Update: Two small adjustments to this story were made to clarify the relationship between Common Core and school districts.
A parent in upstate New York is claiming there is some disturbing information being taught to his child as a result of a Common Core-aligned lesson on government and human rights. (Common Core is the controversial standardized curriculum program being advocated for by the federal government.)
The latest example, he says, is that his daughter and her classmates are being taught a section on the 30 "universal human rights" declared by the United Nations in 1945. Those rights include:
• The right to a nationality, and to change that nationality whenever you want to.
• The right to a job for everyone who wants one.
• The right to "social security" (to be taken care of by the government when you cannot do it yourself).
• The right to food, clothing, housing and medicine.
• The right to work and join a union. (One of the rights also states that you cannot be compelled to join an association.)
• The right to play.
The father of a 5th grade student who attends public school emailed TheBlaze to alert us to the lessons being taught to his child. The dad (who happens to be an attorney) emailed his daughter's teacher to question her about the lessons and received a call from the school's principal to address his concerns. He said he had a phone conversation with that principal, and the principle revealed that:
• The lessons are tied to the Common Core guidelines found on EngageNY.
• The U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights was being taught for about an hour each day over an eight-week period.
• The U.S. Constitution was part of another eight-week "government" section, however only three weeks were spent studying it.
• The principal believes that most public schools in the state are using this program as well as others from Common Core.
In a subsequent phone conversation with TheBlaze, the father -- who asked to remain anonymous to protect his child's identity -- added that the school's principal was not happy about the curriculum mandates, but was powerless to do anything about it. All of the decisions and directions came from the state.
All the "right" things
The video that triggered the man's initial email to the school is a 9:30 "documentary" titled, "What Are Human Rights?"
The webpage that features the above historical explanation of the U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights also contains a few other sections worth mentioning. There are 30 additional short, public-service-style videos, one each on the U.N.'s "rights."
In this clip, called "Universal Rights," a man is being threatened with execution and declares, "I have rights!" The bad guys laugh at him, ask him where he thinks he is and prepare to kill him. That is until a United Nations SUV rides into the frame and the bad guys immediately drop their weapons. One SUV with a U.N. logo is enough to convince these blood-thirsty killers to change their ways:
In addition to the "Universal Rights" clip, there are others. For example, a video that teaches students that the U.N.'s declaration also includes a "right to work." Under that right are four basic rules:
- Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
- Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
- Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
- Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
If "work" is a human right, many would argue that the State has a responsibility to create work for those who do not have it.
Also among the 30 rights, is the right for food and shelter. The UN defines this right very specifically:
- Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
- Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
According to this right, the government would be expected to provide just about anything a person needs from cradle to grave.
The videos' curious origins
As we researched the videos featured on the U.N.'s website and part of the homework assignment from Common Core, we noticed a couple of unusual things.
- The producer of these videos was the Church of Scientology.
- The clips have been online since 2008, most of them were uploaded on April 3 of that year.
The non-profit Church of Scientology posted the following statement under one of the clips:
Central to our beliefs in Scientology is a conviction that all humankind is entitled to inalienable rights. So it is for more than 50 years, Scientologists have championed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today, the Church of Scientology sponsors the largest non-governmental information campaign to make the Universal Declaration of Human Rights known the world over. To date, the Church has brought its campaign to more than 600 million.
When you watch the clips via Scientology's YouTube channel, the church has disabled the commenting section under the videos, slightly considering rights No. 18 and No. 19 -- freedom of thought and freedom of expression.
Separation of church and state?
The short summary of the story isn't hard to follow:
• A public school in New York state is teaching an eight-week course in the U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights while the U.S. Constitution is only taught for three weeks.
• A concerned father says he talked to the local principal who told him he believes the lesson is used widely in other schools.
• Within the assignments for the U.N. study section, students are instructed to watch a video produced by the Church of Scientology and are offered additional short videos about each of the Human Rights. Our source says that his daughter watched "15 or 16 of the 30 videos in classrooms." All of these videos are also products of Scientology.
In our discussion with the concerned father, we asked if there is a potential legal issue with a church providing educational materials for public schools. In other words, Scientology's involvement a possible violation of the oft-cited separation of church and state? While he was intrigued by that possibility, he was more concerned over the lesson's political push.
Those concerns aren't unfounded. On the same page as the first video we featured is an option to take part in a petition to implement the U.N.'s Declaration of Human Rights.
The attorney's concern here is that a specific competing political policy (from the U.N.) is being taught in greater detail than the U.S. Constitution. And that students are then being called to action and asked to sign a petition supporting a list of rights that have no legal standing in our country.
Since the school's principal insisted that he had no say in the matter of how Common Core was used, we contacted the media spokesperson for the New York State Education Department and sent a short list of five questions. We were referred to a basic information website for Common Core information and told, "I'll see what I can do about answering them today; in the meantime, though, take a look at our recently-issued Common Core field memo." No further information was sent prior to publication of this story.