[Discuss-sudbury-model] Fw: [savesummerhill] Dover talk on children's rights

From: David Rovner <rovners_at_netvision.net.il>
Date: Mon Dec 30 12:35:00 2002

----- Original Message -----
From: <slowsnail2001_at_yahoo.co.uk>
To: <savesummerhill_at_yahoogroups.com>
Sent: Monday, December 30, 2002 6:15 PM
Subject: [savesummerhill] Dover talk on children's rights

> Dear e-group,
>
> In one of my last e-mailsI said Iwould send a copy of the speech I
> gave to 350 children in Dover on rights.The aim of the speech was
> simply to get the children tothink,raise some issues, link it with
> the localtown and leave them with some strong images.I used two
> videos,one a clipof the monster coming alive from Frankestein and the
> other a documentary about children's rights made by children and
> funded by the government!
>
> The text is a summary of the speech as I do not write notes,just a
> few prompts. I have been invited to help two more schools in Dover
> with their human rights days!!!
>
> Best wishes for the New Year from Italy
>
> Michael Newman
> SummerhillSchool
>
>
> Human Rights Day in Dover
>
> The following is a text based on a fifty minute presentation to 350
> students at Archers Court School, Dover, as part of their Human
> Rights day on December 11th, celebrating UN Human Rights Day. The
> talk by Michael Newman, Children's Rights Activist and teacher at
> Summerhill School, included two video's a clip from the modern
> feature film `Frankenstein', and the 15 minute documentary `Right to
> Know' created by Article 12, a children's rights group run by
> children, explaining the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
>
> Dover has several important links to the ideas of human rights. As
> you walk down Snargate Street, or look up at the castle, or pass
> through the port you are close to a few of events that can be seen to
> be symbolically a part of the historic struggles that lead to our
> rights.
>
> Above the sluice gate, on Snargate Street, there was a boarding
> house. On 15th June 1828 a lonely young woman, 31 years old, sat in
> her rented room writing a letter to what had been one of her best
> friends. Mary had come to Dover to take in the sea air to help her to
> recover from smallpox. She wrote the letter to her friend, Jane,
> trying to save a deep friendship she had lost due to her friend's
> betrayal.
>
> "Dear Jane. I am sorry you cannot join me here. I am sorry you brood
> so painfully over the past. but from the first moment we met you
> disliked me - apart from you your imagination paints a being suitable
> to yourself and you bestow my name on the idea."
>
> Mary pleads with her friend to accept her as she is, not to create an
> image and to give it her name. She was a woman with a tragic past;
> all but one of her children had died, her husband who she had
> passionately loved had drowned, her mother had died after giving
> birth to her, she had been accused of being a prostitute.
>
> Yet who was this 31-year-old woman in Dover writing the letter to a
> friend asking that she be seen as she really is?
>
> At the age of 17 she had written one of the most famous stories ever
> told, one that was to influence our culture to this day. A story of
> an individual with no rights - no right to a name, no right to a
> family, to parents, to a childhood, to a home, to friends, to a
> culture, to education, to be heard, to be protected, to a job.
>
> The individual with no name was a person created to be the perfect
> man, to be physically perfect, to be without disease, to help human
> beings to build a better world, a superman. The creature's maker was
> Dr Frankenstein.
>
> In the Frankenstein films we have an ugly creature, scarred,
> sometimes green, with bolts, but in the original novel written by
> Mary Shelley we have a perfect human being. He is rejected because of
> the look of death in his face and eyes. No-one stops to ask, who is
> behind this face? They attack him because of his looks. They do not
> find out who he is, they paint a picture of a monster and treat him
> as such.
>
> How is the way we treat people linked to the way we see them? If we
> bully someone, or laugh at them or hurt them, what image do we have
> of them? What would have happened if Frankenstein's monster had been
> given rights?
>
> Mary only knew her mother through the books she wrote. The most
> famous of these was on the `Rights of Woman'. At the time, late
> 1700's and early 1800's, women, if they were married, had no rights
> to property, protection, to keep their wages, to an education. They
> could be beaten, imprisoned, prostituted. An intelligent woman was
> compared to a monster. For women, like black Africans, were seen as
> stupid and immature, like children. Like children they were unable to
> make decisions for themselves, they were of less value than white
> adult males.
>
> Mary's mother wrote:
>
> "I have thrown down the gauntlet, it is time to restore women to
> their lost dignity and to make them a part of the human species."
>
> At the same time Thomas Paine wrote his book, `On the Rights of Man',
> this was banned and he had to flee from Britain. The French had
> overthrown their King. Rights destroyed the power of Kings, the
> Church and the rich land owners. Human rights were dangerous, they
> threatened to destroy society as it was. Thomas Paine fled from the
> police through Dover, possibly being robbed by customs as he went.
>
> Going back in history even further, over one hundred and fifty years
> from Mary writing her letter in Dover, we have a man imprisoned in
> Dover Castle. He had been one of the most popular men in the country,
> and had been in jail again and again for his beliefs. He had once
> even been sentenced to 7 years hard labour for refusing to bow and
> take his hat off in the House of Lords. Why should he bow, when he
> was the equal to anyone, including the Lords and the King? John
> Lilburne spent the last years of his life in prison at Dover Castle.
>
> John was the leader of the Levellers, a group that fought for
> democracy and equality. During the English Civil War, the first time
> a King was executed, they tried to create a democracy and failed.
> Oliver Cromwell had John imprisoned at Dover! One of the main
> principles they fought for was `tolerance', the idea of people having
> the right to freedom of belief and religion. Society, then, was one
> that believed `intolerance' was a positive thing. It was a good thing
> to arrest people for their beliefs, to prevent them from practising
> different religions, to persecute those who do not agree with you.
> This was how you defended society.
>
> What is the relationship between democracy, tolerance and rights?
>
> What is happening now? Our government ratified the UN Convention of
> the Rights of the Child some ten years ago. This is an International
> agreement to give children their rights. Every five years the UN
> reviews how the UK is doing. Five years ago when asked how they
> responded to the UN's criticisms about children and poverty,
> violence, prisons, children in care, refugee children. our government
> said `no comment'. This time they appear to be acting. Over a year
> ago the government set-up an interdepartmental structure called the
> Children and Young People's Unit, to listen to and represent the
> interests and views of children. There is also a Minister for Young
> People. Who? John Denham MP. And in the New Year they will be
> publishing a strategy that should be influencing education, health,
> social services, law and local government in implementing children's
> rights, your rights. When you discuss rights today you must not
> forget that these are not only the rights of children far away, or
> starving, or without a home, or children in need in this country.
> They are about how you live your life, about your rights.
>
> When you walk down Snargate Street, or look up at the Castle, or
> travel through the port remember how these are symbolic of the
> creation of your rights.
Received on Mon Dec 30 2002 - 12:34:03 EST

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