Issue Number 244 October 31, 2018

This free Information Age Education Newsletter is edited by Dave Moursund and produced by Ken Loge. The newsletter is one component of the Information Age Education (IAE) publications.

All back issues of the newsletter and subscription information are available online. In addition, seven free books based on the newsletters are available: Joy of Learning; Validity and Credibility of Information; Education for Students’ Futures; Understanding and Mastering Complexity; Consciousness and Morality: Recent Research Developments; Creating an Appropriate 21st Century Education; and Common Core State Standards for Education in America.

Dave Moursund’s newly revised and updated book, The Fourth R (Second Edition) is now available in both English and Spanish. The thesis of this book is that the 4th R of Reasoning/Computational Thinking is fundamental to empowering today’s students and their teachers throughout the K-12 curriculum. The first edition was published in December, 2016, the second edition in August, 2018, and the Spanish translation of the second edition in September, 2018. The three books have now had a combined 24,000 page-views and downloads (Moursund, December, 2016; August, 2018; September, 2018).


Inalienable Rights of Children

David Moursund
Professor Emeritus, College of Education
University of Oregon

“It takes a whole village to raise a child.” (African proverb.)

“Mankind owes to the child the best that it has to give.” (United Nations
Declaration of Human Rights of the Child, 1959.)


League of Nations 1924 Geneva Declaration

Quoting from (Olivier, 12/12/2011, Link):

“Mankind owes to the Child the best that it has to give.”

With these words, on September 26, 1924, the League of Nations adopted the Geneva Declaration. This Declaration on the Rights of the Child is the first international statement that recognizes specific rights to the children and pointing out the responsibilities of adults.

On November 20, 1989, the General Assembly of the United Nations unanimously adopted the International Convention on the Rights of the Child [Wikipedia, 2018a, Link]. This text aims to improve the situation of children in the world and its implementation is a common goal to all humanity.


Definition of Inalienable/Unalienable Rights

What's unalienable cannot be taken away or denied. Its most famous use is in the Declaration of Independence. Unalienable and inalienable both mean the same thing.

Quoting from the American Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (US History.org, n.d.). [Bold added for emphasis.]

Of course, this statement about “all men” did not include slaves, although it evidently was intended to include all women. But, what about the children? What are the inalienable rights of children born in the United States? This IAE Newsletter explores the idea of inalienable rights of children. Here are two recommendations to the United States and the rest of the world that are based on ideas discussed in the newsletter:

  1. All countries throughout the world should strive to better define and address the inalienable rights of their children. There is considerable room for progress.

  2. Part of precollege education should help all children learn that they have a wide range of inalienable rights, and that many students (and perhaps they themselves) are being deprived of these rights.
Children’s Rights of Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness

Let’s begin with rights specified in the Declaration of Independence. To what extent do children of PreK-12 school age have inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? I think this is a very difficult question.

To a certain extent, children’s lives are certainly protected by the laws that protect the lives of adults. Indeed, taking the life of a child tends to be considered a more serious crime than taking the life of an adult.

From time to time, I read about a child’s parents who, for religious reasons, deny a child certain medical care, and the courts stepping in and forcing this care to be accepted. But, consider the following more frequently occurring situation. Suppose that a child is being raised in a home where both parents are alcohol and/or drug addicts.

Quoting from Narconon (n.d.):

…the most saddening byproduct of substance abuse is the neglect, abuse, and maltreatment of children whose parents are addicted to drugs.
Because addiction and alcoholism alter perception and reality very frequently, children of parents who are chemically dependent are not uncommonly found to be put in harm’s way, neglected or otherwise abused. [Note: bold as in original document.]

So, think about whether a child has an inalienable right to freedom from As you do this, think about how one determines whether a child is experiencing neglect, abuse, and maltreatment. How can this be determined, and how does a country, state, city, or other organization go about protecting such children?

This type of thinking will help you to understand the wide difference between having laws or agreements concerning inalienable rights of certain groups of people, and having a good system in place that both detects such violations and also takes appropriate action to stop and prevent the violations.

Here is another question to ponder. To what extent does a child have inalienable rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Parents and schools set rules and regulations that they expect their children to follow. These rules may be based on careful thought on how to best keep children from harm  and help them to get a good education both at home and at school. But, both parents and schools may make rather arbitrary rules and regulations that may well not be in the best interests of children.

As children grow and their horizons expand, they meet other children who have different home and school rules. As a result of differences in “at home” rules, parents may hear from their child, “It isn’t fair. Most of my friends at school have smartphones, and I don’t have one.” A different message might be, “My friend Pat gets to play computer games two hours a day, and I only get to play computer games one hour a day. It isn’t fair!”

Hmm. Are this child’s parents inhibiting their child’s liberty and pursuit of happiness? As you can see, the issues of rights of children is a very complex issue.

United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

In December of 1948, the United States and 47 other countries signed the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Russia and seven other countries abstained, and two countries did not vote (Wikipedia, 2018b).

The world has changed a great deal since 1948. I find it interesting to look at this list of human rights, both from the point of view of children and from the point of view of how well they have stood up under the major changes that have occurred in the world over the past 70 years.

For example, in 1948, considerable technology that we now take for granted did not exist. Transistors had not yet been invented, and the first commercially-produced computers were still a couple of years from reaching the market. Other examples include: Internet and Web; easily portable computers, smartphones and computer games; intercontinental ballistic missiles and earth satellites; fiber optic cables, including underwater fiber optic cables that now span the oceans; nuclear power and solar power; today’s land, sea, and air transportation system; the discovery of DNA and the eventual development of genetic engineering; and huge advances in medicine. How well has the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights stood up under these and other changes that have been going on for the past 70 years?

The Foundation of International Human Rights Law

Quoting from The Foundation of International Human Rights Law article on the United Nations’ website (United Nations, n.d.):

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is generally agreed to be the foundation of international human rights law. Adopted in 1948, the UDHR has inspired a rich body of legally binding international human rights treaties. It continues to be an inspiration to us all whether in addressing injustices, in times of conflicts, in societies suffering repression, and in our efforts towards achieving universal enjoyment of human rights.

It represents the universal recognition that basic rights and fundamental freedoms are inherent to all human beings, inalienable and equally applicable to everyone, and that every one of us is born free and equal in dignity and rights. Whatever our nationality, place of residence, gender, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status, the international community on December 10, 1948 made a commitment to upholding dignity and justice for all of us. [Bold added for emphasis.]

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights consists of a preamble and thirty articles. The following quoted sections are from the Wikipedia (2018b). My comments are made from the point of view of a citizen of the United States, but they are applicable worldwide.

Articles 3-11 established other individual rights, such as the right to life and the prohibition of slavery. Article 5 says: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

Moursund Comment. The statement about slavery makes me think about things such as:

  1. Sex slaves (involuntary prostitutes and their pimps). Some of these sex slaves are children.
  2. People working at jobs that do not support a “reasonable” quality of life. The current U.S. Federal government minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. This is not a “living wage.” Many children (under 18 years of age) and adults in the U.S. work at less than a living wage level. As an example, a living wage in Oregon, my home state, is $12.48 per hour (Martin, 7/20/2018). In Portland, the largest city in Oregon, a living wage is estimated to be $13.7 per hour. These amounts are  quite a bit more than the Oregon minimum wage of $10.75 per hour, and far more than the federal minimum wage.

I find it interesting to also think about:

  1. Bullying of children seems to fall under Article 5. Placing a student in a separate room for long periods of time without any other children or adults as a form of punishment also may well fall under Article 5.

  2. The expectations that schools place on students, and the grading structure they typically use. Children vary considerably in their talents and interests. The way we organize and structure schooling often does not fit well with individual differences. This can contribute to loss of self-esteem and self-confidence.

Articles 18-21 sanctioned the so-called “constitutional liberties", and with spiritual, public, and political freedoms, such as freedom of thought, opinion, religion and conscience, word, and peaceful association of the individual.

Moursund Comment. We currently have a substantial amount of war going on in our world in which people are striving to maintain or gain various constitutional liberties and/or to take away such constitutional liberties from others. Computer technology plays a major role in the efforts of both sides in such conflicts. We see this in the use of the Internet for communication and in high tech weapons.

Humans have had to deal with fake news at least since the time that they developed speech. The development of reading and writing certainly added to this problem. Now computer technology has substantially increased the widespread use of fake news and also fostered the development of a science of such use. An excellent example is provided by the use of fake news and/or highly selected biased news to affect election results.

Advertising provides another example. Children and adults are routinely exposed to a type of fake news that goes by the name of advertising. This is not to say that all advertising is a type of fake news. But, many of the ads are, in my opinion, a type of false advertising—in essence, a type of fake news.

Articles 22-27 sanctioned an individual's economic, social and cultural rights, including healthcare.

Article 25 states: "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services [including education]." It also makes additional accommodations for security in case of physical debilitation or disability, and makes special mention of care given to those in motherhood or childhood.

Article 26 states: Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. [Bold added for emphasis.]

Moursund Comment. Articles 22-27 are very relevant to both children and adults. The next section discusses some of these inalienable rights from the point of view of children. For example, even in the United States, a very wealthy country, many children have totally inadequate food, housing, health care, clothing. These and other conditions (such as inequalities in school funding) often contribute to children receiving an inadequate education. See my article, Education as a Birthright (Moursund, July, 2018).

More About Articles 22-27 and the Inalienable Rights of Children

I suspect that most of my readers agree that food and shelter are inalienable rights of children. In recent years I have written a number of articles about hunger and homelessness in the United States (Moursund, 4/10/2017; 2/22/2017; 5/1/2014.)

Quoting from University of California, Davis (12/18/17):

Historically, the official poverty rate in the United States had ranged from a high of 22.4 percent when it was first estimated for 1959 to a low of 11.1 percent in 1973. Since its initial rapid decline after 1964 with the launch of major War on Poverty programs, the poverty rate has fluctuated between around 11 and 15 percent.

While poverty rates according to the official and supplemental measures fluctuate from year to year, so do incomes relative to the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). According to the Census Bureau, 8.5 million people reported deep poverty, which means a household income below 50 percent of their 2016 poverty threshold. [This data does not include people classified as homeless. Homelessness is a major problem in the US and many other countries. See Layton & Brown (9/15/2015).]

Quoting from a 1/16/18 update from the same source:

According to Census Bureau Data, a larger percentage of children younger than 18 live in deep poverty than adults in any other age group. In 2016, nearly 8.2 percent of all children lived in deep poverty.

The estimated number of homeless children varies with the definition being used. Here is an example of the type of data being reported (Coalition for the Homeless, 2018).

In July 2018, there were 61,697 homeless people, including 15,032 homeless families with 22,384 homeless children, sleeping each night in the New York City municipal shelter system. Families make up three-quarters of the homeless shelter population.

Over the course of City fiscal year 2017, 129,803 different homeless men, women, and children slept in the New York City municipal shelter system. This includes over 45,000 different homeless New York City children. [Bold added for emphasis.]

This report only provides information about use of the city’s municipal shelter system. Many homeless children and adults do not make use of the system. This includes children and adults living on the streets, sleeping in cars, staying in friends’ homes, and so on.

Final Remarks

For the past five years I have lived in the small town of Florence, Oregon (population about 8,800). It definitely has its full share or more of children living in extreme poverty, and many of these are homeless children. It is heartening to see the number of volunteers, donors, non-profit organizations, and agencies that help to meet the needs of these children.

The New Your City data given above indicates that about 1.5% of the total population of the city spent some time in the New York City municipal shelter system in 2017. If we applied the same percentage figure to Florence, Oregon, this would suggest the need to provide a similar service to about 130 people of Florence in the past year. Unfortunately, this small town has no such municipal shelter service, and a very rough estimate based on available information suggests that about a third of those in Florence not receiving help from the city are children.

Poverty, hunger, and homelessness of children are endemic throughout the United States and in many other countries throughout the world. The inalienable rights of these children are commonly being violated.

There is worldwide acceptance of the idea that children have an inalienable right to a good education. However, beyond the basics of elementary schools that emphasize reading, writing, arithmetic, and local/national history, there are considerable differences of opinion as to what else should be included, and for how many years of schooling. My most recent book, The Fourth R (Second Edition) addresses this issue (Moursund, August, 2018). The book explores the idea of fulling integrating the Fourth R of Reasoning/Computational Thinking, using a combination of human and computer brain power, throughout the curriculum at all grade levels. This free book is available in both English and Spanish. I strongly believe that, for all children living in today’s world, such a change in their education is an inalienable right.

What You Can Do

These violations of what I consider to be the inalienable rights of children have been going on for a very long time. Addressing these problems requires both top-down and bottom-up commitments and action. You, as an individual, can make a difference by first increasing your knowledge about such problems in your own community. Then get involved in addressing these problems!

References and Resources

Coalition for the Homeless (2018). Basic facts about homelessness: New York City. Retrieved 10/1/2018 from http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/basic-facts-about-homelessness-new-york-city/.

Jefferson, T. (6/28/1776). A Declaration by the Representatives of United States of America, in General Congress Assembled. Retrieved 8/20/2018 from http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/documents/1776-1785/jeffersons-draft-of-the-declaration-of-independence.php#par2.

Layton, L., & Brown, E. (9/15/2015). Number of homeless students in U.S. has doubled since before the recession. The Washington Post. Retrieved 10/1/2018 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/number-of-us-homeless-students-has-doubled-since-before-the-recession/2015/09/14/0c1fadb6-58c2-11e5-8bb1-b488d231bba2_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d38765958758.

Martin, E. (7/20/2018). This map shows how much a single person needs to earn to live comfortably in every US state. CNBC. Retrieved 10/17/2018 from https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/home-loans/this-map-shows-how-much-you-need-to-earn-to-own-a-home-in-every-major-city/ar-AAAG71A.

Moursund, D. (August, 2018). The Fourth R (Second Edition). Retrieved 8/12/2018 from http://iae-pedia.org/The_Fourth_R_(Second_Edition). Download the Microsoft Word file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/307-the-fourth-r-second-edition.html. Download the PDF file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/308-the-fourth-r-second-edition-1.html. This book is also available in Spanish at http://iae-pedia.org/La_Cuarta_R_(Segunda_Edici%C3%B3n).

Moursund, D. (July, 2018). Education as a birthright: What does this mean? IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 10/6/2018 from http://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2018-237.html.

Moursund, D. (4/10/2017). Poverty and testing: Two major educational problems. IAE Blog. Retrieved 10/1/2018 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/poverty-and-testing-two-major-educational-problems.html.

Moursund, D. (2/22/2017). Student homelessness in the United States. IAE Blog. Retrieved 10/1/2018 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/student-homelessness-in-the-united-states-1.html.

Moursund, D. (5/1/2014). Hungry children—America’s shame. IAE Blog. Retrieved 1/24/2016 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/hungry-children-america-s-shame.html.

Narconon (n.d.). How children are affected by drug addicted parents. Retrieved 9/29/2018 from https://www.narconon.org/drug-addiction/how-children-are-affected-by-drug-addicted-parents-2/.

Olivier (12/12/2011). Mankind owes to the child the best that it has to give. Humanium. Retrieved 11/22/2018 from https://www.humanium.org/en/give-child-best-2/.

United Nations (n.d.). The Foundation of International Human Rights Law. Retrieved 10/4/2018 from http://www.un.org/en/sections/universal-declaration/foundation-international-human-rights-law/index.html.

University of California, Davis (12/18/17. What is the current poverty rate in the United States? Center for Poverty Research. Retrieved 10/1/2018 from https://poverty.ucdavis.edu/faq/what-current-poverty-rate-united-states.
US History.org (n.d.). Declaration of Independence. Retrieved 10/1/2018 from http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/.

Vocabulary.com (2018). Retrieved 8/20/2018 from https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/unalienable.

Wikipedia (2018a). Convention on the Rights of the Child. Retrieved 10/22/2018 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convention_on_the_Rights_of_the_Child.

Wikipedia (2018b). Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Retrieved 10/4/2018 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Declaration_of_Human_Rights.


Author

David Moursund is an Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Oregon, and editor of the IAE Newsletter. His professional career includes founding the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) in 1979, serving as ISTE’s executive officer for 19 years, and establishing ISTE’s flagship publication, Learning and Leading with Technology (now published by ISTE as Empowered Learner).He was the major professor or co-major professor for 82 doctoral students. He has presented hundreds of professional talks and workshops. He has authored or coauthored more than 60 academic books and hundreds of articles. Many of these books are available free online. See http://iaepedia.org/David_Moursund_Books .

In 2007, Moursund founded Information Age Education (IAE). IAE provides free online educational materials via its IAE-pedia, IAE Newsletter, IAE Blog, and IAE books. See http://iaepedia.org/Main_Page#IAE_in_a_Nutshell . Information Age Education is now fully integrated into the 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, Advancement of Globally Appropriate Technology and Education (AGATE) that was established in 2016. David Moursund is the Chief Executive Officer of AGATE.

Email: moursund@uoregon.edu.

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About Information Age Education, Inc.

Information Age Education is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving education for learners of all ages throughout the world. Current IAE activities and free materials include the IAE-pedia at http://iae-pedia.org, a Website containing free books and articles at http://i-a-e.org/, a Blog at http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog.html, and the free newsletter you are now reading. See all back issues of the Blog at http://iae-pedia.org/IAE_Blog and all back issues of the Newsletter at http://i-a-e.org/iae-newsletter.html.