chapter  4
22 Pages

Ours to reason why? The human rights issue

Human rights are now firmly on educational agendas: a welcome development, from the standpoint of this book. Yet there is a danger that the abundance of declarations, conventions and laws will encourage selective interpretation reflecting the domestic priorities of those very authorities who promote the notion of human rights in a global context. Temptation to heighten, lower or omit emphases according to institutional priorities is probably encouraged by differences in the legal status of various authoritative instruments like the United Nations Universal Declaration, the European Convention and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. There are also philosophical questions about the justification of human rights theories which cannot simply be taken for granted; some Asian countries, notably China, refute the concept of universal human rights as a western construct which is alien to their cultural traditions. The philosophical issues are profound and controversial. At the end of this chapter and in later ones, I hope at least to indicate the pivotal importance of educational freedoms and the concept of the critically autonomous learner in the universalising tradition of human rights that ultimately generated those international agreements.