Our Rights and Responsibilities

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Every child has a right to a quality basic education.   From our beginning OLE has emphasized this right to education, found in Article 27 in the Declaration of Human Rights, however I now think this is a one-sided, seriously flawed statement.

I now believe that every right should have responsibilities explicitly connected to it.  We should begin thinking and speaking of “rights and responsibilities” rather than addressing only the “rights” side of that relationship.  Such responsibilities are not limited to exercising one’s own rights. They include responsibility for helping others exercise their rights, including strangers, as well as one’s children.

This reframe can be applied to education and learning in important ways. It can be applied to all of us and not just our children.  To believe that everyone has not only the right but also the responsibility to learn and to help others learn, invalidates the option of choosing not to learn, or of accepting the fact that millions around the world are unable to read and write.  We can frame learning as an important part of our entire lives rather than simply a phase when we prepare for adulthood.   With this frame, learning becomes a life-long social responsibility.

Do children also have a responsibility to learn?  I believe they do, even when it is difficult and even when they have no access to formal education.  In their case it is not an onerous responsibility.  Children love to learn.  Responsibility goes hand in hand with, and supports their rights to learn.

This tight, two-sided connection among rights and responsibilities has implications well beyond education.  Think about it. How would our discussions change if we were to apply the rights and responsibilities framework to the contentious debates swirling around voting, guns and speech? Would there be a fine for not voting?  Would the NRA accept that there are responsibilities that go with owning a gun? Would the media become more even handed in their reporting?

Thus we have changed the masthead on our website to: “Everyone has the right and the responsibility to obtain a quality basic education and to help others do the same.”

Please give me your reactions, pro and con.