Recognizing International Human Rights Day

At NCTL, we believe it’s important that we recognize this day and honor the obligation to protect human rights every day of the year. The theme for this year’s Human Rights celebrates the fundamental proposition in the Universal Declaration that each one of us, everywhere, at all times, is entitled to the full range of human rights, that human rights belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values. In Article 26 of the Universal Declaration it states that, “everyone has the right to an education”. We would like to add to that: that everyone has a right to a high-quality education. But we know that, just having the rights to an education doesn’t ensure that each child will receive one. This raises the question to us: How do we close the gap between the best ideals of America (and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) and the reality that we see around us every day?

The current events in Ferguson, MO and the Eric Garner case in NYC, among many other cases, bring this point closer to home. While we know that there is so much involved in these cases, we also know that in communities of concentrated poverty, we can and should be doing more to ensure that all of our fellow citizens are not only receiving an education, but a high-quality education.

We agree with our colleagues at 50CAN in their response to the events in Ferguson:

"We believe that ensuring all Americans receive a high-quality education regardless of their address is a critical element of any approach to addressing the problems we see in Ferguson and in communities—particularly those of color—around the country. We believe this because we have seen firsthand the transformative power of great teachers and great schools in the lives of their students.

But we also recognize that the injustice of an unequal education is just one of many interconnected and deeply rooted injustices that must be undone if we are to create the society of opportunity we seek. And we cannot afford to be silent on the other injustices that work against the students we are working so hard to serve through our education advocacy campaigns.

And 50CAN is right. We cannot afford to be silent. We join with them and our colleagues at Teach for America who issued a call for action about the dropout crisis in low-income communities.

"We should all be challenging the reality that half of the children growing up in America’s low-income communities do not graduate from high school, and barely one in twenty graduates from college, and that the expectations we hold for our students in school and in life have everything to do with the color of their skin and their families’ economic status.

One’s zip code and ethnicity cannot be a determinant of one’s future. We all must work harder, and more importantly, work together to make sure that each and every child graduates from high school knowing his or her future, whether in a job, college or preparatory program. As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Perhaps it’s that ‘weapon’ that will challenge the status quo and finally bring us all together.