Do You Know Your Human Rights?

shabnam_webUSF’s SCHOOL OF EDUCATION recently became the first pedagogical college in the nation to offer an emphasis in human rights for masters and doctoral education students—an option that is already proving popular in just its second semester.

“This emphasis is designed for teachers at all levels, K-12 as well as at the community college and university levels of higher education,” said Susan Katz, program developer and chair of inter- national and multicultural education (IME).

Katz, who along with Assistant Professor Shabnam Koirala-Azad was awarded two grants worth a combined $9,500 in 2007 to research previously piloted courses, recruit additional instructors, and develop the curriculum, said the new program provides a level of academic rigor unparalleled at other universities.

BP-Susanflowers_web So far, 17 IME students have enrolled in the program’s second semester this spring with many more expressing interest for the fall 2009 term, Katz said.

Completing the human rights emphasis could open the door to career options beyond the limited number of jobs offered by nonprofits and nongovernmental agencies working for human rights, to the fields of education, the arts, and law, Katz said.

Sixty years after the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations, it’s surprising how few American students study it, especially in the wake of the prison abuse and torture scandals that have come to light during the war on terrorism, Katz said.

Four core classes form the foundation of the emphasis—human rights law, human rights pedagogy, immigration and forced displacement, and gender and globalization—with electives being offered on subjects such as human rights in Latin America.

The emphasis, however, goes beyond theory to praxis, providing students with hands-on experience. In fall 2008, students in the gender and globalization class worked with Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, the Women’s Institute for Leadership Development for Human Rights, and the Global Fund for Women to promote women’s rights, for example.

“The philosophy behind human rights education is to combine both the content with a teaching strategy, which empowers individuals to act in defense of human dignity,” said Andrea McEvoy Spero, a third-year doctoral candidate in the IME program pursuing a human rights emphasis.

    « Back