The World As It Could Be Program began in 2006 following the publication of the Rex Foundation newsletter Perspectives on Being Human. We developed this newsletter to raise awareness about the human rights framework – the concept that all endeavors seeking to enhance the quality of lives of others and right wrongs, such as working toward civil rights and women’s rights, are united by the common goal of furthering human rights. This framework helps describe the common thread of Rex Foundation grantees whose work address a wide range of issues.
The newsletter included the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Seeking to bring to life the significance of the UDHR and the human rights framework, while also involving youth and showcasing the great work of Rex grantees, we commissioned the first original production called The World As It Could Be – A Declaration of Human Rights, created collaboratively by youth and leaders of Destiny Arts Center, Youth Speaks and the Mime Troupe Youth Theatre Project. The first performance took place on December 7th at the Presidio for leaders of non-profit organizations. The second performance took place on December 8th at Balboa High School in San Francisco.
The following insights gained from the process of creating and presenting this performance were what compelled the development of our curriculum and all the program work that has continued:
- The UDHR provides an exciting framework for actively engaging in local and global efforts toward the achievement of life, liberty and human dignity for all people:
- Although the U.S. played a crucial role in the drafting of the UDHR and its adoption on December 10, 1948 by the UN General Assembly, many people, across all ages and demographics, are not aware of the UDHR, even though the document is an official element of Social Studies curriculum in most public schools;
- When youth have the opportunity to not only learn about the UDHR, but also be leaders in teaching its importance to their peers and to adults, they demonstrate increased involvement in their studies, enhanced social interaction skills and greater commitment to be positively engaged in their school and community;
- The creative arts provide a powerful and vital mechanism in teaching the UDHR in a way that compels student engagement, deeper learning and personal connection to otherwise abstract content, as well as being a vehicle to express ideas that emerge from the studies;
- The culminating presentation and celebration of the students’ creative reflections on their studies of the UDHR provide a unique rite-of-passage experience that motivates both higher levels of academic engagement as well as enhanced awareness and commitment to being engaged members of their immediate and broader communities.