Silencing Minds: The Violation of Basic Human Rights Through School Censorship

Written by Leticia Cox

Efforts by US states to ban school curricula offering historically accurate accounts of racism in the United States is an attack on fundamental human rights and the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Image by Leticia Cox.

Education is critical in shaping individuals’ understanding of the world and fostering a just and equitable society. Denying students access to accurate and comprehensive information about racism undermines their ability to grasp the full extent of historical injustices and perpetuates systemic discrimination.

“The May 3 Day of Action in support of the freedom to learn underscores that children and adults have fundamental rights to education and to access accurate information,” said Alison Parker, deputy US director at Human Rights Watch. “Attacks on education are attacks on US democracy because they ban access to the information that motivates voting and political participation.”

Historically accurate accounts of racism provide students with a broader perspective on the development of American society, shedding light on the experiences of marginalised communities and the struggles they have faced. These curricula examine topics such as slavery, segregation, and the civil rights movement, and they are essential for a complete understanding of US history. By learning about the historical roots of racism, students can better comprehend the current social and racial inequalities.

‘One of the ten amendments of the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment, gives everyone residing in the United States the right to hear all sides of every issue and to make their own judgments about those issues without government interference or limitations. The First Amendment allows individuals to speak, publish, read and view what they wish, worship (or not worship) as they wish, associate with whomever they choose, and gather to ask the government to make changes in the law or correct the wrongs in society.’ 

Banning the teaching of these subjects not only distorts history but also eternalises a cycle of ignorance and prejudice. Students shielded from confronting the truth about racism are deprived of the opportunity to develop empathy and critical thinking skills necessary for active participation in a diverse and inclusive society. By denying students access to accurate information, these bans undermine the principles of academic freedom and hinder the development of a well-informed citizenry.

A crowd protesting then U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos in 2017. Photo by Ted Eytan.

Furthermore, such bans on teaching accurate accounts of racism affect marginalised communities and perpetuate systemic inequalities. People of colour, who have historically been the victims of racism, have a right to see their experiences and contributions acknowledged in the curriculum. By erasing or downplaying the history of racism, these bans silence marginalised voices and contribute to a culture of exclusion and inequality.

The right to education is a fundamental human right recognised internationally. It encompasses not only the access to education but also the content and quality of education. States should provide an inclusive and comprehensive education that enables students to understand and respect the diversity of human experiences. Banning historically accurate accounts of racism contradicts this obligation and undermines the principles of equality and non-discrimination.

Efforts to ban curricula offering historically accurate accounts of racism must be challenged and resisted. Educators, activists, and advocates must defend the right to education, promote inclusive curricula, and ensure that students have a genuine and nuanced understanding of history. By doing so, we can strive to create a society that confronts its past, acknowledges its flaws, and actively works towards a more just and equitable future for all.

Silencing Education: Israel’s Demolition of EU-Funded Schools in Palestine Stirs Outcry and Undermines Human Rights

Written by Frida Brekk

Recent events in Palestine have raised concerns and sparked outrage as Israel demolishes EU-funded schools, drawing widespread criticism from international bodies. These demolitions have intensified regional tensions and highlighted the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This article aims to provide an overview of the situation, exploring the reasons behind the demolitions, the reactions from various stakeholders, and the implications for education in Palestine.

A Palestinian school demolished by Israeli Occupation Forces in Hebron, occupied Palestine. Photo by Falastin-48.

On May 7, 2023, Israel demolished a Palestinian school funded by the European Union, prompting condemnation from the international community and eliciting strong criticism from the global community. The school, located in a Palestinian village in the West Bank, was part of a broader initiative to support and bolster educational opportunities in the region. This demolition has emerged as a pivotal moment within the highly volatile context, exacerbating the anger and frustration among Palestinians and their supporters. This incident has intensified the already heightened emotions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, adding to the grievances and discontent within the affected communities.

The Israeli authorities have put forth several justifications for the destruction. They have highlighted the lack of proper permits and non-compliance with building regulations as primary reasons for their actions. Israeli officials argue these structures were erected without authorization and pose potential security risks. However, critics of these demolitions raise significant concerns about the complexity and restrictiveness of the Israeli permit process. They argue that Palestinians face numerous obstacles in obtaining the necessary permits, creating a cycle wherein unauthorized construction becomes the only viable option. Consequently, the demolitions become an unfortunate consequence of the limitations imposed by the Israeli permit system, perpetuating a cycle of illegal construction and subsequent destruction of vital educational infrastructure in Palestinian communities. This cycle disrupts Palestinian students’ lives and undermines the prospects of stability and development in the region.

Israel’s demolition of EU-funded schools in Palestine has ignited significant international condemnation, with the European Union emerging as a prominent voice of criticism. The EU has vehemently expressed its profound apprehension regarding destroying educational infrastructure, considering it a clear violation of international law. The incident has strained the relationship between Israel and the European Union, leading to deliberations on potential ramifications and diplomatic consequences.

The condemnation from the EU underscores the gravity of the situation and emphasizes the urgency for a resolution to address the demolition of these vital educational facilities. School demolitions have far-reaching implications for education in the region. Beyond the immediate destruction of physical infrastructure, these demolitions infringe upon Palestinian children’s fundamental right to education. Access to quality education is vital for the holistic development of children, encompassing their social, intellectual, and emotional growth. By demolishing schools, the academic progress of Palestinian students is disrupted, depriving them of a fundamental human right.

Moreover, the demolitions undermine international efforts to improve educational opportunities in Palestine. The European Union and other international entities have been actively supporting and funding initiatives to enhance education in the region. These efforts aim to provide Palestinian children with quality education, equipping them with the knowledge and skills necessary for their future. However, the destruction of EU-funded schools undermines these collective endeavours, hindering progress towards achieving educational development goals. The denial of education impacts individual students and has broader consequences for the entire Palestinian society. Education plays a crucial role in shaping the future of communities, fostering social cohesion, and empowering individuals to contribute positively to their institutions. The demolition of schools obstructs these transformative processes, perpetuating a cycle of inequality and limited opportunities for Palestinian children. Addressing the implications of the destruction of education in Palestine requires collective action and international cooperation. Efforts must be made to rebuild and rehabilitate educational infrastructure, ensuring Palestinian children access safe and conducive learning environments. Additionally, advocacy for protecting the right to education, as enshrined in international human rights instruments, is crucial.

Human rights organizations and proponents of Palestinian rights have strongly emphasized the need for accountability and cessation of the demolitions of EU-funded schools in Palestine. These advocates assert that Israel must be held responsible for destroying educational infrastructure, considering it a violation of the right to education enshrined in international human rights frameworks. The call for accountability resonates with the broader aim of ensuring that all parties involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are held to the standards of international law. It emphasizes the significance of safeguarding the right to education as a fundamental human right, especially for vulnerable populations such as Palestinian children.

Additionally, these organizations and advocates urge international bodies to take tangible and proactive measures to protect and promote the right to education in Palestine, including monitoring and reporting on violations, engaging in diplomatic efforts to halt the demolitions, and supporting the reconstruction and rehabilitation of educational infrastructure.

The involvement of international entities in safeguarding the right to education is essential to create a conducive and secure environment for Palestinian students to access quality education. By advocating for accountability and appealing to international bodies, human rights organizations and advocates for Palestinian rights aim to bring attention to the violations of educational rights in Palestine. Their efforts seek to ensure that all children in the region have equal opportunities for education and the chance to develop their potential, contributing to a more just and equitable future.

The demolition has unleashed a powerful surge of criticism and alarm, casting a glaring spotlight on the enduring Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The obliteration of educational infrastructure stands as a formidable barrier to the aspirations of Palestinian children, impeding their path to quality education and hindering their overall development. In response, the international community, including influential players such as the European Union, has united in a resounding call for accountability and a relentless pursuit of resolution. These collective efforts aim to prevent further human rights violations, particularly the right to education, and ensure that every child in Palestine has an unimpeded opportunity to flourish academically, fostering a future of dignity and equality.


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