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Empowering Children

Empowering Children: Children's Rights Education as a Pathway to Citizenship

  • Book Info
    Empowering Children
    Book Description:

    Approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1989, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child affirms that children in all countries have fundamental rights, including rights to education. To date, 192 states are signatories to or have in some form ratified the accord. Children are still imperilled in many countries, however, and are often not made aware of their guaranteed rights.

    InEmpowering Children, R. Brian Howe and Katherine Covell assert that educating children about their basic rights is a necessary means not only of fulfilling a country's legal obligations, but also of advancing education about democratic principles and the practice of citizenship. The authors contend that children's rights education empowers children as persons and as rights-respecting citizens in democratic societies. Such education has a 'contagion effect' that brings about a general social knowledge on human rights and social responsibility.

    Although there remain obstacles to the implementation of children's rights in many countries, Howe and Covell argue that reforming schools and enhancing teacher education are absolutely essential to the creation of a new culture of respect toward children as citizens. Their thorough and passionate work marks a significant advance in the field.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7438-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Denying Children’s Rights
    (pp. 3-18)

    You might suppose that this Canadian school trustee was referring to some new subversive organization for children and youth. Were children being called to join a radical new political party? Were children being lured into cult membership? No. What this trustee and many parents and adults across Canada were and are worried about is children in schools being informed that they have basic human rights. In celebration of the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (hereinafter the Convention), UNICEF Canada and Elections Canada jointly organized an election for schoolchildren to...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Fulfilling an Obligation
    (pp. 19-42)

    Children’s rights education is important because it is necessary to fulfilling an obligation of international law. During the 1990s, virtually all countries of the world, with the two exceptions of the United States and Somalia, have ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. In ratifying this legally binding document, they committed themselves to the task of not only implementing the rights of the child as defined in the Convention, but also of providing for children’s rights education. Under the Convention, it is not enough that a country take measures to secure children’s rights. It also is important...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Recognizing Children as Citizens
    (pp. 43-82)

    Children’s rights education is not just a requirement of international law. It also is important to the recognition of children as citizens with rights. As the above quote indicates, even leading international writers on citizenship such as Will Kymlicka (2001) assume that children are future rather than existing citizens. The commonly held assumption is that children are not-yets or potential citizens of the future and that schools therefore, have the function of preparing these not-yets for their future status as adult citizens. This is an adultcentric and narrow understanding. But children already are citizens in their own right, not pre-citizens...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Educating for Citizenship
    (pp. 83-117)

    The truth is that children are citizens and they do have the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Difficulty accepting this has, in part, been responsible for the opposition to children’s rights education and to its exclusion from citizenship education in schools. We are optimistic that the imperative of children’s rights education will become self-evident.

    Schools are the first social institution with which children have experience, and schools are like political systems (Flanagan, Bowes, Jonsson, Csapo, & Sheblanova, 1998). In schools, children explore what it means to be a member of a group other than family and they learn to negotiate...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Catching Citizenship
    (pp. 118-149)

    Recognizing the difficulties of providing effective education for democratic citizenship, Sutherland (2002) concluded that schools should avoid teaching democratic values and behaviours. Rather, she says, schools should limit their citizenship education to the teaching of political knowledge, languages, and history. We disagree. We do agree, however, that citizenship can be caught. In this chapter we demonstrate that children’s rights education does have a contagion effect. When taught about their Convention rights in a democratic classroom, children indeed do ‘catch’ citizenship values. We agree also with Holden and Clough (1998) that the needs of society can be met if children are...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Confronting the Challenges
    (pp. 150-184)

    Woodrow Wilson’s comment certainly reflects the challenges faced in attempting to implement a new curriculum. It also provides an explanation for the lack of real curriculum reform since compulsory education was introduced in the 1800s. Despite all the expressed concerns about educating for citizenship, and despite almost a century of literature in which consensus on best practices is evident, there has been relatively little change in schools. We agree strongly with Allan Collins (1996), who urged that educators address the issue of the potential use for what is taught. Does the material have relevance? Does it empower students for their...

  10. APPENDIX: The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
    (pp. 185-208)
  11. References
    (pp. 209-232)
  12. Index
    (pp. 233-245)