Re: Working definition of HRE



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)



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