Passion for Justice

Three Decades of Human Rights Education

A Conversation with HRE Pioneers Nancy Flowers & Norma Tarrow

by School of Education

After 30 years of advocating and educating for human rights in the United States, Nancy Flowers* and Norma Tarrow** addressed a packed room full of social justice and HRE graduate students, scholars, and educators. Jazzmin Gota, MA '15, and Mary Jane Kober, MA ’16 (alumna of the HRE Masters program) were fascinated and inspired by the history and memories shared by these "founding mothers of HRE". Moderated by School of Education associate professor and HRE Masters program coordinator Dr. Monisha Bajaj, Nancy and Norma went decade by decade through their interconnected experiences in advocating and educating about, for, and through human rights.

Weaving through this conversation on HRE's foundations and evolution was an examination of the future of human rights education in the United States, as well as abroad, which provided a unique look into the personal and professional development of these two integral figures in HRE. Nancy and Norma touched on how HRE is integrated into school curriculums in other countries, and discussed past and present challenges faced by educators and advocates to bring it to U.S. schools curriculums (e.g. due to U.S. exceptionalism). Each took turns reflecting on their trajectories as human rights educators and scholars and shared stories of the moments that defined their careers and ideologies. From the beginnings of the United Nations to the development of Human Rights Educators USA in 2011, the conversation told the story of two lifetimes dedicated to the cause of human rights.

Following the conversation, an intergenerational Q&A highlighted what has changed over the past 30 years, as well as what has yet to transform. Students and faculty asked questions and received advice through stories of experiences from the past 30 years of practicum. Needless to say, these women who have lived their lives as true human rights educators by their courage and the conviction of their wisdom and actions inspired attendees. It was surprising to discover that these two women had never met in person before, though their work has built upon one another's over the years. Their exchanges and tag-teaming through America's HRE history gave the impression of life-long friends co-teaching, though they had only recently met in person.

As alumni of the HRE MA program and HRE practitioners, Jazzmin Gota, MA '15, and Mary Jane Kober, MA ’16 were immensely grateful to Dr. Bajaj and the School of Education for bringing these pioneers of HRE together to share their experiences and advice. Nancy Flowers commented on how she was envious of those in the audience who have the future to improve the field of HRE in the U.S, though, the bar has been set quite high for those aspiring to contribute to the field! This event coincided with the 5th anniversary of Human Rights Educators USA, and provided a space for human rights and social justice advocates to connect and build community. USF was fortunate to have Nancy Flowers and Norma Tarrow on campus to inspire, to share their histories, and to teach the USF community that HRE must become an ethos both in schools and societies.

Watch a recording of the event

* Co-Founder of Human Rights Educators USA, a writer and consultant to governments, non-governmental organization, and UN agencies for HRE

** Distinguished Professor Emeritus and prolific writer of HRE literature

This piece was written by Jazzmin Gota, MA '15, and Mary Jane Kober, MA ’16, alumna of the HRE Masters program.