In response to a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle, in which teachers describe the daily stress in their students’ lives in these turbulent times, TWAICB Director Sandy Sohcot sent this letter to the reporter. 

Dear Ms. Ravani,

Thank you for the article on the UCLA Research showing classrooms filled with anxiety.

I’d like to offer using the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as a tool to teachers to guide discussion that could help students better bridge divisive feelings, grasp how derogatory language and actions affect others, and help express the human rights affected by language and policies of their government representatives.

The UDHR, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on December 10, 1948, was meant as an aspirational vehicle to steer the world toward sustainable peace, and provide conditions to live with dignity and well-being, and is supposed to be taught to high school students by their junior year. All 30 Articles spelled out in the UDHR belong to each of us, everywhere.

With the UDHR as a guide, students can identify which Articles/rights are affected by specific actions or words of others, or by the words and/or policies of their elected representatives. Here are possible questions to guide class discussion and constructive action:

  • What human rights are affected by the words/actions/policies? (Which UDHR Articles apply?)
  • Why are these human rights important for everyone to experience?
  • What are possible reasons the words/actions/policies have occurred?
  • What actions could be taken to help people grasp the impact of their words/actions/policies and be held accountable for this impact?
  • What are our next steps to take these actions?

Thank you for considering this input and possibly communicating about the UDHR to broaden awareness of its continuing importance. I’ve learned through my 11 years of program work that only 7% of the U.S. Population knows the UDHR exists.

Sandy Sohcot, Director
The World As It Could Be Human Rights Education Program
A Program of the Alameda County Deputy Sheriffs’ Activities League (DSAL)