Individual Rights: Setting Up Students for Success

At Challenger School, we have two rules for our students: we expect them to 1) actively participate in the learning process and 2) respect individual rights. A poster displayed in every Challenger classroom illustrates these expectations. There is no need for a detailed list of dos and don’ts; if students respect themselves and others, everything falls into place. Consequently, Challenger students have the freedom they need to learn and to pursue their goals. 

Understanding Individual Rights 

A right is the freedom to act without the permission of others as long as your actions don’t violate the rights of another. Man’s "unalienable rights," as enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, include "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Rights are not bestowed. They are inherent to being human. 

Misconceptions about Individual Rights    

People often mistakenly call privileges "rights." They may say you have the "right" to a job, a home, or an education. But you don’t have a right to be handed any of those things. What you have is the right to pursue them—the right to work for them and to earn them. 

How Respecting Individual Rights Cultivates Success   

Consider this example: students, in reality, do not have the "right" to have friends. What they do have is the right to earn friendships by acting in a way that enriches their own and others’ lives.

The distinction is important and has practical effects. If a student had a "right" to have friends, then teachers—the authority figures in this example—would be obligated to try to force or coerce other children into being his friends. The result would be a social interaction that is both unproductive and destructive. If other children are forced to befriend him, he loses all incentive to do the hard work of attracting willing, genuine friends. He learns instead that whenever he encounters someone who doesn’t want to be his friend, he can just tattle to the teacher, who will coerce his classmate to accept (or pretend to accept) the complaining student as his "friend." 

When individual rights are properly respected, as they are at Challenger School, a student who wants friends is motivated to behave in a way that draws others to him and inspires them to want to be his friends.

At Challenger, we respect our students’ individual rights and their freedom of association. We never coerce friendships. Unfortunately, outside of Challenger’s walls, in society at large, authority figures often pressure children to accept everyone, including their ill-behaved and destructive peers. These teachers and other authority figures tell students that it is "nice" and "kind" to accept everyone without judgment. The results are predictably tragic. As students come to see that there are no consequences for poor behavior, conscientious students can lose motivation to be well-behaved and productive, and badly-behaved students have less incentive to improve their conduct. 

A respect for individual rights is also the reason Challenger does not:
  ◦Force students to share their lunches or personal school supplies with others.
  ◦Require students to write valentines for every classmate or compel them to invite everyone in the class to their birthday parties.
  ◦Punish a whole class by canceling recess because a few individuals misbehaved.

Instead, we:
  ◦Guide students to understand the actions that may attract or repel friends.
  ◦Help students to recognize how their behavior affects others.
  ◦Teach students to manage themselves in ways that add benefit to their lives.

Challenger School respects and defends individual rights because we want to live free from coercion and create an environment in which students can learn and thrive. This is such an important objective of our school that it is incorporated in our policies, teaching philosophy, curriculum content, and behavior management methods. 

Not only do we deliver exceptional academics, but we also demonstrate to students that they do not have to succumb to peer pressure or common sentiments to pursue their own happiness.

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