International Humanist and Ethical Union
47th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (21 June to 13 July 2021)
Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to Education
Thank you Madame President.
We welcome this report on the cultural dimensions of the right to education. As a global humanist organization, we are aware of the ways in which religious values and nationalism in school curricula can undermine the interests of the child, whether by shutting down debate of ‘sensitive’ topics, or through teaching false historical narratives.
We have heard concerns from our members in India that textbooks are increasingly coming to reflect Hindu nationalist values, while members in parts of Africa and Latin America report the censoring of lessons on evolution in public schools.
To uphold cultural diversity, freedom of thought and intellectual honesty in schools, we recommend that authorities take positive action to create a space for critical and creative thinking. Science and history, in particular, being important aspects of the right to culture, must be taught in an objective manner that is detached from political ideology or religious dogma.
Hungary has recently followed Russia in banning the teaching of LGBTI+ issues in schools, leveraging ‘traditional family values’ in order to promote an intolerant and divisive Christian “constitutional identity”.
We appreciate, in this regard, the Special Rapporteur’s comment that “culture must not be understood as a singular, undiversified system of presumably shared values.” Would she also consider incorporating a specific recommendation on the need for comprehensive sexual education (CSE) to be taught in schools, in a manner that is inclusive of LGBTI+ identities?
'Importance of freedom of thought in schools', Humanists International