The Speak Truth to Power curriculum introduces general human rights issues through the stories of some remarkable people working in the field, and urges students to become personally involved in the protection of human rights.

Human rights refer to violations as defined by international law. It is important that students have a clear idea about what is a human rights violation under the rule of law.

So what does Speak Truth to Power mean? Does it mean speaking truth to those in power or does it mean that speaking truth has power? The answer depends on how you and your students engage with this curriculum and the actions taken as a result. In reality, when truth is informed by sound learning it has power and those who are informed understand their obligation to speak truth to those in power.

This curriculum provides an overview of human rights and social justice issues in the United States and around the world. Using the Toolkit for Action, your students and the broader public will have the resources needed to address issues at the local, national and global levels.

The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, the organization created in 1968 to continue Robert F. Kennedy’s work for civil and human rights, and New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) launched on Friday December 10th, 2010 – International Human Rights Day — a new edition of the human rights curriculum for New York state students, with a special webcast featuring a human rights defender whose work has dramatically improved working conditions for migrant tomato pickers.

The curriculum, which includes over 40 teacher-developed lesson plans for students in grades K-12, higher ed and law school, is based on Kerry Kennedy’s book, Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who are Changing the World.  The webcast was designed to build on students’ enthusiasm to become human rights defenders by stopping child labor and fighting other human rights abuses around the globe.

The web event originated from the classroom of teacher Diane Gonzalez at the Chestnut Ridge Middle School, in Spring Valley.  Students in Gonzalez’ classroom were linked to classrooms across the state, where more than 1,000 additional students also viewed the webcast.  Kerry Kennedy, daughter of former U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy, U.S. attorney general and presidential candidate, spoke to students about human rights as part of the presentation. 

The webcast also featured Lucas Benitez, a founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which helped organize migrant tomato pickers and, on Nov. 16, signed an agreement that ended a 17-year fight to win better wages and working conditions for migrants. To learn more, you can watch the webcast right here!