Teaching Tools, 7 May 2007
The teacher could begin by asking the children how they would feel if everyone in the class did what he or she liked all the time. For example, everyone can talk when they want to, even at the same time; everyone can say what they like; everyone can use whatever they like, even if the object does not belong to them; everyone can lose their temper and even hit others if they want to. Try to involve as many class members as possible in this discussion.
Encourage the students to think about the consequences of anarchy in the classroom, and to think about the desirability of class rules that allow each student to feel secure and valued in class.
At this stage, the students could work in groups to discuss what should be done to maintain a friendly and working environment in the classroom. This exercise will help students to think in terms of rights and responsibilities.
First, the students need to decide what their basic rights are in the classroom. An example to start them off could be: Every student, and even the teacher, should feel safe in this classroom. Have the students identify at least five classroom rights. When the students get back together again, a representative from each group can write on the blackboard what basic rights were agreed upon in their groups. If the combined list is long, the students need to agree which rights are the most basic and important. The students should give reasons for their choices.
Then, ask the students to decide collectively how each of these rights can be realized. In other words, how should everyone in the classroom behave to ensure that these rights are respected. For instance, if everyone has the right to feel safe in the classroom, then no-one should physically or emotionally hurt anyone else. The students should draw up a set of rules to ensure that everyone's rights are respected. Stress that each member of the classroom is responsible for obeying these rules to maintain a friendly and working environment in the classroom. Explain the problems that would be encountered if no one accepted these responsibilities.
Having agreed that each member of the class has certain basic rights, and that there needs to be certain rules to establish those rights, the students are now required to broaden their perspective to consider the basic rights and responsibilities of members of society.
Ask the students to imagine that they have been given the job of planning the rules to manage the global community. As planners, they do not know who they will be when they join that community themselves. They could be male or female, rich or poor, young or old, disabled in some way, or be a member of any particular race, ethnic group, culture or religion.
Each student should write a list of fundamental rules for the planet, designed to define human rights and responsibilities.