The Universal Right to Education: Justification, Definition, and Guidelines

The Universal Right to Education: Justification, Definition, and Guidelines

The Universal Right to Education: Justification, Definition, and Guidelines

The Universal Right to Education: Justification, Definition, and Guidelines

Synopsis

In this book, Joel Spring offers a powerful and closely reasoned justification and definition for the universal right to education--applicable to all cultures--as provided for in Article 26 of the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. One sixth of the world's population, nearly 855 million people, are functionally illiterate, and 130 million children in developing countries are without access to basic education. Spring argues that in our crowded global economy, educational deprivation has dire consequences for human welfare. Such deprivation diminishes political power. Education is essential for providing citizens with the tools for resisting totalitarian and repressive governments and economic exploitation. What is to be done? The historically grounded, highly original analysis and proposals Spring sets forth in this book go a long way toward answering this urgent question. Spring first looks at the debates leading up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, to see how the various writers dealt with the issue of cultural differences. These discussions provide a framework for examining the problem of reconciling cultural differences with universal concepts. He next expands on the issue of education and cultural differences by proposing a justification for education that is applicable to indigenous peoples and minority cultures and languages. This justification is then applied to all people within the current global economy. Acknowledging that the right to an education is inseparable from children's rights, he uses the concept of a universal right to education to justify children's rights, and, in turn, applies his definition of children's liberty rights to the concept of education. His synthesis of cultural, language, and children's rights provides the basis for a universal justification and definition for the right to education -- which, in the concluding chapters, Spring uses to propose universal guidelines for human rights education, and instruction in literacy, numeracy, cultural centeredness, and moral economy.

Excerpt

My original intention was simply to explore human rights education, which I thought had lost touch with its primary mission. However, I discovered that no universal justification for "the right to education" was provided when this idea was proclaimed in 1948 in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Indeed, no one had even bothered to define the meaning of education in the "right to education" except to say that everyone was entitled to elementary schooling.

Being interested in differing cultural concepts of education and human rights, I decided to examine the original debates about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to see how the writers had handled the issue of cultural differences. I discovered that because of the Cold War and the ideological tensions between so-called capitalist and communist countries, it was impossible to arrive at a common justification for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Rather than stall the process by trying to overcome impossible ideological differences, the writers simply agreed that all national ideologies would eventually evolve into an acceptance of a common justification. One result of this disregard for finding a truly "universal" set of human rights was the refusal of the U.S. Congress in the 1950s to ratify the Universal Declaration of Human Rights./rWithout a universal justification for the "right to education" and a universal definition of "education" as provided for in this right, the right is very difficult to protect and implement. Consequently, I took on the task of finding both a universal justification and a definition. To demonstrate the results of this search, I decided to apply my universal justification and definition to instruction in human rights, literacy, numeracy, cultural centeredness, and moral economy.

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