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Supplemental materials include additional resources by the Choices Program and recommended books and websites.
Competing Visions of Human Rights: Questions for U.S. Policy
Third edition. December 2016.
Human rights have been central to political struggles and social movements throughout history. Individuals have organized, spoken out, and even risked their lives to demand that their rights be respected. Today, it is generally accepted around the world that governments have a responsibility to ensure and protect certain rights for their people. Yet while the general principle of human rights has been broadly accepted, human rights abuses persist and questions about the subject remain highly contested. These questions have significant implications for the policy decisions of governments and ultimately for the lives of individuals.
Using readings, case studies, and primary sources, students examine the evolving role that human rights has played in international politics and explore the current debate on U.S. human rights policy.
Students trace the origins and history of international human rights, exploring the effects of events such as World War II and the Nuremberg Trials, the creation of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Cold War, and decolonization. They also consider human rights in practice today, exploring how different actors—such as national governments, the UN, international courts, NGOs, and individuals—influence human rights around the world. Students consider current challenges in human rights, and also examine five case studies that highlight major controversies.
The Choices Role Play
This activity is a simulation in which students examine four options for U.S. policy. Each option has a different perspective on U.S. human rights policy. By exploring four clearly defined alternatives, students gain a deeper understanding of the values underlying specific policy recommendations and the trade-offs that accompany each of the choices. The role play is designed to help students clarify their thoughts and, ultimately, articulate their own views on the future of U.S. human rights policy.
Human Rights in Action
This introductory exercise helps students define human rights. Students assess the role of human rights in cases from the United States and around the world, and are challenged to consider whether human rights are being violated and who is responsible for protecting them.
Key Concepts in Human Rights
Utilizing short videos of human rights scholars and practitioners, students explore fundamental concepts in human rights and consider the challenges of prioritizing rights.
Promoting Human Rights through Social Movements
Students consider the role of social movements in promoting human rights and assess creative forms of expression. Students explore source material such as protest songs by the Choir Project from Cairo, Egypt during the Arab Spring, paintings inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, murals in Montreal for indigenous culture and justice, and artwork of women opposed to Pinochet's military dictatorship in Chile.
Human Rights Controversies
Students analyze primary source documents to explore in greater depth the controversies and fundamental questions about human rights presented in the five case studies in the reading.
The Options Role Play
Students engage in a simulation that brings the debate on U.S. human rights policy to life. Students assume the roles of advocates for four different policy options, and take on the roles of country and organiz.
Taking Action on Human Rights
Students articulate their own opinions on U.S. human rights policies based on personally held values, evidence, and political understanding. Students then work in groups to design an organization to address their top concerns about human rights and create a visual publicity tool for their organization.
Assessment Using Documents
Students use primary sources to respond to the question of whether the United States is an international human rights leader. This documents-based exercise can be used to assess students' comprehension, analysis, evaluation, and synthesis of relevant sources and this curriculum unit.