The World As It Could Be: Human Rights Education Program

Location:  San Leandro, CA
United States
Project Description: 

Since 2006, with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as its guide, The World As It Could Be Human Rights Education Program (TWAICB),, has worked in collaboration with community arts and social justice non-profit programs, schools, universities, school districts and their agencies, and teacher training programs to develop and use creative arts and standards-based learning models and youth-led original dramatizations to inspire youth and adults to value the importance of human rights for all people, as well as to be engaged members of their local and global communities to help make the words of the UDHR a reality for everyone.

Following two years of pilot work with two Bay Area high schools, in 2010 we published TWAICB Curriculum which integrates the creative arts and a culminating presentation as part of teaching the UDHR, geared to High School language arts and history/social studies classes.  We find that the Program and its curriculum powerfully address the following issues:

  • Only 6% of the U.S. population, across all ages and demographics, are aware of the UDHR, even though the document is part of many social studies standards across the country.
    • When youth have the opportunity to not only learn about the UDHR, but also be leaders in teaching its importance to their peers and to adults, they demonstrate increased involvement in their studies, enhanced social interaction skills and great commitment to be positively engaged in their school and community.
  • With the continuing decline in funding for creative arts in public schools, teachers, as well as students, have not experienced the role of the creative arts in advancing the overall development of the person. Yet, the arts provide a powerful mechanism for helping students gain a deeper connection to and understanding of otherwise abstract concepts, whether they be human rights principles, social studies, language arts, mathematical or scientific concepts. The World As It Could Be Program has helped demonstrate the value of the creative arts as part of an effective public school academic curriculum:
  • The culminating presentation and celebration of the students’ creative reflections on their studies of the UDHR that are part of both the commissioned creative productions and high school curriculum provide a unique rite-of-passage experience that motivates both higher levels of academic engagement as well as enhanced awareness of and commitment to being engaged members of their immediate and broader communities.
  • The schools and other community programs that have been involved in the Program's curriculum initiatives have experienced a shift toward a more positive, human rights-oriented culture, where there is great awareness about the importance of demonstrating respectful and mindful behavior.