Topic 1 What is a right?

No universal definition!

  • There is not a universally accepted definition of what a right is. Pay attention: we do not refer to human rights or children’s rights for now. Simply to ‘’rights’’, which is a much wider term.
  • This absence of a universal definition is due to the different theories that challenge each other throughout the history of philosophy and science but also the different classifications of rights.
  • Regarding school education, it is more effective to examine concrete rights (ex. human rights, children’s rights, animal rights).
  • Start the process by stating that a right is ‘’the power that has been acknowledged to do or to deny something’’.

TIP: To make it easier for children to understand the difference between ‘’rights’’,  ‘’universal rights’’ and ‘’children’s rights’’, you can give the following examples with no further deepening for the moment:

  • ‘’Ι have the right to live’’: this is a universal right
  • ‘’I have the right to say my opinion about my food’’: this is a child right
  • ‘’I have the right to claim a lower price for a video game since there is a sale’’: this is a ‘’right’’ but it is not neither ‘’universal’’ nor strictly child-related


Men & Women
Boys & Girls
Locals and foreigners


Freedom from hunger and thirst.
Freedom from discomfort.
Freedom from pain, injury, or disease 
Freedom to express normal behaviour
Freedom from fear and distress


Despite the fact that few countries around the world have acknowledged this category of rights, still the respective debate is very vivid and due to climate crisis it is likely to lead to be intensive discussions

TIP: To help students understand what nature rights mean, you can oppose nature as a source of goods which people can repair when they abuse it VS nature as a value beyond use. For example: we can bottle some water from a rich mountain water spring VS we alien  ate part of a mountain to create a bottling industry

What constitutes a right, is it also ethical? Law and ethics.

Example 1

I see a classmate of mine trying to grab his school bag from his wheelchair. I know he can do it as he does it many times during the day. Still it takes him some time from listening to the teacher. I have the right not to help him. Nobody obliges me. He is not in danger and he is not helpless. Still, is it ok? In other words, is it ethical?

Example 2

During the break, I see some children having trapped a migrant student and laughing at him because of his skin colour. There are around 8 of them, I am alone, they are 3 years older than me. If I speak up, maybe I’ll put myself in danger. Anyway, the migrant student is not literally threatened. I have the right to not say anything and let go. Nobody obliges to risk my wellbeing. But is it ok to stay silent? In other words, is it ethical?


What if different rights clash? 

Example 1 - Rights of an Individual VS Rights of another Individual:

An example from school life could be that during a school excursion, while on the bus, a student has the right to read his/her book while another can put music on his smartphone and sing, thus, disturbing the reader. Let the floor to students to discuss this type of clash.

Example 2 - Rights of an individual VS Rights of a group:

The teacher asks the class if they want to deepen more in some vocabulary or skip it. The majority is familiar with the vocabulary. Some newcomer refugee students vote for the vocabulary. The teacher satisfies the preference of the majority. Let the floor to students to discuss this type of clash.