Periodically, society has an opportunity to reflect on its path, consider goals and objectives, and set direction. In Alberta, with Provincial and Federal elections, we have had this privilege two times in 6 months. Much is criticized, analyzed, and promised to citizens during election campaigns in an effort to sway opinion and gain support. It is at these times that we need to consider the terms “Rights” “Right” and “Responsibilities.”
I suppose after 33 years as an educator most students would think I am old. If wisdom comes with age and experience, then perhaps by reason of age alone I may lay claime to some credibility. Rights are privileges that ought to be guaranteed as a consequence of being human, a citizen, an employee, an employer, a professional, a child, or a spouse. Right is a measure of “correctness” applied to ideas, people, or action. It implies that judgment has been exercised and the outcome weighed according to the “correctness” or “fairness” of an action or decision. In a democracy, with varying public opinion and strategic public pressure, each member of society has a Responsibility to self and to the society as a whole to be well enough informed to contribute meaningfully to the collective good.
Elaborate structures, both legislative and judicial, have evolved over time in our society to determine what is Right or (correct). History demonstrates that the boundaries of Right (correctness) and Rights (legal guarantees) is not static. It is an interpretive process and is influenced by law, precedent, public opinion, effective lobby groups and even social movements. If the pendulum is in constant motion, are you satisfied with its direction? What Responsibility rests on society to influence the interpretation of what must be guaranteed to the individual?
This fluid conversation is what makes a Social Studies class rich and meaningful. Students are hungry for understanding as it applies to them in their context. Parents have a crucial role to engage their children in the dialogue that will help them shape their own perspectives and understandings of Right, Rights, and Responsibility. In a democracy, an individual can be heard. It might be by simply placing an X at the ballot box, but it could be much more. The Responsibility of an individual to help shape what is Right (correct) is directly correlated to how they exercise their Rights. Rest assured, the pendulum will continue to swing, and only those who engage in the exercise of their Rights will have influence over its direction and momentum.