Time: 30-60 minutes
This activity introduces
social and economic rights found in the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights. It employs rights-related statistics to promote critical reflection
on strengths, weaknesses, and contradictions in US society. This multidisciplinary
approach encourages participants to draw on the arts, social studies,
math, and language arts to express their understanding of and feelings
about what they encounter.
The activity might move
in many different directions, depending on participant interest and
strengths. It is essential, however, that participants develop a basic
understanding of social and economic rights and the international documents
in which these rights are articulated.
1. Distribute Handout 1,
Imagine a Country to participants and ask different participants
to read each of the discrete statements. Note: Do not indicate
that each statement is about the United States.
2. After the reading, allow
a brief time for free flowing participant reactions prior to focusing
their attention on some of the tasks and questions below.
Questions to consider:
Are you surprised, disturbed,
proud, pleased, or _______________ (select your adjective) by any of
these statistics in particular?
Do you have questions
about any of the data presented in the essay?
Do you think this statistical
evidence is biased and misrepresents your country? Which statistics
in particular are you concerned about?
How do you explain the
apparent contradictions, (e.g., richest nation but high percentage of
poverty that exist in the United States)?
For which social and economic
rights does the USA appear to be doing well? For which is there need
for substantial improvement?
What is the responsibility
of the government to ensure that everyone achieves these human rights
as fully as possible? Are there some conditions, such as inadequate
nutrition of children, that the government should address and other
conditions, such as homelessness of adults, that it shouldn’t? What
actions might the government take?
Who besides government
should assume responsibilities for addressing human rights problems?
Are there some conditions
for which the statistics suggest that the USA is doing as well as might
be expected and others for which we can expect better results? Do you
think we can do better? What makes you think the way you do?
Possible Participant Tasks:
1. Match the conditions
described in the essay to articles in the UDHR and ICESCR (abbreviated
version). Identify social and economic rights found in ICESCR but were
not included in the essay.
2. Look for news stories
(TV, magazines, and newspapers) that are about these social and economic
rights. Create a bulletin board to post these. Keep adding to this bulletin
board during the course of your study of social and economic rights.
3. Indicate your understanding
of and feelings about one particular statement in Imagine a Country
in one of the following ways:
- create a poem, drawing,
- write a letter to a
- educate your community
with posters and drawings.
4. Assess the essay as
a whole and create one of the following: 1) a “praise poem, drawing,
or song” that draws on facts in the essay to paint the United States
in the most positive light or 2) a “poem, drawing or song of lament”
that focused on those facts that expose the United States in a negative
light. Try to explain how both presentations could be true at the same
5. Identify “red flag facts.”
These are data that uncover inequalities in a situation and suggest
that there might be unfair treatment involved. However, more information
is usually needed before one can conclude that an inequality exists,
(e.g., the percentage of males and females pursuing science careers)
is the result of unfair treatment. Identify “red flag facts” and discuss
what additional information participants would need to gather.
6. Bring these national
statistics home by trying to match the statistics provided in Handout
1, Imagine A Country, with local statistics for hunger, homelessness,
Source: Written by David
Part 2 Index
The Scramble for Wealth and Power