Human Rights Education: An Elementary School Level Case Study By Megumi Yamasaki Ph. D. Thesis Completed June 2002 University of Minnesota Education Policy & Administration/Comparative & International Development Education Chapter 1



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Direct Interpretation


The researcher looked at each individual interview to find out what students were telling her about their HRE experiences. She tried to find connections within the information which the students provided, such as topics that they remembered, the specific concepts of human rights that they remembered, if they thought HRE was important, and, if so why and what they did in their lives to use HRE, and whether they talked to anyone about human rights. This was to help answer the two primary research questions. This part of analysis is overviews of each interview. The researcher does not report each interview based on each interview question.

Student #1 thought that teaching human rights at school was amusing. By amusing he meant that he had a fun in HRE classes because he learned new things about human rights and he enjoyed simulation and skits. He remembered child labor, rights/human rights which all people have, right to education, and respect. He told the researcher that he learned a lot more but could not remember many details.

He thought that HRE was important, because he “uses in [his] life.” He also thought that it was important to tell other people about human rights. To show that he valued telling other people, he shared what he learned in HRE with his mother and grandmother as well as his friends who did not know about human rights. He mainly talked to these people about child labor (Convention on the Rights of the Child: CRC, article 32), and how children were treated in other parts of the world. When the researcher asked if he changed his mind, attitude, or behavior because of HRE, he answered that he now learned a lot about different countries and did not talk badly about refugees any more (CRC, article 22). Although he could not give the researcher the specific categories or articles of human rights, he identified child labor and right to recognition as a person before the law when he mentioned his experience in the simulation.




Student #2 focused on child labor (CRC, article 32) and refugee issues (CRC, article 22) throughout the interview. When the student was asked about specific learning from HRE, she stated that “[people] cannot treat kids and people like that” (CRC, article 19). In addition, when she described what human rights meant to her, she explained to the researcher that “everyone [should] have right[s] in their countries.” Just like Student #1, she also could not specifically identify human rights concepts or articles. However, it was clear that she was struck by the concept of child labor (CRC, article 32) and refugee (CRC, article 22) issues.

She also talked to her mother and friends about child labor and refugees. She talked to them about how wrong it is to treat people from different countries badly and how people who worked in carpet and clothes factories in other countries were not paid enough. When the researcher asked whether she was doing anything for human rights issue in her daily life, she could not give any examples. The researcher assumes that because the student defined human rights issues as child labor and refugee issues, there were not many things that she could think of doing. However, she did talk to her mother and friends to educate them about human rights, especially how to treat people (refugees) from other countries. When the researcher asked how HRE changed her mind, attitude, and/or behavior, she told the researcher that she had not really changed. She had been treating people like they were her friends even before HRE. The researcher



Student #3 talked about HRE around issues of child labor (CRC, article 32) and its affect on children around the world. She had a strong memory of Iqbal4 who worked in a carpet factory as a child laborer and could not go to school (CRC, article 28; UDHR, article 26). She described human rights as the results, “starting caring about kids,” “treating kids good,” and “getting education.” She explained the reason why HRE was important was that people “should not treat kids like that.”

The student talked to her family and “kids in [her] neighborhood” about what she learned in HRE class. However, she could not make a connection between talking to her family and friends about human rights and teaching about human rights. When the researcher asked whether HRE changed her mind, attitude, and/or behavior in any way, she answered that she stopped thinking how people who dressed poorly were messed up (CRC, article 2; UDHR, article 2). Before, she thought they did not look good and avoided them. However after HRE, she stopped thinking like that and also did not want to say any negative things toward them.



Student #4 mentioned a variety of topics that he remembered; i.e. wars, UDHR, Eleanor Roosevelt, and “what’s going on in Washington DC,” and life in other countries. Among all those topics, during the interview, he focused on the “life in other countries” issue. When he gave examples of specific learnings that he remembered the most, they were “kids in the factory making shoes,” “kids making clothes,” “not having right to education,” and “Nike makes kids work in their factory” (CRC, article 32). He also mentioned specific rights that he recalled, such as a right to education (CRC, article 28; UDHR, article 26), right to leisure (CRC, article 31; UDHR, article 24), and “not to work till certain age” (CRC, article 32). These are all connected to child labor issues (CRC, article 32).

The student described human rights as “what you can do” and “what you already have” (UDHR article 1 and 2). The researcher believes that it was shocking for him to find out that all rights that people should have were not enjoyed by everyone. There were people (children) in this world who did not have these at all. He thought that it was important to know about human rights, because then people would know what they could do with their lives. He talked to his little brother and other family members about what he learned from HRE. It showed that he truly believed in talking to people about what their rights were. When the researcher asked him what he did in his daily activity for human rights, he listed several things including talking people who did not know about human rights and helping other people, e.g. giving people food. However, at the same time, he expressed his wish to teach people human rights at school when he is a 20-year old. The researcher can assume that he did not see himself teaching people by talking to them, because he thought that he needed to wait until later to do so.



Student #5 remembered a lot of topics that she learned from HRE. The topics were “homelessness [UDHR, article 3], child care [CRC, article 3 and 18], right to education [CRC, article 28; UDHR, article 26], sexual harassment [UDHR, article 2], gay rights [UDHR, article 2], how [people] look, how people have rights, courage and behavior.” It seems that this student was struck by the human rights issues within the United States, according to the topics that she listed. She mentioned health care (CRC, article 24; UDHR, article 22), how people should have “rights when they are sick, rights to get treated at the hospital.” She also commented briefly on the homelessness issue (UDHR, article 2). In her daily life, she worked in a food drive and collected clothes for a homeless shelter.

At the same time, this student also talked about “kids in factories making shoes and clothes,” (child labor) (CRC, article 32). When the researcher started the interview, she asked the student’s experience with HRE. The student immediately started to talk about children in other countries, who had to survive and could not go to school (CRC, article 28; UDHR, article 26), because they had to work to pay off their family’s debt. Also, when the researcher asked why she thought that HRE was important, she answered as follows. First of all, she thought that “kids were not treated equally” (CRC, article 3; UDHR, article 1). All children should have a right to education, food, having fun, and to “be a kid” (CRC, article 31). She also told the researcher that she talked to her mother and her HRE teacher about child labor all the time and how she felt about it: “kids should be at home, playing and doing homework” (CRC, article 28 and 31). When the researcher asked if HRE changed her in any way, she replied that she did not know how people were treated in other countries before. She strongly felt that all people needed to be treated equally (UDHR, article 1 and 2). She wrote an e-mail to Michael Jordan to stop using children to make his Nike shoes.



Student #6 seemed to remember human rights issues as how people should be treated and how people would feel when they were mistreated. He remembered the issue of discrimination against gays and refugees the most (CRC, article 2; UDHR, article 2). He could not believe how gay people were treated by others, and how sometimes they even got killed, as well as what kinds of experiences refugees have had in their home countries and since they came to the U.S. He also talked about discrimination against overweight people. He felt that he himself used to be one of those who discriminated against people who were overweight. If people had HRE, he said, they should be able to understand how people felt when others talked badly about them.

The student felt that HRE was important, because then people would be able to tell right from wrong and would understand why people reacted the way they did when they were treated badly. He emphasized the importance of treating people with respect. He also felt strongly about teaching people about human rights and the importance of passing the knowledge of human rights on for future generations. As an example of his actions for teaching people about human rights, he mentioned that he tried to break up a fight and talk to people who were fighting on the street. He also talked to his friends and family members about human rights. It seemed that his family was also a great influence on his attitude toward human rights, because they always talked about respecting people and being nice to people. He also gave HRE credit for how he changed from having a bad temper to being calm and having control over his temper.



Student #7 remembered two main topics; one was child labor (CRC, 32), and another was stereotyping/categorizing including race and mental illness (CRC, article 2; UDHR, article 2). Throughout her interview, she emphasized people’s basic rights, such as health care (CRC, article 24), equal pay for equal work (UDHR, article 2), and access to public assistance (UDHR, article 22, 25, and 29), particularly welfare. The researcher believes that although the student did not mention it explicitly, she was also referring to physical disability issues (CRC, article 23; UDHR, article 2) as well as mental illness: she thought that people “should be able to have certain amount of money. … many people cannot afford to buy food,” and “…some people have injury and cannot get a job.” For child labor issues (CRC, article 32), she remembered the story of Iqbal, and children who had to pick up drug needles and got AIDS by doing this work.

For a specific concept of human rights, the student gave the example of UDHR. She believed that people need to know their rights, and there should be no violence in this world. She defined human rights as being about “people and what they [could] do,” and “recogniz[ing] human being as human regardless of their race.” She talked to her little brother, parents, and young kids at school about what stereotypes and name-calling were with a hope to stop violence. She also tried not to buy child labor products in order to fight against child labor. She shared her frustration with the researcher that she wished to teach people and hoped to stop violence. And she wished that all people had a chance to take HRE and that there was a human rights TV channel that people could watch.



Student #8 did not remember any topic particularly, when the researcher asked her. However, as the interview progressed, she started to recall some topics from HRE, such as right to education (CRC, article 28; UDHR, article 26) and “right to be safe, house and food” (UDHR, article 3). She defined human rights as “rights for education [CRC, article 28; UDHR, article 26], rights not to be violated, and rights that [people] have.” The researcher believes that she was referring to the child labor issue (CRC, article 32). As a part of her daily life, she tried not to buy Nike product, because they were made by child labor. However, when the researcher asked her what she could do about human rights issues, specifically child labor, she thought that there was nothing she could do. The reason was that she was still in school and not in Pakistan. It seems that she felt a dilemma: a part of her thought that HRE was important, but the other part of her felt that because human rights violations were happening elsewhere in the world, there was nothing she could do about it.

Student #9 remembered the topics of poverty and homelessness (UDHR, article 25). Throughout the interview, he went back to how to help people who were less fortunate than he was and what he could do to help them. He defined human rights as “helping people who are [more] unfortunate than you.” He felt that HRE was important, because, then, “kids know how [to] treat people.” As a part of his daily activity for human rights, he told the researcher that he was involved in a food drive for a homeless shelter, and shared food with a person on street.” He also told the researcher that he talked to his mother about what he learned in HRE.

Student #10 told the researcher that she learned about child labor (CRC, article 32), racism (CRC, article 2; UDHR, article 2), discrimination against gay people and elderly people (CRC, article 2; UDHR, article 2). Among all, she said that she remembered the child labor issue the most. She told the researcher that it was not right to treat “kids” badly and make them work below minimum wage. She believed that if these “kids got taught human rights, they [would] realize that [they] were under age, should not be working, and should be in school” (CRC, article 28; UDHR, article 26). And “if [people who use children as labor] get [HRE] they would realize that it is not right. Then [things] will get changed a lot.”

When the student shared what she did in her daily activities for human rights issues, she mentioned more domestic issues, such as attitude and behaviors towards gay, elderly, and homeless people (UDHR, article 2 and 25). She told the researcher that after HRE, she changed her attitude and behaviors toward these people. For example, she stopped talking about and making fun of gay, elderly, and homeless people. She tried to give people on the street money when she had it, and told them to buy food to eat, not to buy alcohol. She wanted to teach more people about human rights, and as a start, she went to meetings about HRE and shared her experiences with the participants.



Student #11 remembered several topics, such as child labor (CRC, article 32), discrimination against different races (CRC, article 2; UDHR, article 2), people with turrets syndrome (CRC, article 2; UDHR, article 2), and homeless people (UDHR, article 25). When she was asked to define human rights, she mentioned right to education (CRC, article 28; UDHR, article 26) and that “people did not have a right to make kids work” (CRC, article 19), which were related to child labor. She talked to her family and friends about it. At the same time, she and her family tried not to buy the products made by child labor, e.g. Nike and Pepsi products.

When she told the researcher what she did in her daily life to apply human rights knowledge, she brought up many activities that she did for the homeless. They were sharing things with people on the street, bringing clothes and groceries to a homeless shelter, and she tried to give people on the street money. She also shared with the researcher that she tried to be strong. She further explained what she meant by being strong. She tried not to be bothered by what others talk about her and also what people wanted her to do. She said that she was trying hard to be herself and not to be swayed by others’ comments. Overall, she defined human rights as: “be nice to people and show them that you care.”



Student #12 remembers the topics of homeless people (UDHR, article 25) and child labor (CRC, article 32). He defined human rights as “rights that every human being should have” (UDHR, article 2), and that people needed to be “equal and respected” (UDHR, article 1). When the researcher asked him what he did for human rights issues in his daily life, his answer was also related to child labor and homeless issues. He wrote to Michael Jordan to stop using children to make his products and talked to his mother and best friends about child labor. He wished to tell people how to treat children so that children would not be used for labor and to speak about child labor in front of people to educate them. He was impressed by Iqbal who was used as child labor and later traveled around the world appealing to people to stop using child labor. He also took action to help people on the street by giving them money.

Although he talked about child labor intensively during the interview, the student told the researcher that he remembered the refugee issue (CRC, article 22; UDHR, article 13 and 14) the most from HRE. He felt strongly that they should have the right to stay in their home countries and not to worry about their safety. He could not believe what refugees had to go through to get to the United States.



Student #13 remembered a few topics, such as sweatshops (UDHR, article 23), migration (UDHR, article 13), refugees (CRC, article 22; UDHR, article 13 and 14), turrets syndrome, other diseases (UDHR, article 2), slavery (UDHR, article 4), and sexuality (UDHR, article 2). When the researcher asked about any specific human rights concepts that he remembered, all his answers were centered around child labor (CRC, article 32) including right to education, such as “right to go to school/right to education” (CRC, article 28; UDHR, article 26), and “do not have to work” (CRC, article 32).

The most significant thing which the researcher noticed from this interview was how HRE information helped him to deal with his daily life. For example, when the researcher asked him what he remembered the most, he answered things related to gangs (CRC, article 6; UDHR, article 3). The reason was that he was surrounded by crime and violence, he said. He needed to know human rights so that he would not be in trouble any more. He talked about how now he could respond to people; e.g. calling someone for help, walking away, not saying negative things to people, and most of all, he did not feel that he needed to join a gang any more. He talked to his younger and older cousins about how people could not touch them, and to whoever he thought could use human rights.



Student #14 told the researcher that he learned about things going on around the world from HRE. It seems that he was struck by two topics; one is child labor (CRC, article 32), and another is refugees (CRC, article 22; UDHR, article 13 and 14). He defined human rights as being “learning about what was happening around the world and what all people should have, but not everybody has.” He remembered specific concepts of human rights such as the “right to safety” (UDHR, article 3), “right to learn” (CRC, article 28; UDHR, article 26), and “right to leave country and be able to come back” (UDHR, article 13). They all seemed to relate to child labor and refugee issues. When the researcher asked if HRE changed him in any way, he answered that he did not use the “N” word any more, since he knew now that it was not the right thing to say (CRC, article 2; UDHR, article 2).

The student felt that age was an important factor in learning about human rights. On one hand, he thought that learning about human rights was important, but on the other hand, it was “not that important if [children] were too young.” The reason was that he had an opportunity to teach 5th graders, and they did not listen to him. Also, he thought that if children were too young, they would not know about the countries where human rights problems existed.



Student #15 seemed to understand human rights as “everybody should be treated same” (CRC, article 2; UDHR, article 2) although she told the researcher that she could not explain what human rights meant to her. On three different occasions; when the researcher asked about (a) specific concepts that she remembered, (b) why she thought that HRE was important, and (c) what she did to use human rights concepts, she mentioned “people need to be treated equally.”

Treating people equally was also echoed when the student pointed out the topics that she remembered. They were issues of gay rights, racism, overweight people, and violence in school (UDHR, article 2). For each topic, she mentioned that “these people should not be treated like that.” In her daily life, she told the researcher that she tried to play with everybody, including people who were in the corner and being ignored. She said that she changed her behavior toward children who were ignored before, after taking HRE. Now, she tried to include them.



Student #16 could not give any topics that he remembered. However, during his interview, he mentioned “abusive relationship” (UDHR, article 5), slavery (UDHR, article 4), and “freedom of speech” (UDHR, article 19). He defined human rights as “rights that all people should have” (UDHR, article 1 and 2), “right to do whatever they want,” and freedom of speech. He believed that HRE was important because people needed to know their rights. In his daily life, the student said that he used freedom of speech and the right to safety. He felt that people should have a right to say anything they want and not worried about getting into trouble. He told the researcher that he felt that he could say anything that he wanted. Also, when he walked on the street, he felt that he had a right to safety, not to get shot. He believed that police in his neighborhood would protect him and others to have peace in his community. It seemed to the researcher that this student focused mainly on his own rights rather than responsibility for others’ rights.

Student #17 remembered the topics of abuse (CRC, article 19; UDHR, article 5), child labor (CRC, article 32), slavery (UDHR, article 4), and sweatshops (UDHR, article 23). Among them, he said that child labor was the most memorable topic. He talked about child labor and child abuse to his mother after taking HRE. He defined human rights as “people’s rights” and “what you can do and cannot do.” These definitions reflected on what he did in his daily life, such as “not to put people down” which is an example of what he should not do, and “be nice to everyone” as an example of what he should do. He told the researcher that he changed his attitude toward other people after HRE by trying not to put people down while he “used to be mean.” Although he remembered what he learned from HRE, and he told the researcher that he changed after HRE, he did not know whether HRE was important or not.

Student #18 told the researcher that the only topic she remembered was child labor (CRC, article 32), however, she brought up several other topics and issues during the interview, for example, she mentioned to treat people equally (CRC, article 2). Her definition of human rights, the researcher believes, was related to child labor, such as the “right to safety” (UDHR, article 3). For the rest of her interview, she focused on “how to treat people in respectful way,” which was, for her, the memorable human rights concept. When she gave the examples of what specific human rights concepts she remembered, she mentioned “how to treat people,” “not to tease people,” “to treat everyone in same way,” and “to know from right to wrong.” In her daily life, she tried to treat people in respectful ways, and she valued non-violence. Also as a part of her daily life, she talked to young students about human rights and how they could use them while she wished to teach other students when she reached 20 years old

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