Date of Graduation

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Department/Program

International and Multicultural Education

First Advisor

Susan R. Katz

Second Advisor

Emma Fuentes

Third Advisor

Patrick Camangian

Abstract

Urban youth in the United States often experience daily human rights violations such as racism and violence. Therefore, Human Rights Education (HRE) can strengthen their understanding of these issues and unleash their power to act toward positive change. This qualitative study attempted to gain a deeper understanding of the use of performance arts to teach human rights in an urban high school setting.

The following meta-question guided this research: "Is it possible for HRE which integrates the performing arts as a pedagogical tool to provide a transformative educational experience for students?" To address this question, the study explored: 1) how the teachers integrated the performing arts with human rights content in their pedagogy, 2) what students, teachers, and artists reported about their experiences of and engagement in this pedagogy, and 3) what ways the students' creative work and reflections represented the transformative goals of human rights education.

Focusing on the experiences of teachers and students, this study documented the implementation of a human rights project at Hamer High School in Oakland, California. Participants included three classroom teachers, one teaching-artist, and nine students. The data collected consisted of observations, participant interviews, and students' creative work, including theatrical vignettes, multi-media, music, dance, spoken word poetry, and raps. The data reflected that learning about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) through performance arts provided a transformative experience for teachers and students and achieved the goals of HRE.

Students' ability to identify oppressive conditions through a human rights lens permeated the observations, student interviews, and final performance. Teachers encouraged students to connect the UDHR with their lived experiences and communicate creatively. Students were motivated by the opportunity to perform publicly, and their demand for human rights, particularly the right to be safe, was acknowledged by the audience. The culminating performance served as a public record of students' experiences, knowledge, and hope for the future.

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