As an educator, I consider it my responsibility to take actions to stand up against exclusion, prejudice, and injustice. I believe this starts with human rights education, for myself and my students. Alison Struthers states, ‘Human rights education (HRE) refers broadly to education and training that aims to contribute to the building of a universal culture of human rights through teaching about human rights and fundamental freedoms” (Storms, S. B., 2013, p.131).
I believe it is important to teach students, especially young students, about their rights, the rights of others, and what they can do to stand up for these rights. I believe students need to be made aware of the prejudice and injustices in our society; they should understand ways that exclusion, prejudice and injustices effect themselves and others, and what they can do to stand up to them in their daily lives. We should teach students various skills and strategies to aid them in advocating for equality and social justice. Furthermore, students should have opportunities to practice the skills and strategies in meaningful ways within the community. By doing so, students will learn how they can be actively involved in making social change happen, and develop an understanding that they are capable of making a positive difference in our society.
To be able to teach students about human rights and social justice, I feel it is critical that educators continually educate themselves on the concepts and values involved in human rights education. When discussing the subject of HRE in teacher training programs, Struthers states, “… teachers must themselves receive comprehensive training in ‘the necessary knowledge, understanding, skills, and competencies to facilitate the learning and practice of human rights in schools’” (Storms, S. B., 2013, p.161). I believe it is important for educators to have a well-rounded and unbiased understanding of the concepts, in order to convey factual and relevant information to their students. Teachers should not convey their personal opinions as factual information; thus, it is important to educate ourselves from multiple perspectives on concepts and values. Beyond simply being educated about the values and topics concerning human rights, teachers should practice being social justice advocates, who promote change in their community. By taking actions outside of the classroom to fight injustices and prejudices, teachers develop a better understanding of the processes involved in social action, which better equips them to teach student how to implement these processes for change (Storms, S. B., 2013).
I believe it is educators responsibility to include human rights and social justice education in the classroom, through meaningful, relevant, and respectful instruction. Human rights education can support students in developing into responsible citizens, and aid our society in moving towards a ‘human rights culture based upon the values of freedom, equality, dignity, non-discrimination, and tolerance’ (Storms, S. B., 2013, p.134).
Poplin, M., & Rivera, J. (2005). Merging Social Justice and Accountability: Educating Qualified and Effective Teachers. Theory Into Practice, 44(1), 27-37 doi:10.1207/s15430421tip4401_5
Storms, S. B. (2013). Preparing Teachers for Social Justice Advocacy. Multicultural Education, 20(2), 33-39.
Struthers, A. C. (2016). Human Rights: A Topic Too Controversial for Mainstream Education?. Human Rights Law Review, 16(1), 131-162. doi:10.1093/hrlr/ngv040