Bringing Human Rights Education to U.S. Classrooms: Exemplary Models from Elementary Grades to University.

Author:Bennett, Michael
Position:Book review

Bringing Human Rights Education to U.S. Classrooms: Exemplary Models from Elementary Grades to University (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) by Susan Roberta Katz and Andrea McEvoy Spero (Eds.)

As Susan O'Malley and I discuss in the introduction to this issue of Radical Teacher, we have come to appreciate through the process of gathering and editing the essays included here that there is a growing and vibrant community of teachers dedicated to Human Rights Education (HRE). Katz's and Spero's edited volume does an admirable job of providing this community with the tools and information needed to apply the insights of HRE in a range of classroom settings, from elementary school and a junior high science class to a college course in Asian American Studies.

The two introductory chapters (one by Felisa Tibbitts and one by the editors) provide a helpful overview of HRE. They also caution that HRE is built on contested terrain. Tibbits traces this contestation to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was developed mostly by nation states of the Global North that emphasize "individual rights," as opposed to the emphasis on "collective rights" by indigenous groups and nations in the Global South; she notes that HRE is still resisted at times because of this legacy of thinking about human rights in a "top-down and hegemonic manner with little knowledge or respect for local culture" (4). Katz and Spero also train a critical eye on HRE, noting the contradiction between the U.S.'s self-image as a beacon of human rights and its failure to ratify many of the most fundamental human rights treaties (most notably being the only nation not to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child). They trace this contradiction to two sources: "U.S. 'exceptionalism' and a neoliberal, market-economy approach to education" (19). Though the subsequent essays in Bringing Human Rights Education to U.S. Classrooms are more interested in the nuts and bolts of providing HRE rather than a critical analysis of human rights discourse from a radical perspective, they provide some useful models for teachers that could be adopted and adapted from a variety of political perspectives.

The best pedagogical essays that form the core of this volume do an admirable job of keeping the contradictions of HRE in view. For instance, in the process of discussing the connection between human rights and the social construction of race and gender in "Bringing to Life Human...

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