I would begin by expanding the term we seek to define from HRE to "transformative, systematic HRE." "Transformative" because empowerment to affect positive change and transform lives must always be one of the primary goals of HRE [for more on this see "Human Rights Here and Now," Nancy Flowers, Editor, 1998 and articles by J. Paul Martin and Upendra Baxi in "Human Rights Education for the Twenty-first Century," Andreopoulos and Claude, Editors, 1997]. "Systematic" because HRE should begin at the earliest levels of education and should continue throughout one's formal schooling. Perhaps because I am an attorney, occasionally accused of speaking in legalese, I believe any working definition of transformative, systematic HRE must be as simple and straightforward as possible. If we are ever to convince policymakers and laypersons that both formal and nonformal transformative, systematic HRE must become integral parts of our educational structures, we must do so in terms they can understand. We cannot afford to use the language of the elite to define a process that exists for--and belongs to--all of us. The potential problem is that human rights issues are so broad, and legitimately encompass so many areas of discussion (e.g., child labor, women's rights, conflict diamonds, environmental justice, just to name a few) that it is easy to get lost trying to develop an all-encompassing definition. I prefer a more fluid definition, at the risk of being accused of being vague. To me, transformative, systematic HRE is any thoughtful, searching discussion among teachers and students [recognizing that much HRE is nonformal, I use "teachers" and "students" loosely] of what it means to be human and to interact responsibly with our fellow human beings and our planet. At any given moment the discussion might focus on one particular human rights issue, and the tools that inform the discussion might be internationally developed documents such as the UDHR, but such discussions will always be informed as well by the beliefs, values, and experiences of those students and teachers taking part. Transformation is an internal process that cannot be forced upon those unwilling to be transformed, so I believe it is more important for transformative, systematic HRE to stimulate critical thinking about human rights issues than for it to try to provide pre-packaged "answers" to some of the most complicated and challenging issues we, as humans, will ever encounter. The answers and solutions will come, in time, from informed, empowered students who believe that human rights matter and who, as friends, neighbors, citizens, consumers, and future leaders, act accordingly. In closing, I would add that I believe this conversation among listserv members would itself be an excellent tool for transformative, systematic HRE. If I were a teacher I would consolidate these materials (within the confines of the listserv's policy on reproduction, of course), have students read them, and then pose questions such as Who is correct? Who is incorrect? Why? Or perhaps: Is everybody correct? Is everybody incorrect? Why? Thanks for letting me contribute to the lesson. Adam Stone Indianapolis, Indiana (USA) ======== Global Human Rights Education listserv ======== Send mail intended for the list to <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Archives of the list can be found at: http://www.hrea.org/lists/hr-education/ If you have problems (un)subscribing, contact <email@example.com>. **You are welcome to reprint, copy, archive, quote or re-post this item, but please retain the original and listserv source.
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