Saturday, November 1, 2008

Sample GM - Human Rights in a Cultural Context

Here's another sample Global Module:

Human Rights in a Cultural Context

It is fair to say that all over the planet, human beings do rotten things to other human beings. Much is being done to decrease the frequency and severity of the abuse and of those many initiatives, the declaration of a common standard by international and multinational agencies is a step in the direction of clarity. What exactly are the rights that all human beings should be entitled to and what standard of behavior will the world’s governments hold their citizens accountable to? Can the world come to a universal agreement, at least at the level of official policy so that these standards of behavior and treatment can filter down eventually into the ghettos, barrios, favellas, shuks, suburbs, and national capitals of human society?

In this Global Module, students will be asked to look at two separate human rights declarations put forth by international human rights agencies. The first text will be the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which can be obtained here:

UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The second text is the Islamic Declaration of Human Rights, available here:

Islamic (Cairo) Declaration of Human Rights

In the course of the discussion students will be comparing and contrasting the documents to determine if they are redundant or essentially incongruous in some areas. Students will be asked to look at specific examples where the human rights culture of the U.N. may allow for behavior that the Islamic declaration might regard as a human rights abuse. Students will be asked to look at specific examples where behavior the Islamic declaration finds acceptable might be regarded as abusive by U.N. standards. In these specific cases, an attempt will be made to discover the philosophical or religious roots of the difference.

For the sake of engendering a lively debate, students will break into small groups to discuss the documentary, China’s Lost Girls, a movie about population control and its implications for female fetuses in traditional Chinese villages. Students will discuss whether or not it is possible for mutually satisfactory definitions of human rights to be developed and what, if any, action should be taken when some other culture violates one of “our” basic tenets of human ethical behavior when it seems entirely appropriate to them.


Week One: Introductions

During week one, students will be introducing themselves and getting familiar with the course objectives. As a way of introducing themselves and priming the pump for further discussions, students are asked to include a paragraph or two detailing a right which they would like to have that is presently not guaranteed to them or protected by their present government. They may wish to include some argument as to why this right should be guaranteed.

Week Two: Discussions

During week two, students will be reading and discussing:

The UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights and

The Islamic Declaration of Human Rights,

Students are asked to look for differences in the two documents. These may involve certain rights that are protected in one list but not in the other or certain justifications for the protection of rights that might be at the heart of the differences mentioned. For example, are women being treated differently in the two documents? Are reproductive rights being extended or denied? Are rights relating to conscience and practice of religion given similar treatment? Each student will be asked to find and share a contemporary issue that highlights one way in which these differences might lead to conflict or to a an exchange of recriminations between two countries. For example, one might highlight a story about religious freedom or the right of women to drive in Saudi Arabia or the publishing of novels or cartoons in England or Denmark.

Week Three: Group Work

On September 5, 1995, Hillary Clinton, wife of U.S. President Bill Clinton gave a speech at the U.N.’s fourth conference on women held in Beijing, China. Her speech, entitled Women’s Rights are Human Rights included a list of instances where Mrs. Clinton felt that a line had to be drawn with respect to human rights. An excerpt of that speech follows:

“I believe that, on the eve of a new millennium, it is time to break our silence. It is time for us to say here in Beijing, and the world to hear, that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women's rights as separate from human rights.

These abuses have continued because, for too long, the history of women has been a history of silence. Even today, there are those who are trying to silence our words.

The voices of this conference and of the women at Huairou must be heard loud and clear: It is a violation of human rights when babies are denied food, or drowned, or suffocated, or their spines broken, simply because they are born girls.

It is a violation of human rights when women and girls are sold into the slavery of prostitution.

It is a violation of human rights when women are doused with gasoline, set on fire and burned to death because their marriage dowries are deemed too small.

It is a violation of human rights when individual women are raped in their own communities and when thousands of women are subjected to rape as a tactic or prize of war.

It is a violation of human rights when a leading cause of death worldwide among women ages 14 to 44 is the violence they are subjected to in their own homes.

It is a violation of human rights when young girls are brutalized by the painful and degrading practice of genital mutilation.

It is a violation of human rights when women are denied the right to plan their own families, and that includes being forced to have abortions or being sterilized against their will.

If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, it is that human rights are women's rights - and women's rights are human rights.”

The speech raises interesting questions about human rights and culture and the right of one country’s leadership to declare which rights should be declared non-negotiable in other countries. After watching the documentary China’s Last Girls students in their small groups will discuss the specific issue of China’s one-child policy and Mrs. Clinton’s objection to it. Are there issues of American policy that a Chinese leader might raise as human rights abuses? Do communities like China have rights that may trump the rights of the individuals in them? Were Hillary Clinton’s remarks appropriate given the context? If your group was charged with the task of preparing this speech, would they change anything?

Week Four: Debriefing

In the final week of the Global Modules students will report on their week three discussions about Women’s Rights are Human Rights speech. Given what they have learned in the past three weeks, would they have rewritten any portions of the speech. If so, what would it look like? Would they have added anything? Taken something out? Rephrased the demands? Groups may wish to supply the wider audience with three or four questions that the GM has inspired that they might like to pursue.


Discussion Work: 25 pts.

Each student will be evaluated on one thoughtful response to a week one and week two question. A score of 25 will be awarded to posts that demonstrate a thorough reading of the assigned text, that demonstrates critical thought and reflection upon the text, and that shares a personal experience, insight, or question that comes from outside the assigned text.

Group Work: 25 pts.

Each student will be assigned to a small group and will receive a grade on the report submitted by that group in week four. Lack of participation in group-work by an individual student will result in appropriate deductions.

Reflection Essay: 25 pts

Each Champlain student will be asked to write a critical reflection after the GM. This assignment will require the student to cite three “moments” in the conversation that they feel best highlights for them the ways that students involved shared either a commonality or a difference about some fundamental issue.

Survey: 25 pts

A final survey of the involved students will be created from the questions students verbalize in week three and four. Data from this survey will be collected by the instructors and distributed to the participating classes.


At least one faculty member will be responsible for:

1. Logging in at least every other day to read posts
2. Responding as appropriate
3. Organizing and overseeing group work
4. Evaluating final essays
5. Assembling surveys and survey results

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