News & Updates

Anthology: Human Rights and Children

Human Rights and Children by Barbara Stark, Professor of Law at Hofstra University, provides a comprehensive overview of children’s human rights, collecting the works of leading authorities as well as new scholars grappling with emerging ideas of ‘children’ and ‘rights.’ Beginning with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world, this book explores the theory, doctrine, and implementation of the legal frameworks addressing child labor, child soldiers, and child trafficking, as well as children’s socio-economic rights, including their rights to education. With an original introduction by the Professor Stark and contributions by leading scholars such Jonathan Todres, Martha Davis, as well as many others, this topical volume is an invaluable resource for scholars, students, and activists. Contributors also include .  You can check out the table of contents here.

>> Learn more and purchase

800,000 Reasons to Teach About DACA

HRE USA is happy to release the 6th edition of the Human Rights Here and Now Bulletin, “800,000 Good Reasons to Teach About DACA: A Toolkit for Educators.”

Since 2012, nearly 800,000 undocumented young people who came to the USA as children have been allowed to go to school, work, or serve in the military without fear of deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. On September 5, 2017, President Trump rescinded the program and gave Congress six months to determine the fate of DACA recipients. “The deportation clock is ticking on hundreds of thousands of young people who know no other country,” said Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois. Work permits begin to expire on March 5, 2018, and all protections under the program will be stripped away on a rolling basis over the next 2 1/2 years.

Who are these so-called “dreamers”? Why do some people feel they should be expelled from the United States? Why do others agree with Human Rights Watch that Trump’s repeal of DACA will expose hundreds of thousands of people to deportation by a cruel and unjust immigration system? This DACA toolkit offers educators resources for addressing this important and controversial human rights issue that faces schools and communities across the country.

>> Download free resource

Educators for Social Justice Conference

EVENT DETAILS:
When: Saturday, February 24th
Time: 8:00 am – 4:30 pm
Where: Wydown Middle School, 6500 Wydown Blvd. St. Louis, MO 63105
Cost: $10-$35

The theme of this years conference is “Building Counter-Narratives for Radical Healing and Hope.” Due to escalating incidents of violence, discrimination, and misrepresentations of truth, many of our children are in need of radical healing and hope. This year’s Educating for Change Conference seeks to hone our great power as educators to build counter-narratives, which disrupt misrepresentations that give voice to alternative facts. This project is historically urgent. Join us in our efforts to use counter-narratives as a tool for fostering hope and healing so that we may resist traditional domination, empower marginalized communities, and move toward sustainable solutions to today’s crises. Keynote speaker, Gholnecsar “Gholdy” Muhammad will be speaking on the intersection of history and language arts ​with a particular focus on the representation of young black women. ​

Integrating Human Rights with STEM Education Inspires Students

MYLES BOYLAN, LEFT, GLENN MITOMA, ELIZA REILLY AND SARA TOLBERT PARTICIPATED IN A PANEL DISCUSSION ON HOW TO ENCOURAGE EVIDENCE-BASED POLICIES TO SUPPORT HUMAN RIGHTS IN STEM EDUCATION. | PHOTO: STEPHEN WALDRON/AAAS

A smart phone application to de-escalate tensions during traffic stops, a voting machine to give the disabled an accessible way to cast a ballot and a community-based research project to test the impact of mining on the Hopi Navajo Reservation’s groundwater provide snapshots of practicing science through the lens of human rights, presentations at an American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting showed.

In the field and in labs students applied scientific concepts and methods to problems they find relevant, using research data to develop and test responses to assist local policing, broaden voting participation and protect drinking water supplies.

The projects, undertaken by students of all levels, were among examples that stand at the intersection of an emerging approach to teaching that integrates the fundamental tenets of human rights into science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

Linking human rights and science was explored from multiple perspectives during the Jan. 25-26 meeting of the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition, a network of 26 science, engineering and health organizations.

“The international rights of freedom of speech, freedom of travel, freedom to associate and collaborate are freedoms to the essential ingredients in the practice of science,” said Rush Holt, CEO of AAAS, in opening remarks. “We should be looking at what human rights bring to science in those ways. Similarly, we will be looking today at what science brings to human rights.”

Two expert panels and breakout training sessions demonstrated how STEM education taught through the prism of human rights helps inspire students, puts the scientific method to work in the collection and eventual application of evidence and allows students to design and build projects that address civic issues. “Students love this stuff,” said Myles Boylan, program director at the National Science Foundation’s Division of Undergraduate Education.

Participants said reimagining STEM education has been shown to draw new students into the field, from elementary school through graduate school, keep them involved and build a more diverse student body and, eventually, a more diverse STEM community.

Such novel approaches are not without challenges, speakers said, including institutional barriers and academic resistance to altering the way courses are taught, particularly core courses. In some areas, faculty face concerns of politicization and encounter funding restrictions.

Jessica Wyndham, director of the AAAS Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law program and coordinator of the Science and Human Rights Coalition, which launched in 2009, said such approaches empower students, improve academic outcomes and encourage interdisciplinary partnerships.

IN A KEYNOTE ADDRESS JUAN GILBERT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA POINTED TO A SMART PHONE APP FOR USE DURING TRAFFIC STOPS AND A VOTING MACHINE ACCESSIBLE TO THE DISABLED, CREATIONS BY HIS STUDENTS INSPIRED BY HUMAN RIGHTS AND SCIENCE. | HEMING NELSON/4SITESTUDIOS

Eliza Reilly, executive director of the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement, a non-profit which seeks to strengthen student learning and interest in STEM by connecting course topics to issues of local, national and global importance, said rethinking STEM education is necessary to produce graduates equipped to tackle society’s environmental, economic and political challenges.

“Context-based learning, problem solving, community-based research, these are now things that are widely acknowledged through the research to be the most effective teaching practices,” Reilly said.

Efforts to rethink STEM education with a civic mindset date to the late 1990s, prompted by then-AAAS President Jane Lubchenco’s urgent call for scientists to enter into “a new social contract” to devote their talents to society’s most pressing problems and communicate what they know to others, Reilly said.

In 1998, Lubchenco’s appeal was quickly followed by the release of the Boyer Commission’s “Reinventing Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for America’s Research Universities” report that delivered a stark assessment of the nation’s research institutions and more broadly higher education.

Both eventually led, Reilly said, to the establishment of the center’s Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities program, which provides teaching resources to encourage faculty to frame courses around civic challenges such as public health disparities, inequality and environmental issues.

“The strategy is to teach the basic STEM content, do it rigorously, but do it through the lens of the problem,” she said, adding that “changing the script” encouraged faculty to devise new methods that improved learning.

Boylan said adopting such an approach addresses the two central challenges at the focus of National Science Foundation funding: the need to improve the quality of STEM education and expand access to STEM across groups.

Glenn Mitoma, an assistant professor of human rights, curriculum and instruction at the University Connecticut, said the history of human rights – from the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, particularly Article 26, to the 2011 United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education – gives students insights into how to apply such principles to societal challenges.

“There is no doubt that science can bring a number of different dimensions to human rights programs,” Mitoma said.

Sara Tolbert, an associate professor of science education teaching at the University of Arizona, emphasized the importance of forging partnerships with local organizations. Tolbert cited, for instance, the groundwater field study on the Hopi Navajo Reservation as having improved student academic outcomes.

“We talked about how human rights dictate that everyone has a right to education and I think we could extend that to all students have the right to learn and not to just sit in classrooms where they find the information is completely irrelevant,” Tolbert said.

Black History Month Resources

The story of Black History Month begins in 1915, half a century after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States. That September, the Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and the prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), an organization dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by black Americans and other peoples of African descent.

Known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the group sponsored a national Negro History week in 1926, choosing the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The event inspired schools and communities nationwide to organize local celebrations, establish history clubs and host performances and lectures. By the late 1960s, thanks in part to the civil rights movement, the event evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month calling upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

The Black History Month 2018 theme, “African Americans in Times of War,” marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and honors the roles that black Americans have played in warfare, from the American Revolution to the present day.

Take advantage of this great opportunity to focus attention on the history and contributions of African Americans with these recommended resources from Teaching Tolerance, Facing History and Ourselves, The King’s Institute Liberation Curriculum, and the Zinn Education Project. Find lessons that examine the Civil Rights Movement, materials on effectively teaching about American slavery, tools for teaching Reconstruction and remembering a time in U.S. history when Black lives mattered, and ways to encourage youth to think deeply about the African American Freedom Struggle and the current movements for justice.

>> Facing History resources
>> King Institute’s Liberation Curriculum
>> Teaching Tolerance resources
>> Zinn Education Project resources

Human Rights Education Needs Greater Attention in U.S. Higher Education

Human Rights Educators USA (HRE USA) and the University and College Consortium for Human Rights Education (UCCHRE) submitted a shadow report to the UN Human Rights Council highlighting the need for greater human rights education across higher education institutions in the United States.

Extreme Poverty in America

The United States, one of the world’s richest nations and the “land of opportunity”, is fast becoming a champion of inequality, according to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, an Australian academic and law professor at New York University.  Furthermore, extreme poverty, Alston warned, will be made far worse by policies being proposed by the Trump Administration.

The United Nations monitor made these statements in a devastating report following a 15-day fact-finding mission to California, Alabama, Georgia, Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C. and West Virginia where he spoke to low-income families as well as governmental officials. He will produce a final report next May and that in turn will go before the UN human rights council.

poverty in us2“I have seen and heard a lot over the past two weeks. I met with many people barely surviving on Skid Row in Los Angeles, I witnessed a San Francisco police officer telling a group of homeless people to move on but having no answer when asked where they could move to, I heard how thousands of poor people get minor infraction notices which seem to be intentionally designed to quickly explode into unpayable debt, incarceration, and the replenishment of municipal coffers, I saw sewage-filled yards in states where governments don’t consider sanitation facilities to be their responsibility, I saw people who had lost all of their teeth because adult dental care is not covered by the vast majority of programs available to the very poor, I heard about soaring death rates and family and community destruction wrought by opioids, and I met with people in Puerto Rico living next to a mountain of completely unprotected coal ash which rains down upon them, bringing illness, disability and death.”

“The American Dream is rapidly becoming the American Illusion, as the United States now has the lowest rate of social mobility of any of the rich countries,” said the independent human rights expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to look at poverty and human rights in countries around the world.

“American exceptionalism was a constant theme in my conversations.  But instead of realizing its founders’ admirable commitments, today’s United States has proved itself to be exceptional in far more problematic ways that are shockingly at odds with its immense wealth and its founding commitment to human rights.

“There is no other developed country where so many voters are disenfranchised and where so few poor voters even care to go to the polls, and where ordinary voters ultimately have so little impact on political outcomes. There are no other developed countries in which so many citizens are behind bars.”

The Special Rapporteur continued: “I have been struck by the extent to which caricatured narratives about the purported innate differences between rich and poor have been sold to the electorate by some politicians and media, and have been allowed to define the debate. The rich are industrious, entrepreneurial, patriotic and the drivers of economic success. The poor are wasters, losers and scammers.

“Despite the fact that this is contradicted by the facts, some of the politicians and political appointees with whom I spoke were completely sold on the narrative of such scammers sitting on comfortable sofas, watching colour TVs, while surfing on their smartphones, all paid for by welfare.

“I wonder how many of these politicians have ever visited poor areas, let alone spoken to those who dwell there.”

The most recent official statistics from the US Census Bureau in September 2017 indicated that more than 40 million people – more than one in eight Americans – were living in poverty. Almost half of those, 18.5 million, were living in deep poverty, with reported family income below half of the poverty threshold.

Mr. Alston said the poor were assumed to come from ethnic minority groups, but noted that in reality there were eight million more white people than African-Americans living in poverty. “The face of poverty in America is not only black or Hispanic, but also white, Asian and many other colours,” he said.

The Special Rapporteur expressed the fear that proposed changes in the direction of US tax and welfare policies could have devastating consequences for the poorest 20 percent of Americans.

“The proposed tax reform package stakes out America’s bid to become the most unequal society in the world,” Mr. Alston said. “It will greatly increase the already high levels of wealth and income inequality between the richest one percent and the poorest 50 percent of Americans.

“The dramatic cuts in welfare, foreshadowed by President Trump and Speaker Ryan, and already beginning to be implemented by the administration, will essentially shred crucial dimensions of a safety net that is already full of holes.”

“Several administration officials told me that as far as welfare reform is concerned, states are, in Justice Louis D. Brandeis’ famous phrase, ‘laboratories of innovation’. Recent proposals to drug-test welfare recipients in Wisconsin and West Virginia, along with Mississippi’s recent purge of its welfare rolls, raise concerns that the administration would happily look the other way while states conducted what were in essence unethical experiments on the poor.”

Mr. Alston’s final report on his US visit will be available in Spring 2018 and will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in June 2018.

>> Read Full Statement

TEACHING RESOURCE – VIDEOS
Professor Alston has prepared a series of short video clips perfect for stimulating class discussions on poverty, human rights, US exceptionalism, and other topics related to Alston’s official visit to the U.S. in December 2017.  More videos and information isn also available on Alston’s twitter feed, here.  A longer interview with Alston about his visit conducted at the Carnegie Council is here.

Professor Philip AlstonMr. Philip Alston (Australia) took up his functions as the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in June 2014. As a Special Rapporteur, he is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.