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Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10


Civic Education Volume

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Chapter 1

Rights of the Individual

By Fredricka L. Stoller

The contemporary concept of individual rights is "that all persons, by virtue of their membership in the human species, have certain rights" (Quigley & Bahmueller, 1991, p. 613). Rights of the Individual has been selected as the theme for the first chapter of the Civic Education volume because it is pertinent, provocative, and of interest to students worldwide. While exploring aspects of human rights, students can learn the vocabulary and concepts associated with the topic. While improving their language skills, students can develop an understanding of the complexities of individual rights and their role in civil societies. Because the topic is so broad, teachers have the option of using it in a variety of ways: They can create a single, stand-alone lesson on one aspect of the topic; they can design a series of connected lessons that explore the topic in more detail; or they can develop a thematic unit that examines the topic from a variety of perspectives over a longer period of time. The lesson plan ideas presented here are meant to serve as a starting point for teachers interested in introducing this topic to their students.

Background Information

In December 1998, the United Nations marked the 50th anniversary of the world’s most comprehensive human rights declaration: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR was approved by the United Nations General Assembly, with no dissenting votes, on December 10, 1948. The thirty articles of the UDHR were expected to serve as a "common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations."1 The signers of the UDHR emphasized the need for all people and all nations to promote respect for the rights and freedoms specified in the document through education. As a whole, the document was meant to recognize the inherent dignity and equal rights of all human beings. In essence, the document represented the basic needs, hopes, and wishes of men and women around the world. A review of the thirty articles of the UDHR2 (a simplified version is included below3) reveals a commitment to education, health, work, and culture as well as legal and political rights:

  • Article 1: Right to equality
  • Article 2: Freedom from discrimination
  • Article 3: Right to life, liberty, and safety
  • Article 4: Freedom from slavery
  • Article 5: Freedom from torture and cruel, inhumane punishment
  • Article 6: Right to be protected by the law
  • Article 7: Right to be treated in the same way as others by the law
  • Article 8: Right to legal aid if rights are not respected
  • Article 9: No arbitrary arrest, prison, or exile
  • Article 10: Right to a public and fair trial
  • Article 11: Right to be considered innocent until proven guilty
  • Article 12: Right to privacy and protection
  • Article 13: Right to move within one’s country and to leave/return to it when one wishes
  • Article 14: Right to protection in another country if one’s rights are violated in one’s own country
  • Article 15: Right to be a citizen of one’s own country or to become a citizen of another country
  • Article 16: Right to marriage and family
  • Article 17: Right to own property
  • Article 18: Freedom of religion
  • Article 19: Freedom of opinion and speech; freedom to give and receive information
  • Article 20: Right to organize meetings
  • Article 21: Right to participate in government and in free elections
  • Article 22: Right to personal development by taking part in the economic, social, and cultural life of the country
  • Article 23: Right to work for fair pay and to join labor unions. Right for women to receive pay equal to men’s pay
  • Article 24: Right to paid holidays and reasonable work hours
  • Article 25: Right to food, housing, and medical care
  • Article 26: Right to an education
  • Article 27: Right to participate in the cultural life of one’s community
  • Article 28: Right to a social and international order that protects all these rights
  • Article 29: Community duties are necessary for free and full development of people
  • Article 30: Right to all these freedoms without interference by government or individuals

The thirty articles of the UDHR were written and agreed upon by representatives of many different nations, nations with different political systems and different populations. The United Nations was not the first organization to promote respect for human rights. In 1791, for example, the Constitution of the United States of America was amended to include a Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights, in actuality the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, was created to protect the basic rights of U.S. citizens. As an example, the first amendment protects individuals from governmental interference by means of freedom of speech, press, assembly, and religion. Amendments five to eight define and protect specific rights of individuals accused of crimes or involved in disputes under law; more specifically, the sixth and seventh amendments guarantee an individual’s right to a lawyer and a trial by jury.

Since the passage of the Bill of Rights in the late 1700s, an additional 17 amendments have been added to the U.S. Constitution. For example, slavery was outlawed in 1865 with the 13th amendment; women were granted the right to vote in 1920 with the 19th amendment; and in 1971, the minimum voting age in the U.S. became 18 with the passage of the 26th amendment.

Other nations have passed similar declarations to recognize and protect individual rights. Sadly, many people around the world find themselves living in environments without the rights set forth in the UDHR some fifty years ago.

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