The principles and practices of human rights support the universal values of equal justice, democracy, and dignity. Events such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, and the assault on the U.S. Capitol Building demonstrate the urgent need to protect, respect, and fulfill human rights and democracy at all levels of our society. Globally recognized in documents such as the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), human rights are the responsibility of “every individual and every organ of society,” including especially our schools and classrooms.
Social studies are central to upholding this responsibility. In the 2014 Position Statement, “Human Rights Education: A Necessity for Social and Civic Learning,” NCSS affirmed the importance of teaching and learning about human rights “from early childhood through advanced education and lifelong learning.” Today, as the challenges to human rights and democracy have proliferated across the globe and domestically, we renew and expand that commitment, highlighting the need for education not only about human rights, but through human rights and for human rights. To equip ourselves and our students to meet our responsibilities and to fulfill the promise of human rights, the National Council for the Social Studies calls for a comprehensive commitment and a coordinated plan of action to (1) recognize the importance of human rights education; (2) integrate human rights education into social studies curricula, schoolwide policies, and classroom practices; (3) develop impactful human rights educators; (4) foster youth engagement and voice; and (5) infuse human rights education into local, state, and national policies.