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Arts & Letters Daily


8b. Rights - Mr. Kennedy


Human Rights


Duty. Ms. Wong, a middle years teacher for the past 12 years, had been a coveted physical education teacher till three years ago when she was immobilized in a car accident. Now she was teaching English, another subject she loved. When she applied for the position of vice principal in her school, her application was refused on the grounds that she would not be able to fulfil all the duties of a vice principal because her mobility was restricted because she is in a wheel chair.

Senior management felt an apparent conflict of duties. On the one hand, they wanted to appoint a vice principal who could attend to the varied and complex tasks and situations that arise in a high school. They thought this required a highly mobile person who could move about freely in crowded hallways, attend huge sports complexes for away games, drive at a moment’s notice, just to mention a few challenges. On the other hand, Ms. Wong had demonstrated creative mobility, outstanding communication skills with staff and students and exceptional organizational skills. At the same time, management knew they had to make a decision.

Rights. Ms. Wong objected to the decision on the grounds that her rights had been violated. There were creative ways of accommodating her physical handicap. For example, she could introduce a Student Civil Service Program which would not only support her in executing her duties but would educate students in providing volunteer community service. Management commended her for her creative solution but rejected her application. They maintained that even though she had a right to make an application, they were not obligated to receive it. Ms. Wong challenged the decision on the grounds that she had a right to demonstrate that she could fulfill the duties of a vice principal. Administration had no right to deny her the appointment on the grounds they cited.


  • ‘Human rights’ and ‘civil rights’ can be used interchangeably.
  • Discuss other situations where people use this kind of thinking.

You may want to discuss other dilemmas.

Consider this view of human rights

  • Crooked thinking

In this statement ‘rights’ is used in the sense of civil rights

  • Straight thinking

In this statement the word “right” refers to human rights in various documents like the Canadian Bill of Rights, the American Constitution, and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Man. These documents have been drafted to identify, advocate, and protect the rights of people or what are regarded as due objects of interest.

Moral principle value tests

An application of the moral principle value tests probably illustrates most clearly what is entailed in evaluative reasoning. They are:

It is important to emphasize that the moral-value principle tests are not designed to resolve issues (guarantee right answers!) but to assess the ‘justification’ for moral value decisions.

To view the Dilemma from the perspective of Duty, Rights, Motives, Desert and Justice, click the following:

Join in the conversation by leaving your comments in the blog. Click HERE.

Discuss other situations where people use this kind of straight and crooked thinking.