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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Refugee/Immigrant. Refugee and immigrant issues (CRC, article 22) were another frequently mentioned topic. The students were surprised to learn what refugees went through in their home countries and how they were treated in the United States. Related to the situation of refugees, the students mentioned the “right to life, liberty, and personal security” (UDHR, article 3) and also “people should be able to leave and come back to their own country when they want to” (UDHR, article 13). One student was surprised by how refugees are treated in this country, especially in the area of employment. That student told the researcher that she would never treat or tease refugees like she used to.

Discrimination. Discrimination related issues (UDHR Article 2) were also frequently mentioned during the interviews. Two students specifically mentioned “discrimination.” One of them listed issues related to race (“color of their skin”), turrets syndrome, and homeless people. The student felt that if “we could put ourselves into their position, we could not laugh at them.”

Another student seemed to be struck by what kinds of experiences refugees had in their home countries and in the United States. The same student also mentioned the discrimination against gay people, particularly one man who was beaten to death because he was gay. This student felt that name calling is the start of discrimination. Another said, “now it became clearer why people react to discrimination and how people should treat each other equally.” Yet, other student mentioned that “now I don’t think like how they look and they are messed up.” The researcher asked what this student meant by that. The answer was “I don’t want to say anything when [people are] dressed poorly and they don’t look good.”

Among many topics that these students remember, the researcher noted several categories on discrimination that they mentioned during the interviews. They were: Gay rights/sexuality, refugee/immigrant issues, race, gender/sexual harassment, mental illness/turrets syndrome/ other diseases, overweight people, and elders. The researcher was impressed by the students’ realization of their behavior and how being a teaser and/or calling names caused the root of discrimination. During the meeting that the researcher attended in Los Angeles, California in 1999, Arun Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, pointed out that passive violence, such as teasing and calling names, feeds and causes physical violence in the world. This is exactly what students in this study realized during their HRE experiences.

Specific Human Rights Article that Students Remembered.

Among all the above topics that the students remembered during the interviews, the researcher also asked them which specific human rights article they remembered the most. Most commonly, the answer was right to education (CRC, article 28; UDHR, article 26) chosen by nine students. Then child labor (CRC, article 32) was the second chosen by 6 students. Other answers included freedom of speech (CRC, article 12; UDHR, article 19), right to safety (UDHR, article 3), right to shelter (CRC, article 27; UDHR, article 25), right to food (CRC, article 27; UDHR, article 25), right to leisure (CRC, article 31; UDHR, article 24), and right to court (UDHR, article 6 and 7). It seemed to the researcher that the issue that impacted the students the most was the topic of child labor. When 16 students out of 18 remember child labor materials a year after HRE, it is safe to say that the child labor issue made a strong impact on students’ lives.

Effective method of teaching human rights.

Now, the researcher wants to explore the more effective methods of teaching human rights to middle school age students. The researcher was wondering how student could remember human rights concepts for such a long time, and how HRE could have such as impact on their lives. The methods of teaching human rights would be one of the critical factors influencing how and what human rights concepts students would remember.
Play/skit. The most common answer was “play.” All eighteen students told the researcher that they remembered the play (10), role play (4), and skit (4) the most. When the students mentioned “play,” they meant they acted in a play about Iqbal, or they were in the audience watching the play about Iqbal. Many of them mentioned that they actually acted in the play of the story of child labor, specifically about Iqbal. Some were in the audience. Two of the students mentioned that their HRE instructor used acting to show a variety of issues in human rights, e.g. “how other people lived, “how people felt,” and “how people should be treated.” Either way, they “enjoyed” and “had fun” with plays to learn human rights issues. All of them said that even though they did not remember the details of the play, they remembered what kind of human rights issue was dealt with in the play. Most of them could tell the researcher why the content of the play was memorable to them: i.e., how the boy, Iqbal, fought against child labor and for freedom of children after he escaped from the carpet factory.

Visual aid. The second most mentioned method was visual aids by a total of fifteen students. The methods included videos (6), movies (5), TV (2), slides (1), and posters (1). One female student told the researcher that she was moved and struck by a poster, which portrayed a child behind bars apparently looking straight at her. She also remembered the posters for stopping child labor. Other students mentioned that videos and movies showed children working for carpet and clothing factories, racism, and slaves building railroads.

Reading activities. Eight students mentioned various reading activities. Four students talked about reading stories about Iqbal. Reading books, plays, papers and poems were also mentioned by an individual student at different times. Topics of the readings included child labor, gay issues/sexuality, and refugee issues.
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