Dignitas, Latin for “intrinsic worth” or dignity is not only used as a guiding principle for human rights (ex. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights) but used to balance with other fundamental liberties and rights such as academic freedom and freedom of scientific research. For instance, although academic freedom includes the right to seek, discover, and assert important truths, they need to adhere to the human right to equality of status or equally treat all human beings regardless of their performance, intellectual capacity and achievement .
For one the chief conditions of human dignity according to the literature is human possessions and achievements, academic freedom normally places the value of rational and scientifically acquired truth about the world, man, and his works at the core and recognizes the obligation to teach and act in a manner that constitutes dignity, maintain and protect the order in which academic activities are performed effectively. Secondary schools, for instance, are often concerned in providing equal educational opportunities for all students regardless of race, social class, gender, or ability. Universities, on the other hand, are higher educational institutions known for advancing human dignity through a type of education, nurturing liberal ideals such as critical thinking, moral reasoning, ethical responsibility and duties towards others. Since academic institutions commonly recognize that students have different backgrounds (i.e. ethnicity, race, etc. ), sexual orientations, political, religious, and educational beliefs and learning needs, measurements of students academic and personal achievement are often done in an environment of respect and justice.
In relation to scientific freedom, the freedom to research is limited by the recognition that human dignity is inviolable, respectable, and must be protected from harmful experimental research, such as those disclosing genetic abnormalities, altering human genome, implanting computer in the brain, or administering drugs that can enhance or destroy human memory. Note that the 1997 Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights urged UNESCO to take actions regarding the consequences biological and genetics studies and emphasized the need to respect human dignity and prohibit discrimination based on genetic characteristics.
At school, respect and care for the rights or dignity are not only applied to human, but to non-human or animal subjects. Similar to a human being with inherent moral dignity and basic rights, treatment of animal subjects is also justified on moral grounds thus science experiments must respect the animal’s dignity. For instance, regardless of improvement in their well-being, schools should not encourage or allow their students to conduct genetic alteration or any experiments that would inhibit animals from performing their normal functions.
Educational institutions are mostly aware of students’ rights and developed policies reflecting a range of intended educational, spiritual, social, and moral outcomes. A Catholic school in one study, for instance, intends to create a school environment where there are respect and trust, and policies that value and support each student and staff. Aside from quality education, the school is set out to create an enjoyable atmosphere in which everyone’s dignity is acknowledged, nurtured, and protected.
Through social, moral, physical, spiritual activities, and recognizing and celebrating students’ achievements, other schools hoped to encourage all students to strive for academic excellence and enhance their dignity as a person. Some catholic schools, according to the study, are focused on social justice, common good, and community service and developing their students to become responsible member of society by carrying out economic and social activities promoting equality and justice, helping the poor, and the recognition of dignity and worth of our brothers and sisters around the world.
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