Employment, Discrimination and Human Rights

I was lucky when I was young and just starting my first job – there was plenty of work. Besides that, I worked in healthcare, so I didn’t need to apply in response to advertisements. I simply wrote to the hospital, told them what I could do for them and that was it.
Today’s young people are not that lucky. There is massive unemployment – I don’t have to go into detail about it.

My concern in this post is with the recruiting. As my children are applying for jobs, I read job descriptions and get feedback on interview procedures and it does nothing for my confidence in the process.

Just like the housing market can be a buyers or a sellers market – and accordingly each can make (outrageous) demands that influence the value of property and so change ‘reality’ – so the job market is one of supply and demand.
Today recruiters and employers believe they have the power to bend reality to their wishes. Nine out of ten times, the job descriptions listed seem to be a compilation of desirable looking personality traits and talents – that do NOT come in the same type of person – which contain all the fashionable slogans, and which they clearly gathered by going ‘shopping’ on other websites and put together as a sort of (pages long) wish list.

What they don’t realize is that unlike property values that are an economical statistic, people are real and you cannot change the psychological make-up of a person. Therefore, they are not doing their business or organization any favours when trying to artificially alter the values for the suitable employee.
For example, if you are hiring for a proofreading job, you do not need all the extraverted qualities that make for an “outgoing team member”, because those tend to not be very proofreaders.
At the same time, the potential candidates are made to feel unnecessarily nervous and inadequate, because although they might easily be able to perform the actual tasks required for the job, they feel that they cannot match the fantasy personality wished for in the description.

That results in either one of two scenarios: Employers can’t find anybody suitable when they do interviews and then start complaining that it is so hard to find “good” people. This then gets reported to the media, who spit the information back out, so that those looking for jobs are made to feel even more inadequate.
Or they hire a person who seems to have all those wished for traits in one person, because some people can bullshit their way in, which then leads to disappointment in performance.

Now employers may simply be naïve about human psychology, but recruiters should know this. Of course, recruitment agencies are institutions that have sprung up to mediate where supply outnumbers demand, claiming to be able to help employers pick the right candidates, with the intention of striking up a bit of profit in the process.
Many employment agencies, claiming to test for personality, use one-off assessments – ignoring the fact that personalities are not one-off events. Most of those tests are pre-programmed in a computer and adjusted for the expectation that people exaggerate (or lie) when applying for a job, and are consequently biased to the programmer’s interpretation of human personality. The people interviewing candidates usually have no understanding of the psychology behind the test other than to stick it in the computer and read out the result.
This has led to a gross falsification of personality traits and pre-emptive dismissal of suitable candidates. For example, an ISTJ – the most dependable and punctual of all human types, who would never exaggerate or lie about his skills – is being turned down for being “unreliable” as a result of the test having assumed they would lie and so doesn’t get the job they are best suited for. And the employer doesn’t get the candidate that is best for the job, because he trusted an agency that is incompetent.

This is a human rights issue, because this recruiter is actively discriminating against honest people – discrimination on the basis of personality.

The Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, which is the moral code most countries claim to adhere to, states that

Article 22
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensible for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) 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.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Okay, so it doesn’t actually say that employers are not allowed to discriminate for personality when hiring. But since in our society both “dignity” and “social security” rely on having a job, and everybody is “entitled to realization…of…. the free development of his personality”, should that not include respecting each personality equally?

Additionally, today discrimination goes a lot further than simple ignorance about psychology.
There are an increasing number of employers that insist that their employees reveals their social media connections. Presumably this is because they don’t want people to play on the internet during work, but this is a direct and purposeful violation of article 12 of the Human Rights Act.

Article 12
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

They may argue that there is no forced interference; that people submit this information freely, but that is a deception in a climate where jobs are scarce and thus, people are forced to submit to the (outrageous) demands of employers in order to have any chance at all. So this is coercion at the very least.

Then there are recruiters (and possibly employers as well) who under the misconception that bullies don’t have friends – which is actually not true; they tend to have hundreds of wannabe followers – will actively select their candidates on the amount of Facebook friends one has or on having a Facebook account at all.
What they are effectively doing is discriminate against victims of bullying, who don’t have Facebook accounts –as those are used to bully them – as well as against introverts, who wouldn’t go chatting during work time and who tend to be less interested in gathering hundreds of ‘friends’.

In Australia some well-intentioned people started a black-list of names of known school bullies, so as to prevent employers from hiring people who could turn out to be bullies in the work place, but again, this is based on a false belief: the belief that schools can provide those names. But most schools are not aware of who is involved in bullying because bullying tends to be a group event (many bullies against one victim) and most schools send the victim to the counsellor – not the bullies, who tend to be the popular kids.
So employers and (especially) recruiters, because those make it their job to select for sociability, use the social media to actively discriminate against personality types, and in doing so they favour bullies.

If you recognize these tendencies, please forward this post on to any recruiter, employer or anybody else who is currently involved with recruitment, writing job descriptions or looking for a job, and so help me create awareness and a more honest and fair employment market.

Thank you for reading.

Freedom of Belief and Human Rights

A few years ago, a relative of mine was called for jury duty. In the summons there was a clause stating that those people who had objections for religious reasons could file for an exemption. My relative had no organized religion to call her own, but she did have ethical objections to participating.

When I wanted to continue home educating my children after moving countries, I had to register with the ministry of education and give my reasons for wanting to forfeit traditional schooling. The options given were “religious convictions” or “other; please explain”.

Just the other day I read an article in the news, stating that public child care centres (in NSW) are allowed to ban children who are not vaccinated, but there are exemptions for those parents who refuse to vaccinate their children for “religious or for medical reasons”.

Now, organized religions are moral institutions with their own moral values and rules that may, indeed, require of their members that they refuse to participate in state organized activities (such as jury duty, schooling and vaccinations) if the moral values of the state differ with those of their own belief system. A state, after all, despite being a social institution, tends to have a predominant culture and that culture tends to set the moral standards. In some eras the state will be very intolerant to other beliefs; in others eras there is more cultural mixing.

Today we live on the tail end of such a culturally mixed society and in that light – needing to present themselves as ethnically and culturally tolerant – most western countries will claim religious freedom. It is based on that claim that exemptions are granted.

The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and all such documents are also an expression of moral values. A declaration is a set of moral laws that represent the belief system of the writers – in this case many countries:

Article 18

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

So, article eighteen refers to thought, belief, conscience and religion, which implies the ethical and moral values a person holds, while article nineteen refers to the expression of such values to others.

Now, public institutions (like a state, school, church or group representing a certain belief or cultural system) have these sets of moral laws because they have certain beliefs and want their members to act accordingly. If you choose to join a group, you choose to accept its moral rules and the members of the group generally reserve the right to call each other on their actions would they stray. Moral rules therefore have to do with behaviour, which can be observed.

Conscience is a belief a person holds within, usually about being good or bad, and generally not clearly definable. In other words, if you ask somebody why he considers something good or bad, he either refers to the moral laws that describe the behaviour that represents that sense of good or bad for him – he may have internalized his conscience from the beliefs of his environment – or he cannot exactly say why, “It just is” or “it feels that way”.

Conscience therefore is about ethical values (not moral ones). Ethical values are about the sense of what is good or bad in a person or what makes a good person, while moral values are about right or wrong action.

What people feel inside (their conscience or ethical sense) cannot be objectively measured or defined, but public actions usually can.

For example, if you punch somebody in the face your action will be considered wrong by many people, but others may consider your motivations and consider it right, but their judgment is about the right or wrong of the act; nobody will argue about the act itself: it was observable.

If you punch people in the face regularly, then some people may judge you to be a bad person based on your wrong actions. But there will still be others who understand your troubled youth and argue that yes, the actions are wrong, but the person isn’t really bad. This inner person cannot be objectively observed and therefore cannot be measured to any standard.

As described in my book, a number of psychological types are more inclined to equate ethical and moral values; they internalize the moral values of their environment so strongly that they equate the behaviour with the goodness of a person, while other types feel a strong distinction between the two. This is not a choice people make, but part of their inborn psychology and therefore neither viewpoint is right or wrong, but we have to be aware that the other perspective exists.

Also be aware that, as a result of the people who organize society usually being of the former types, the term “ethics” (as in work ethics) actually refers to moral values, since they refer to a code of conduct.

Apart from distinguishing between ethical and moral values, I personally also distinguish “moral values” from “morality”, in which the former refers to the above mentioned considerations of right and wrong action and the latter to the peer pressure exercised by the majority of the members of a group in order to force people with different values to comply. They tend to do this with gossip, bullying, exclusion, disdainful looks or comments and so on.

I have no issue with moral values. In fact, a group’s identity relies on them, but I strongly object to morality.

The next step after morality is, of course, legality, in which the authorities of a group enforce their own moral values using the penal system.

Now, like I said above, we still live in a culturally diverse society and the authorities claim to be tolerant to different belief systems (different moral codes) and this is why they allow exemptions for people with regard jury duty, healthcare and schooling.

But what about ethical values or principles?

Why is it that my relative had to explain in a letter that she objected to being part of a jury on an ethical basis and that being forced to participate would influence her sense of objectivity?

Why is it that I have to choose between claiming a religious belief I don’t have or try to explain an ethical sense (which by its very nature is not objective) and risk not being allowed to home educate my children, while people who belong to an organized religion can simply tick a box?

Why is it that religious institutions have the right to protect their children from vaccines that may be potentially dangerous, but I cannot do so on ethical grounds?

Why is it  that people who object to military service on principle either have to do community service or go to prison? Why is it that people who cannot claim an organized religion are being chased by the police if they don’t want to expose their child to the poisons of chemotherapy?

Why is it that people with moral beliefs based on an accepted institution are allowed such privileges or exemptions, but people who do not belong to an organized religion are expected to be without values (except those of the state)?

One explanation could be that the authorities rely on publicity and being seen as tolerant. They don’t want to risk the wrath of an entire group of people – that isn’t good for their public image – but they have little concern for the individual.

So what happened to “everyone has the right”?

What happened to “alone or in community with others and in public or private”?

What happened to “without interference”?

The other, more likely explanation is that the authorities have no clue about the difference between ethical and moral values, because of the types of people they are, so they cannot see that they are in effect discriminating against inborn personality types.

I am not affiliated with any religious order, whether big or small, traditional or new and whether western or from anywhere else. Yet I have very strong ethical principals, which are not negotiable and I want respect for those. It consider it an insult that I am expected to submit my child to mass vaccinations, send them to traditional public school and submit to the legal system, because my beliefs are not considered legitimate unless I belong to a religious organization.

Sure, if I insist – write a letter explaining my philosophy – I do get exemptions,  but I want respect for the idea that people can have moral and ethical values without any outside authority having imposed them. I want my human right acknowledged by the government of a state that claims tolerance to individual opinions and beliefs.

Lest We Forget

Recently, in Australia and New Zealand “Anzac Day” was celebrated in honour of those soldiers who went to Europe to fight in World War One – although, of course, the day also commemorates soldiers of later wars.  Usually, during the Anzac Day week (as for the November Remembrance) I do a special book offer for my book, In the Real World (http://tinyurl.com/98c78ve) , that despite being set in a modern suburb in peacetime, is a young adult fiction that deals with war.

The book begins on an Anzac Day weekend, but the reader can fill in any war memorial day, any remembrance and any war of their own history; it makes no difference. The story is not about the actions of war, but about the emotions of it; those emotions that cause people to forget their humanity.

The period around such memorial days is usually punctuated by TV shows about historical events and ex-soldiers recalling the time they served, usually stories about friendships and heroes, while the media reports on the ceremonies with the inevitable “Lest we forget” to be followed by “the Anzac Day spirit is still alive”, which they base on the turn-out of people attending the official service – many of those being young school boys wearing their great-grandfather’s medals.

But what does it really mean that so many people attend the ceremony? Do they do so to remember the horrors of war, so they won’t be forgotten? Don’t we see the same turn-out on any patriotic event like a football match or a royal coronation or wedding?

I can imagine that families have made a tradition of memorial and remembrance days. They dig up old photographs of ancient relatives, retell the war stories to the younger members of the family and make a day of it.

I can imagine that there are people who say that we have to remember the wars, so they won’t happen again.

I can even imagine some people thinking they need to instil a sense of patriotism in their youngsters.

And I do understand that governments need these kinds of ceremonies to guarantee them soldiers for the next time – those that parade in the medals of their ancestors dreaming of being heroes – but is that really what the people want or need; the people who will deliver those next soldiers, just so they can set up the next memorial for them?

“… If people are only told of the heroes and friendships of war it’s going to attract young people. They are going to war with the idea that they’ll come back heroes, but soldiers used to go to war with the expectation that they’d die there. Not too long ago that was the desired way to go – for the Romans, for example. Many young boys, some indeed not much older than you, signed on to fight in the Great War. As far as I know, in this country no person was conscripted who had not reached the age to vote, but it isn’t like that everywhere. Anyhow, they went because they believed they’d be on a great adventure and would have a chance to show off their bravery. That was the dream for most of them. Everything they encountered came as a shock to them. Many couldn’t cope and they did remember the horrors at first when they returned, disillusioned, often mutilated, wounded and shell-shocked. They remembered the fears, the lost friends, the dirt, the lice, the rats and the stink of decaying bodies. But when they came home they didn’t get asked how bad the smell was. At best they were asked how many bad guys they’d killed and after a few years of war people are no longer interested in the politics.

 “The situation at home after a war is often one of economic decline as the war industry collapses. For a while the old life has to be built back up, but soon the soldiers find themselves without a job, without benefits for their injuries and in relative poverty in comparison to those who stayed home. After having told their horror stories once they don’t get much sympathy anymore and what is a medal on the wall if you’re being derided in the street?

“So they start longing for the good old days, the days of close friendships in the trenches, the day general so-and-so inspected the troops, the days they were still convinced they were helping their country and those at home would be proud of them. It’s those times that are recalled for the younger generation because those stories are more eagerly listened to; those stories are what are accepted by publishers because those are what people will buy and slowly the horrors can be truly forgotten.

“Having a parade, a get-together, once a year to remember that they were once important is all that’s left for them. Therefore the dilemma is this: Do we rob them of this last ritual to deter young boys from dreaming of war or do we let them continue and instil in the population the belief that wars can be won and a country protected? Remember that rituals are the quickest way for people to feel safe; rituals and belief. Do you want to take that away from people?”

Mr Fokker looks at me with that question.

“Yes, because that way you eventually keep people from having to forget those horrors, don’t you?”

“Now you’re jumping to conclusions,” he answers. “You say that remembering wars doesn’t stop a new one from happening. I agree with that, but does not remembering wars stop new ones from happening?” (In the Real World)

Do we go to a war memorial for the tradition or to prevent the next war?

Does “lest we forget” really mean what we are made to believe it does? Are we better off not forgetting than forgetting the wars? And what exactly of those wars is it we need to remember if we want to prevent the next one from happening? Is it the hero stories or the horrors? Do these ceremonies help remember the actual events of war or our idealized picture of it?

Considering that psychologists are now admitting that people don’t all remember the same details, not even a day after an event, do we really remember the war as it was or only that part that has been selected for reasons of patriotic propaganda? “So governments can trick stupid young boys into becoming soldiers,” Grandpa Will says.

People talk about “war ethics”. People say there is good reason for countries to go to war. People say, “we have to support our government”. Governments say, “we have to protect our people”. But when you look at all the past wars, did any of those benefit the people?

Artists across the warring nations still admire each other; scientists still work together or wish they could; women still feel for the children of all people. In the end, it is never the people governments go to war for, no matter what excuse they use.

So is there an ethic to war? Does not one person’s war impose on another person’s ethic of peace? Is it not freedom to be allowed to speak and act freely as long as those words and actions do not encroach on another person’s freedom? Doesn’t the government that engages in war encroach on the freedom it promised its people?

The UN Declaration of Human Rights, written in 1948, is a moral law.

Article 3

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

I say that a state of war is in violation with the provision of liberty and security of person for every soldier who is conscripted against his will, as well as for every civilian whose life is endangered as a result of attacks by the enemy due to this state. Since a dead person does not have freedom, the value of life itself has to take prevalence over liberty. Therefore, a government who cares for the safety of its people remains neutral or surrenders.  

Article 4

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

I say that soldiers who are trained to obey orders without having an opinion of their own and to do the dirty work for their leaders are servants of the state. If conscripted, they are “held in slavery” and sending them to foreign lands makes that slave trade.

Article 5

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

I say that for some types of people – and this is part of their inborn psychology and not a choice – it is degrading punishment to be treated as a number in a army of identical beings and to be forced to wear a uniform.  

 Article 20

Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association… No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

I say that an army is an association and it is not a peaceful one.

I understand that there may be situations in which is necessary to fight back, but each person will have to make the decision whether something is necessary for themselves; nobody can decide necessity for somebody else without invading on their privacy and freedom.

Ethical decisions are individual decisions. As long as there is no congruence about what is right or wrong, good or bad – and there never has been nor will there even be congruence, because not all people are psychologically alike – the imposition of one view upon others is itself an act of oppression.

So is it true that remembering dead soldiers will stop the next war? Did it help the last thousands of times? Is it true that we need brave soldiers to fight the next war? Isn’t the next war much more likely to be automated?

When I asked a peace organization if they would consider advertising my book,  they replied that they could not possible do so because they had to “support our soldiers”.  But can people really say they want peace and yet glorify war – or the symbols of it – without being hypocrites?

I will keep saying this: To portray soldiers as heroes – even if some of them were – is not helping peace, because it sends the wrong message. See my other post, Heroes and Cowardshttp://judgmenthurts.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/heroes-and-cowards/

The government tells people it wants peace but actively supports war and peace organizations repeat this message without giving a second thought to what they are actually saying.

So, do we really want more government money to be spent on war memorials, so the politicians can lay a wreath every year and be applauded for it?

I say “no”; enough is enough. The First World War is nearly a century in the past. If we want to give peace a fair chance, it is time that we stop deceiving our children with hero stories that are based on fantasy and on memories that are fictitious, or they will be the next soldiers to be brought home in body bags.

The PM who today lays a wreath at a war memorial represents the PM who sent those soldiers to die. If a politician today does not believe in war, he should not be at the ceremony.

And what about those medals?

How is it that those who have no voice, those who identify by a uniform and shout “yes sir” to a superior, those who kill on command without any regard for life itself,  those who cannot possibly be called “individuals” in any definition of the word, can get medals with their name on it as if they somehow acted on their own?

They didn’t. An army has no place for individuals. Soldiers who don’t follow orders are punished – in times of peace they may be kicked out, but in a war situation they face death and, lest we forget, hundreds of soldiers in the First World War alone, were killed by their own superiors (not by the enemy) for being disobedient.

InTheRealWorld

The State, Human Rights and Marriage

There has been a lot of attention lately to the topic of same sex marriages, so, in light of my focus on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights  (U.N. 1948), I thought this might be a good topic to explore.

Personally, I know many same sex couples and I have friends who have successfully raised healthy families, friends who are now grandparents, so in my mind this debate was over a long time ago and it is about time the world caught up.

The reason why some countries seem to lag behind others when it comes to accepting laws that stray from the traditional are to be found in how much their government identifies with the accepted religious beliefs of its culture.

That is because legal laws are made on advice of ethical committees, which are composed of representatives of the dominant belief systems of a country; either its ruling religious institutions or in the case of countries claiming secular values and religious tolerance, the representatives from many different religions and members of (traditional) academic institutions.

In that light, and keeping in mind that this paper is almost 65 years old, let’s have a look at what the Human Rights Declaration actually says about marriage.

Article 16

 

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as a marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Now, “the family” as the “fundamental group unit” is defined in different dictionaries as either “a group of people sharing a household”,  “a social unit consisting of parents and their children”, or “a group of people closely related by blood”, but no matter which definition one chooses, nowhere does it mention that these parents have to be of a specific gender when founding this family.

Opponents of same sex marriage could argue that under 16.1, where it mentions “without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion”, gender is not specified so that a government has the right to make a law without violating the rights of its citizens.

This is true, but religion is specified and most of the objections against same sex marriage are based on religious arguments and religion is separately mentioned in the Declaration:

 Article 18

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

If everyone has this right, then one entity (including the state) may not impose its religious views on its members.

So, it isn’t enough to just look at the article that deals with the topic of discussion, in this case, marriage; we need to see it in the context of the entire Declaration and ask whether the state (the writer of the legal laws) and the church (the writer of the moral ones) have more rights according to the Declaration than do individuals.

We need to ask whether the purpose of the state (or the church) as a social or cultural institution is to protect its members or is it also a moral judge?

Article 29

  

(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms and others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

To begin with, 29.1 does not say that the duties of the individual are to obey the moral teachings of the community but rather that the community is there to ensure that he is able to be free and develop as a person. The “personality” of a homosexual person cannot develop fully if he is asked to oppress his nature.

According to 29.2, the state is there to make laws to protect the rights and freedoms of its people and to ensure public order. Outside of this, the state has no right in the daily life of individuals or to dictate their beliefs or lifestyle.

Therefore, if “only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of… the rights and freedoms of others and… public order…” then any limitations (prohibitions) shall have to be justified by their interfering with the freedom of others or with public order, and if not, they are in violation of human rights.

And seeing that the only difference between a heterosexual couple and a homosexual couple is to be found in the bedroom – which is a territory that neither the state nor the church have any business entering – and which in no possible way disrupts the public order, the prohibition of same sex marriages cannot be justified.

Article 12

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.  

A state that poses as a moral teacher is no longer protecting individual rights. In all of history, those that stood out as dictatorships were those that interfered in people’s private lives, took over the rearing of the children and told people what to believe and how to live. The moment the state oversteps its limits as protector of the individual’s freedoms and rights within the community, by dictating their beliefs or lifestyle, it has become a dictatorship.

The only angle left, and the one used by every government or church opposing same sex marriage (and any other such alternative lifestyle), is to claim that this opposes “meeting the just requirements of morality”(29.2).

And here lies the weakness of the Human Rights Declaration itself, for “morality” is an abstract term that refers to a notion of right and wrong behaviour as interpreted according to the perspective of the reader. This means that a state (or church) can impose its interpretation of morality on its members and make legal laws claiming to be in accord with human rights, while, in fact, the individual’s rights and freedoms and his perspective of right and wrong are ignored.

So, despite the UN Declaration, as a moral law and not a legal one, claiming human rights on the basis of its democratic views, in fact the interpretation of its articles is subject to the accepted beliefs of every nation that signed it.

The reason for this lies not so much in the religious views themselves as in the idea that the church (or the state) has the right or duty to set the moral values for its subjects. And it is in that belief that I think it contradicts the very foundation of the UN Declaration: that of “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family”.

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Education and Human Rights

I have recently written a number of articles about home education for a variety of sources. Although my children have since grown up, I have fond memories of the time we engaged in learning as a family.

But we were lucky. I began home educating my children when we lived in the USA, restarted (after a few years of trying the local schools) in Australia and finished in New Zealand. In all these countries we were legally able to choose this option. Not every country allows that much freedom to its citizens.

Bringing young people together to teach them the knowledge and beliefs of their community, even at primary school age, is something that has existed at least since the classical Greek period, but probably much longer. In ancient Rome it was certainly customary for children to go to school. There are recordings of schools in the Byzantine Empire, with the Aztecs and in ancient China and India. During the last millennium, the Islam began systematically schooling children, in combination with religious teaching, and the Ottoman Empire made education available to even those who did not have the means, by providing free meals and accommodation along with it.

In Western Europe education was often a privilege for the well-off, while many poor children worked on the family farm or, during the industrial revolution, in factories. Aided by the “Age of Reason” and its reliance on science and knowledge, some countries made education compulsory in an effort to reduce illiteracy and raise the general standard of living for ordinary people, and slowly the focus of education shifted from the instruction of mores and values to imparting knowledge and basic skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic. For most children this meant attending the local church (or public) school.

Despite most countries already having laws or provisions for childrens’ education, Article 26 of the 1948 Human Rights Act of the United Nations, made “education” a universal right across all democratic countries.

Article 26

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Now, let’s get picky.

The definition of “education” has changed throughout time, even within the last decades, but education comes from the Latin “educare” and has to do with rearing or upbringing. It has been defined as “to bring out latent capabilities” (Merriam Wester Collegiate Dictionary 1989), but is today generally accepted to deal with teaching factual knowledge, specific skills and the moral values of the community or state.

“Schooling” originated from a word that means a large number of people together (like a school of fish) and its connection with education thus only exists from the teaching or training of many children in one place.

Above I mentioned that the teaching of factual knowledge and basic skills went hand in hand with the teaching of religious or moral values. That is because it is impossible to educate or rear children without passing on your values. For example, if a parent says “you’re not allowed to hit another child”, they have expressed their ethical values. If teachers frown upon a child not sitting still or if they call the child who didn’t do his homework “lazy”, they are imparting social values; expecting patience, obedience, timeliness, responsibility, honesty, loyalty, competition and respect from its citizens means expecting moral values.

Thus, families have values, schools have values and nations have values, but these do not always agree. We are all aware that some nations have a basically Christian philosophy and others are known as “Buddhist countries” and we are all aware that not every family residing in these countries shares those beliefs.

The same with educational institutions. Most schools have some sort of philosophy: There are countless schools that uphold Christian values, each belonging to a different church. Other schools are based on other religious beliefs, like Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. There are alternative method schools, such as democratic “free” schools (Summerhill), Montessori schools and Waldorf schools, and schools that offer general education as a means to being able to train students in specific sports or arts (like ballet schools).

Yet each of these schools (like “public” or state schools) is obliged to follow the guidelines of the nation it is situated in with regard the aspects of general knowledge, basic skills and mores considered valuable by that state. – Today children are taught democratic values from early on: School books begin telling them stories with examples of brave soldiers fighting for “freedom”. “Equality” is emphasized in stories about gender and race differences and “brotherhood” is used to teach children to be team members and to sacrifice for the common good. None of these schools teach children the race-inequality values of the Nazis or Apartheid; none teach the retaliation values of the ancient Greeks, and all of them expect the children to internalize these values, regardless of the values of their home. Thus, family values are overruled by school values and school values are overruled by national values.

Most countries have made education laws based on article 26.1 of the Declaration, making it compulsory for all children between 6 and 16 to attend school, thereby forcing parents to subject their children to the moral values of the state. Yet, nowhere in the Declaration of Human Rights does it say that “education” has to be offered by schools.

Read again point two of this article. It says “Everyone has the right to education….Education shall be free… Elementary education shall be compulsory…”.

The first sentence is intended to stop children being denied an education and to prevent child labour, the second sentence refers to education being available for all children without them having to pay for it, but the third sentence makes it “compusory”, which is a contradiction to the first statement as well as the principles of the declaration itself, since “a right” is not the same as an obligation.

Besides, the Declaration was a moral law and not a legal one, so that it is used to turn into a crime for disobedience to the state that which was originally intended to guarantee people their freedom.

There is a reason that nearly every government interpreted the article this way:  Schools are institutions. It is much easier to influence groups of young minds directly than to rely on individual families to share the beliefs of the state and pass them on. Groups use competition and reward to encourage children to conform and they punish or outcast non-conformists. The aim of schooling children (always and everywhere despite any modern slogans about individuality, freedom and tolerance) is to ensure that they become obedient citizens.

But that is not all. Due to its use of abstract words that can be interpreted in any manner any nation chooses, the article causes confusion.

For example, under 26.1 it speaks about “merit”. But how do you measure merit? Is it grades given by teachers who may like or dislike a child? Do you go purely by the factual data of the hard sciences and mathematics or do you include those topics that include creative writing or art – and which cannot be objectively graded? Or do you consider as deserving merit those students that obediently repeat what they are told without thinking outside the box? So, if I am the ruler of a country that believes in teaching children how to use automatic weapons, I can claim that I educate my children according to the guidelines of the declaration, as I consider that a merit.

And under 26.2, the Declaration states that education shall include the UN values that are intended to promote understanding, tolerance and friendship for all racial and religious groups in the name of peace. Yet if education is about teaching mores and social skills and schools are state (or private) institutions that represent the culture (beliefs and customs) of the society they are in, they cannot simultaneously teach that everybody else’s beliefs are also valid.

Teaching the three Rs is pretty straight forward in the sense that there are certain rules to learning language or arithmetic and therefore they do not rely on the beliefs or customs of a culture, but once you talk more general knowledge this becomes controversial, as exemplified by the rise in arguments and law suits with regard the teaching of Christian beliefs versus teaching Darwinian evolution.

When we consider education as the teaching of the moral values of the state, we are accepting it as having preferences. You cannot teach one set of values as correct and simultaneously say that people who don’t believe that also deserve respect. This is something that happens, not just in schools and universities, but everywhere. People have adopted words like “equality” – which originated to mean equal rights, not “identical” – and “tolerance”, but they cannot put action to their words.

The writers if the declaration, having just come out of the Second World War, clearly promote a set of values intended to maintain peace with regard racial and religious beliefs, but without the realization that one’s personality type influences one’s ethical values, learning styles, manner of responding to the environment, level of conformity, individuality, scalability, as well as the way they interpret the abstract words the declaration is filled with.

My point is that “the human personality” (26.2) does not exist – unless you believe that all people are psychological clones of each other – so that each human being has its own ethical values (regardless of those of this family, school, culture or nation), which means that if those do not conform to those of the state (or school), they are not treated with tolerance, and “parents have the prior right to choose” (26.3) does not apply if the state promotes only one set of moral values, especially there where home education is prohibited or subject to limitations, or where home-education is not an option due to the need for the parent(s) to have a job for financial reasons.

My goal in life and with my writing is to alert people to the discrimination that occurs not based on external factors, such as religion, race or gender, but on the personality traits each person is born with and that cannot be changed.

The idealism of the declaration is in the number of abstract words that have no meaning other than that of the person reading and interpreting them according to his own beliefs, which allows schools to demand that individual children give up their inborn ethic for the morals of the group and nations to demand that families give up their beliefs for those of the state.

As a result, Article 26 of the Human Rights Act fails to respect inborn individual personality differences and thereby the human rights they say “everyone” is entitled to.