to leave school well-rounded, confident, and resilient,” Mrs Morgan noted, “and fully prepared for life in modern Britain.”
The programme is completely free, and ultimately, it will be up to the individual schools whether or not they adopt the curriculum. But when the aim is to show students how anyone, no matter who they are, can make a difference, we doubt there will be many schools turning this opportunity down.
And what more do we want for our children than for them to leave their mark on this world and make a change for the good?