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Episode 4: Reflections on human rights education
Guests: Fred Mednick, Founder, Teachers Without Borders Solmaz Mohadjer, Director of Emergency Education, Teachers Without Borders Chen Tang, second year master’s, University of Washington College of Education Nicola Follis, second year undergraduate, University of Washington, majoring in aquatic and fishery sciences Berty Mandagie, second year undergraduate, University of Washington, majoring in history and education Host: Nicole Kallmeyer, Content Manager, Teachers Without Borders PODCAST SUMMARY TWB staff and University of Washington students reflect on a semester of human rights education theory and practice. TWB’s human rights education seminar at the University of Washington: • The University of Washingtonʼs Pipeline Project connects students with education and service opportunities in local schools and organizations; it also offers seminars focusing on a variety of topics centered around education. • TWB partnered with UW’s Pipeline Project to design and facilitate a human rights education seminar for UW students.The seminar focused on education as a basic human right and tried to connect human rights and international development by exploring case studies and international commitments to human rights, like the UDHR and the Geneva Conventions. Reflections on the seminar and placements: • Students realized that UN treaties should take different cultures into account when creating international standards.

• Need to think about what teachers can do to promote equal opportunities for students. • Need to focus on specific activities and teaching methods, in addition to the “big” goals of human rights documents. • Need to consider how to incorporate studentsʼ cultural and social identities into curricula and instruction. • Suggestion: Post UDHR tenets in classrooms as a code of ethics, and send these rules home so parents know the level of respect that is expected in their childrenʼs classrooms. • Efforts to integrate human rights education need to be student-driven. Suggestion: Have students develop their own covenant for behaviour and respect. Have them sign this covenant as a promise to themselves and each other. • Major goal of human rights education: to integrate respect and dignity into daily life, inside and outside the classroom. FULL TRANSCRIPT Solmaz: In the autumn of 2010 Teachers Without Borders, in the partnership with the Pipeline Project at the University of Washington in Seattle, designed and facilitated a human rights education seminar. The Pipeline Project at UW is a K-12 outreach program that connects undergraduate students at UW (University of Washington) with educational and service opportunities in both local and regional schools and also community organizations through tutoring and mentoring. Pipeline Project also offers seminars that are called Inner Pipeline Seminars and these seminars focus on a variety of educational related topics and the requirements include participating in a weekly seminar and also tutoring for at least 2.5 hours per week in a Washington public school or a community organization. Each Inner Pipeline Seminar is uniquely tailored to address a focused educational topic and these topics range from general K-12 educational topics, to arts in the schools, science, math, literacy in the justice system, and more. What we did with the Inner Pipeline Seminar was focus on human rights and education. So, what we did is design and facilitate a seminar that was taught by a team of Teachers Without Borders staff including Fred Mednick, the founder of the organization, and Konrad Glogowski, the Program Director, and myself. This seminar focuses on education as a fundamental human right and we tried to connect these basic human rights and international development by exploring specific case studies and also the role of established conventions and international commitments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Geneva Conventions, and the Convention Against Discrimination in Education. These are just very few of the documents that we’ve been studying throughout the seminar. And throughout the course

as we look at all these documents and as students continue to volunteer at their placement sites, we asked very crucial questions such as: What can be done to promote the right to education? How can we promote this right around the world and also in our communities? How accessible is education in our communities? What inequalities and barriers to education exist to education in our own communities and around the world and eventually how can these barriers be removed? During this podcast we are going to speak with three students and two of these students actually attended our Inner Pipeline Seminar. They are going to speak about their experiences and share with us their thoughts on the human rights documentations they’ve been studying and also the experiences they’ve been going through at their placement sites. Chen: Hello, my name is Chen Tang I’m from China. I’ve been in the United States for one year and three months. I’m in the second year of master’s program in curriculum instruction, specializing in multicultural education at the College of Education. I want to be a Chinese language teacher after graduation in the United States especially in Washington state. Nicola: My name is Nicola Follis. I’m from Bellingham, Washington, which is about a half an hour south of the Canadian Border. I’m a second-year student at UW majoring in aquatic and fishery sciences. My goal after graduation is to go on and get my master’s in environmental education and go to work in a state park somewhere and educate children about the environment. Berty: My name is Berty Mandagie. I’m a second-year student at UW. I’m originally from Indonesia but I’ve been living in Everett, Washington for six or seven years. My goal is to become a history teacher and eventually be a principal. Nicole: What have you learned about human rights education in the seminar, and how have you been applying that at your placements? Or if you haven’t been using human rights education at your placements, how have you observed it being used at the schools? Nicola: Every week in the seminar we pretty much hit on how the UN documents are enforced and I don’t think anyone has an answer at this point and I think that once we have the answers we can start to apply the documents a little bit more, maybe. I’ve also realized that cultures differ. The UN just can’t write a document based on their own culture. They


have to take into account other people’s viewpoints. And I think as the class has progressed I think we read more documents I think it was the Amman Affirmation that really hit on everyone’s differences and that gave countries a more open – it gave them a chance to do it their way. I wrote in my reflection paper about the World Declaration on Education For All and in this document it says that every person has the fundamental right to meet their basic learning needs and I know that I’ve mentioned this before today but I think that it’s essential to learning to be exposed to a variety of learning techniques positive reinforcement is a big thing I’m kind of big on positive reinforcement because I just think that everyone has a right to learn. Everyone has a chance to learn, but if you don’t give somebody a chance to meet their fundamental needs then they’re not ever going to meet their fundamental learning needs if that makes sense. Chen: Yeah I’m glad that in this seminar I read so many international documents and two of them gave me really strong impressions. The Convention Against Discrimination in Education and the World Declaration on Education For All. One of the articles on the Convention 5.1a says, “Education should be directed towards the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It should promote understanding, tolerance, and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and should further the activities of the UN for the maintenance of peace.” I believe this is really aligned with what I’ve learned in me and one of the important goals of me is to try to give opportunities for all students for education no matter where they’re from, what languages they speak, what color they are. I will especially look at how teachers and schools and principals and administrative staff are responsible for empowering the students because I want to be a teacher so I especially focused on what teachers should do in promoting equal opportunities for students. For me human rights and education is like educational equality. It’s promoting educational equality what schools should do, what principals should do, what teachers should do I’m really interested in this topic. During in my experience in working in my placement I really focused on how teachers doing in on promoting educational equality for students. Like I said before during group activities the teacher I work with he is trying his best to promote equal status for students. I think this is one really specific task for a teacher’s job to promote educational equality. So we don’t just talk about general statements but zoom in all work that teacher does for the students. I think if you don’t look at the specific group activities, the teachers lectures, it doesn’t make sense to talk about the big statements or big goals of human rights or civic qualities for students. I think it doesn’t make sense, so I really look at the specific work that teachers do just for the students. Because I think that to assign equal status for each student that means that you really care about a student’s learning needs and know about your students what their needs and interests are and for their benefits - how do you incorporate a


student’s cultural identities, social identities, including those identities into your curriculum and instruction? I think it’s very important, so I really like to look at this kind of stuff. I think the teacher is really doing good. Fred: I want to describe what I learned from you, not just here but in class because you have taught me some things that have given me an idea that I can’t shake from my head. I grew up in summer camps, and that’s why I became a teacher and became a principal, so Berty I can relate to that and reaching all those needs. And Nicola when you talk about second graders’ enthusiasm going away, and how heartbreaking that is, that really struck me. And Chen when you talked about boring classes and needed pedagogy to change, this is what came to my mind in thinking about tying the human rights issue with the education issue, with the UN documents and with your placements. And the thought that I can’t shake is, what is if the UN Declaration of Human Rights or all the basics were posted in classrooms and they were actually a set of these rules that you see in classrooms? You know, “Don’t run in the hallways”, or, “Everybody is equal”, that actually this notion of it being a code of ethics that runs a school in the United States and Seattle, and that actually it’s an obligation of the teacher, and it’s a human right of the student, and that the parents themselves in the opening days of a classroom or in school, they get the rules of a classroom, like everything else, when homework is supposed to be turned in, and you know, your kid can’t take drugs, all those things. What if the parents also received a UN statement, a little wacky, I know, they’ll say, “What’s this all about?” But if I were a teacher, and I gave a packet of information to the families, that your child, regardless of culture, has the right to have his or her learning needs met in a way that respects their culture, that’s a revolution, right there. Because you are not just saying “follow the rules”, but you are obligated, by sending that home, to drill down to those specifics, and the parents can expect that from you, and the degree to which that parent is absolutely, feels respected, that someone took the extra step to send a major, not 50-page document, but send bullet points extracted from a global commitment to human rights, and how it might drill down into your classroom, second grade, or, middle school, to me is an inspiration. And I didn’t realize that actually until this podcast, but I was just wondering. Because I’ve been wondering: how are we going to do this, why do we have this impulse, starting with Solmaz, that we connect UN documents to the classroom. It may be a “duh”, as far as Solmaz is concerned, for me it’s an eye-opener that a teacher would actually initiate that in a Seattle classroom. And that this is not an idle intellectual exercise or an abstraction. This could be not only a code of ethics about operational design changing lessons, and about keeping the enthusiasm alive, and about dealing with different kinds of people. That’s what I found inspiring and that’s what I learned from you guys as we suffered through, week by week, trying to make sense of these documents. It’s hitting me now.


Nicole: Do any of you guys have other ideas for how the principles of these UN documents can be integrated into classrooms? Berty: When I was in summer camp as a counsellor, I made my campers what we call a cabin covenant, it’s like a promise that they would follow. It’s not really like rules, because it’s different to them: rules vs. covenant. A covenant means more of like a promise they have to make, and for little kids that means more than just rules. We made a covenant together, I didn’t say the rules, I wanted them to say the rules, I wanted them to come up with the rules. And then we come up, together as a group. And then after we finished the covenant, each one of them has to sign it. So, when they break the covenant, I could refer to that, “you signed this one, you promised”, the rule that you don’t bully other people, or you don’t touch other people’s stuff. And they learned from that. From my experience they became really, they felt, “Ah, I just made a mistake, I shouldn’t have done that.” To me, it’s like, it’s a lesson that they learn. It seems like they’re not going to do it again. To me, covenant means more of a promise than just rules, and they have to sign it to make it more personal to them. So I feel like in classrooms we can do the same by, maybe coming up with rules that are like the UN human rights, and make them sign it to agree to that thing, that you signed it yourself. Makes it personal to them. Nicola: Sending papers home to the parents would help, but I think that it does need to be student-driven and generated. Because you can hang as many posters on the wall as you want, you can send as many papers home as you want, but what really matters is that the message is sent to the kids. The only way you’re going to do that, really, the way to have the most impact is to have the kids come up with it, in my opinion. Fred: I love what you’re saying, especially because, if you didn’t know your rights, and you are an American, and don’t know about the UN documents, the posters are all, or the messages home is a symbol. Then you teach it, and then it becomes an obligation. What I love about it is the peace of mind that comes from someone participating in your class who comes from a culture where he or she wouldn’t dream of experiencing a fact that the teacher works with the child because the dignity of that child is so important; that his or her right to learn, and that the parent knows that, has such a huge ripple effect in the community, to embrace the school. That you don’t leave it at the symbolic, that, in fact, it becomes part of daily life.