Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Oklahoma politicians trampling a fundamental human right

Thursday is Human Rights Day, a day celebrated around the world every year on December 10. According to Wikipedia, "the date was chosen to honor the United Nations General Assembly's adoption and proclamation, on 10 December 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global enunciation of human rights." Now what's interesting for the purposes of this blog is Article 26, Section 3 of the UDHR:
Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Last year at a White House summit on faith-based urban schools, Dr. Charles Glenn, a professor at Boston University's School of Education, pointed out that "the right of parents to choose the schools that children attend is an internationally accepted norm."

Every country in the world except North Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba allows parents to choose schools. Every Western democracy except the United States provides public funding to support those choices. As you all know, I think, under a decision of the Supreme Court in 1925, that right of parents to choose schools is recognized in American law as well. But there's a fundamental equity issue in the American situation in that parents who lack the resources to support nongovernment education for their children, are not able to exercise the right that they possess under those international norms.

The various international covenants for human rights spell out clearly that this is a fundamental human right, and the United Nations and UNESCO have both agreed that it is fundamental in vindicating the right to education that the education provided not only be adequate, but that it be acceptable to parents.

And yet, here in the United States, that right is trampled. Now some will disagree, asserting that parents in Oklahoma and the rest of the country are perfectly free to choose whatever education they want for their children. But are they? Edmond North High School, for example, is a "public" school, so surely anyone can go there, just as they could go to a public library. If you're an underprivileged student in northeast Oklahoma City, try enrolling at Edmond North and let me know how that works out for you.

But parents are free to choose a nongovernment school, right? Well, there's that "fundamental equity issue" -- after being taxed to subsidize a particular kind of education, often parents are no longer free to choose what they want for their children.

This is discrimination, and it needs to stop.

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