Author Bio

Christine Monaghan is a postdoctoral fellow in the International Education program at New York University and the Research Officer at Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict. Her research focuses on three main areas: the impact on children of attacks on schools and hospitals and denial of humanitarian access in situations of armed conflict; globalization and refugee education; and human rights education programming. Carol Anne Spreen is a professor of International Education at New York University and a Visiting Professor at the Center for Ed Rights and Transformation, University of Johannesburg. Her policy and advocacy work focus on issues of education rights, school reform, and educational inequality both domestically and internationally. Anna Hillary is a doctoral student in International Education at New York University


In this research project, we examine how human rights education can go be-yond the symbolism and rhetoric of rights and, instead, be understood in a way that critically considers the continued social, economic, and political inequalities that persist. Learning about rights should be informed by the lived experiences of those whose rights have been and continue to be violated. We use five years of research which empirically documents the impact and learning that took place in an interdisciplinary, action-oriented high school class comprised of honors/Advanced Placement (AP), refugee/migrant and special education students. By understanding and investigating identity, belonging, and citizenship through critical historical inquiry, experiential learning in diverse classroom settings, and civic action lessons, human rights education can provide a more complex way of looking at and understanding rights and responsibilities in a global world. The research examines the limitations in teaching human rights through “declarationism” (or merely through presenting texts, facts, and figures); but it also describes the strengths and possibilities for teaching rights through engaged critical praxis which enables learners to explore their rights and injustices through social action projects in their communities. We describe a combined university and high school course “Human Rights Activism and Education” which integrated university students with refugee/migrant and American high school students. Through action research projects that were carried out over a year-long course, students engaged in investigations about the intersections of race, class, and gender with issues of power and status, and considered these in light of their own experiences as well as their potential to impact the following concerns: homelessness, food security, racial discrimination, and immigration.