Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Human Rights Global Module

This Global Module fits in very well with a second year course we offer at Champlain entitled Capitalism & Democracy. It would be a good fit for many political science or international relations or constitutional courses.

Human Rights – Universal or Relative?

Week 1

Let’s take the opportunity to get to know each other. You’ll find three folders in the Week 1 area, one called Introductions, one called Perceptions, and one called Questions.

During a normal week, unless otherwise directed, always remember to post at least two times.

We’ll begin our reading and discussing next week. With this in mind, we want you to do a few things this first week.

1. Post an introduction in the Introduction folder. What are your interests? Do you have experience travelling overseas? What do you hope to learn in the Global Module? Also, take the opportunity to greet your fellow students and find out more about them. Be sure to include contact information such as your email address or IM.
2. What are your perceptions of your partners in the Global Module? For the _____ students, what do you think of the US? For the American students, what do you think of when you think of _____? Post your initial views in the Perceptions folder.
3. Post any questions that you might have in the Questions folder. Some of you are probably quite experienced in working online, and might have even participated in Global Modules before, and could help out your classmates if they have any concerns.

Keep in mind that you should always feel free to contribute to the Casual Conversations folders found elsewhere on the site. Feel free to introduce a topic or post questions. The password for the Casual Conversations folder is: moose.

Thanks, and we’re really looking forward to getting started.

Week 2

This week we begin our discussion of human rights. We will be using two short texts. The first is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (; the second is the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam ( Please follow these links and read the two declarations.

These two declarations represent two different approaches to the issue of human rights. One is from a universalist perspective, while the other focuses on a particular cultural and social context for human rights. By reading and discussing both of them we can gain a better understanding of how different societies interpret the concept of human rights.

Once you have read the texts you will answer a series of questions. You will be required to post answers at least twice, although you can contribute more often if you wish. You can either post an original answer to a question or comment on the posting of another student. Either way, your postings should be detailed and analytical. If you are late posting for the week do not simply answer a question that has already been answered by another student – contribute in a new way. Build upon your fellow students’ answers. Think of it as the class as a whole answering the question.

1. Look at the dates for both of these proclamations. Do the eras in which they were issued affect their content? Why and how?
2. What organizations promulgated each declaration? How might the goals of these organizations differ, and how might those differences affect the declarations?
3. In compare this, from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

“Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all people and all nations, to the end that each individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”

With this, from the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam:

“Believing that fundamental rights and freedoms according to Islam are an integral part of the Islamic religion and that no one shall have the right as a matter of principle to abolish them either in whole or in part or to violate or ignore them in as much as they are binding divine commands, which are contained in the Revealed Books of Allah and which were sent through the last of His Prophets to compete the preceding divine messages and that safeguarding those fundamental rights and freedoms is an act of worship whereas the neglect or violation thereof is an abominable sin, and that the safeguarding of those fundamental rights and freedom is an individual responsibility of every person and a collective responsibility of the entire Ummah . . .”

What are the essential differences between these two foundations for the idea of human rights?

4. Compare Article 16 in the Universal Declaration, with Article 5 in the Cairo Declaration. What are the main differences? Are both articles equivalent in their recognition of marital and family rights?
5. How does Article 6 of the Cairo Declaration compare with the status of women in the Universal Declaration?
6. What limits a person’s rights in the Universal Declaration? What limits them in the Cairo Declaration?

Week 3

Let’s continue our discussion this week, focusing on specific examples from our two countries. Work on the following question. Be sure to post at least twice this week.

1. What role does a society, religion, faith, or political system have in defining rights in that case?
2. Is the idea of a declaration of “Human Rights in Islam” compatible with the idea of universal human rights?
3. What is more important, the concept of universal human rights or the freedom of societies to define rights according to faith?
4. Can you have true equality for men and women without running afoul of various religious beliefs? Or would religious beliefs actually lead to true equality for men and women?
5. If human rights are truly universal, then what should be the role of the United Nations or other organizations in protecting them?
6. Are there places in the world where human rights are being routinely violated? Should we care?

Week 4

Sadly, it’s already time to say goodbye. Each student should post at least once this week.

1. What have we learned about the existence of human rights in our two countries, and in the larger world?
2. Are human rights truly a universal concept?
3. Which of the human rights expressed in the two documents are the most important in today’s world?
4. What have we learned about each other and ourselves from this discussion?
5. Would you like to say goodbye to your new friends? What do you want them to know about your country?

In addition, Champlain College students should write a short reflective piece to be posted in their ePortfolio. What did you learn from the process? What were the similarities and differences that you discovered? What might explain them? What political, religious or cultural influences shaped these views? Are the viewpoints expressed in the Global Module shaped more by personal or larger societal influences?

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