Magna Carta Human Rights Education Project
The Magna Carta Human Rights Education Project is a joint effort of NEA and the United Kingdom's National Union of Teachers (NUT) for teachers of all subjects, focusing on civil liberties, human rights, and freedom.
This project focuses on the Magna Carta as the embodiment of freedom, justice, fairness, and human rights. In the year 1215, the Magna Carta established a number of important principles that we take for granted today and served as the foundation for the U.S. Constitution. By introducing a new generation to this historic document and what it means to us, it can help make our freedoms stronger.
The format of the workshop is based on the NUT TeachersTogether program. Pairs of teachers work together and then follow up their work through further communication with their partner teacher. After the conference, teachers support one another—through email and phone calls—as they try out the teaching and learning strategies in their classrooms.
The goal of the Magna Carta Human Rights Education Project is the development of strategies and materials for teaching and learning about important documents such as the Magna Carta and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the principles embodied in human rights education and the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.
For five days at the end of October 2009, 19 teachers from across the U.S. and U.K. gathered in Washington, DC to talk about human rights education and the Civil Rights Movement. This was the second meeting of teachers as part of the Magna Carta Human Rights Education Project—the first meeting took place in the U.K. in April 2008.
This year’s workshop was facilitated by Nancy Flowers, a writer and consultant for human rights education. Nancy has worked to develop Amnesty International’s education program and is a co-founder of Human Rights USA, a national human rights education coalition. She led the Magna Carta II participants through a number of discussions and activities introducing the Human Rights Framework and a rights-based approach to education.
Nancy was joined by Ashni Mohnot, Director of Education (Liberation Curriculum) at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research & Education Institute at Stanford University, linking human rights to the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. Edward O'Brien, Executive Director Emeritus of Street Law Inc., also joined the group to discuss the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
Together, these teachers worked to develop ideas for projects, lesson plans, and resources that will help teachers in the U.S. and the U.K. make the subject of human rights relevant to their students. These joint efforts will be posted to the NEA International Groupsite, a space on NEA.org to share ideas and resources as well as create a community that focuses on teaching the history and importance of human rights. This will provide a forum where other NEA and NUT members can get ideas and resources—and share their own ideas.
U.S. Launch of The Steve Sinnott Foundation
A very special event took place as part of the Magna Carta II workshop. Graham and Penny Clayton joined the Magna Carta II participants, NEA Executive Director John Wilson, NEA staff, and representatives from organizations across Washington, DC for the U.S. launch of The Steve Sinnott Foundation. Steve Sinnott was General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers from 2004 until his untimely death in April 2008 just before the first meeting of the Magna Carta Human Rights Education Project, an idea which he conceived of with then-NEA President Reg Weaver. The foundation has been created to support the Millennium Development Goals and Education for All.
________________________________________Magna Carta I: Teaching About Human Rights and Democracy — The Magna Carta as a Reference Point
In April 2008, 20 teachers from the U.S. and U.K. gathered at Stoke Rochford Hall, near Grantham in Lincolnshire, England for the first meeting of this collaborative effort to develop a unit of study which focuses on how the concepts of the Magna Carta relate to current issues today—most notably the writ of habeas corpus and the rights of all free men taking precedence over the power of their so-called “rulers.”
The Revd Canon Professor Mike West, chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral, hosted a viewing of one of the four remaining copies of the original 1215 manuscript of the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta sent by royal letter to Lincoln is considered the best copy since it was placed in the Cathedral’s archives for safe keeping. Robin Richardson, former director of the Runnymede Trust, facilitated a review of existing materials for teaching about democracy and human rights. He has frequently worked with the NUT as a trainer and facilitator on issues of equality and multiculturalism.
Professor Audrey Osler, founding director of the interdisciplinary Centre for Citizenship and Human Rights Education at the University of Leeds, gave a talk on citizenship education drawing on her knowledge of developments in a range of different countries, locating this project in an international and global context.