Education Denied: Costs and Remedies – TOMASEVSKI (CSS)

TOMASEVSKI, Katarina. Education Denied: Costs and Remedies. London and New York: Zed Books, 2003. 205p. Resenha de: DARLING, Linda Farr. Canadian Social Studies, v.39, n.1, p., 2004.

It is difficult to imagine a person in a better position to write a book on the immense, complex, and heart wrenching matter of the denial of children’s rights to education. Katarina Tomasevski is presently the UN Special Rapporteur on rights to education and she is charged with the exhausting task of cataloguing and assessing the impact of abuses and violations across the globe. Her latest book (adding to her full length treatments of several other human rights issues) is a penetrating analysis of a persistent and perplexing problem that affects millions of children, their families, their communities, their societies, and ultimately, she would argue, the future direction of human civilization. Tomasevski has documented a powerful narrative about what could be called a worldwide social and political epidemic.

The book is divided into three sections, each intended to frame, and then answer a different set of questions. Part 1, Why the Right to Education? presents philosophical and historical contexts and important background material, including the initial intergovernmental blueprint for the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Importantly, this section also addresses the question, What is education for? from several perspectives, including the author’s own. She carefully notes the difference that can exist between education and schooling, and between brainwashing and teaching, as she puts it, for freedom. She believes that by protecting the right to education, other human rights can be guaranteed to children, including the right not to be exploited as laborers or soldiers. Part 2, called Rupturing the Global Consensus, is a discussion of the enormous obstacles (including corruption) that prevent change on an international scale, even when governments have repeatedly promised action on human rights. Here, Tomasevski is at her fighting best, arguing passionately that we pay an unacceptable social price by allowing the impoverishment of education to continue at the expense of the world’s children. The title of the third section is Putting Human Rights Back In. For Tomasevski, this is a threefold demand: the topic of children’s rights needs to move from the margins of public consciousness back into the center of public dialogue about discrimination and assaults to freedom, back into decisions about school curriculum and school policies, and finally, back onto the main stage of national and transnational agendas. In this final section, she sketches what she calls mobilization for change. It is based, in part, on examples of remedies from around the world that have effectively ensured children’s rights to education, even against enormous odds, such as culturally entrenched attitudes about girls and women.

This is a gripping account. It is one thing to be aware that all human rights are violated daily and in vast numbers; it is another thing to be boldly confronted with multiple cases, figures and tables that tell this story with such intensity, authority and detail. Especially because children are the victims, it is, at times, overwhelmingly shocking and sad. There are occasional triumphs for the right to education, including those of the human spirit, and less often triumphs of public policy and government enforcement. But as Tomasevski writes in her introduction, progress in protecting the right to education moves at glacial speed, it is a matter of chipping away (p. 1). Tomasevski never gives up on the possibility that the world could be a better place, but one wonders how she can retain any sense of hope given the struggles and defeats she daily witnesses. In fact, part of the book’s value is that it chronicles a chapter in the lifework of a truly remarkable, perhaps indefatigable champion of human rights. Her contribution has been important, and our students should know about her. In her key roles as advocate, witness to violations and abuses, and policy analyst, Tomasevski has watched the world history of children’s rights unfold. With this book, she extends her commitment to education and human rights by explaining their relationship to each other, to all of us, and to the eventual realization of global social justice. By so doing Tomasevski further demonstrates her belief that education transforms lives. If we learn what she knows, we cannot help but act.

Teachers can act on this knowledge in significant ways. Human rights education continues to be a core component in social studies curriculum aimed at developing a global perspective, and Education Denied presents important lessons for classrooms. While the book is probably best used as an authoritative background resource, secondary and some upper elementary students could capably work with a number of concepts central to Tomasevski’s argument about rights-based education, as well as work with the data she presents in the form of graphs and charts. Students could also engage in independent research about positive education initiatives in Canada and around the world using examples from the last chapters as starting points. Although Tomasevski places her discussion within the context of human rights history, she does not set her arguments within the even larger political frame of democratization movements since WW II. Teachers will recognize that this larger context may provide students with richer understandings of the right to education and its relationship to the realization of social justice, everywhere in the world.

Linda Farr Darling – Curriculum Studies, Faculty of Education. University of British Columbia. Vancouver, BC.

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