My Turn: Bringing peace and social justice to our classrooms

Published: 3/8/2021 7:00:16 AM

On June 26, 1945, in San Francisco, 50 nations ratified the charter that created the United Nations. The U.S. Senate later voted 89 to 2 to accept it. On Dec. 10, 1948, representatives from those 50 countries voted on the approval of the 30 Articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), much of which is based on America’s Bill of Rights.

Why a UDHR? After WWII, which led to the slaughter of millions of soldiers and innocent civilians, including six million Jews and others such as Gypsies, homosexuals, the disabled, and political prisoners, the people of the world had seen enough and resolved to establish a new world organization to address issues centering on war, poverty, racism and human rights. Hence, the birth of both the United Nations and the UDHR which is not legally binding upon any of the signatory nations.

On March 2, 2021, the NH House Education Committee held a hearing on HB 441. This bill called for the state to require that each public school library and/or classrooms where Civics and U.S. History are taught, to have a copy of the UDHR posted on a wall in each of these rooms. The sponsor of the bill was Rep. Ellen Reed (D-Newmarket) who graciously agreed to introduce it for NH Veterans for Peace (VFP). Leo Sandy, VFP member said: “approval of the public display and discussion of the UDHR is a big step toward international cooperation, respect for human rights, social justice, and world peace. It has an important and unique place in helping to liberate people from oppression, poverty, and ignorance. It also helps to advance human development by bringing attention to the dignity of human beings.”

Based on the testimony and opposition to this bill, it appears likely that HB 441 will not be recommended by the House Education Committee and that the entire House probably will not have the opportunity to vote on it. Critics of the UDHR claimed it would take away “school choice,” but this is false as Article 26, Section 3, states that “parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

Another opponent mentioned Article 3: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” Perhaps, they forgot the Declaration of Independence? Still another critic said that the UDHR is “being elevated over the Constitution” and some goals are “tyrannical,” such as Article 26, which says in part, “Elementary education shall be compulsory.” The opponent reminded the committee that the Supreme Court ruled that “parents have authority over their children’s education.” This same critic said that “our rights are not given to us by a global organization” and that the UDHR is “a direct attack on our liberty.”

Finally, yet another critic mentioned Article 22 which listed “social security” as a right. This opponent said isn’t this “getting into communism and socialism?”

As peace and social justice advocates, we believe that citizens and their children deserve to be informed about this powerful document. We often hear from politicians that America stands for Human Rights. Let them prove it.

(Dr. Leo Sandy lives in Chesterfield and Will Thomas lives in Auburn.)


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