Abstract 1, Volume 10, Number 1, Spring 2015

“Schools Need to Wake Up!” Student Participants’ Calls for Human Rights Education

Jill M. Gradwell

Misty Rodeheaver

SUNY Buffalo State


Robert L. Dahlgren

SUNY Fredonia



From labor conditions to public health and environmental justice, globalization has created an increasingly complex web of issues surrounding human rights. Research in social studies education points to adolescents’ intrinsic curiosity when engaged in these multiple issues, as well as their idealistic thirst for involving themselves in social progress campaigns. Many students desire involvement and believe in the importance of human rights education within the formal educational setting, especially within social studies curriculum. We report the findings from a qualitative study conducted during a two-week intensive summer institute on human rights and genocide studies in western New York in the summer of 2011. In our study, we found while student participants felt empowered by the institute and their desire to take action was heightened during the experience, they questioned the disconnect between the genocide and human rights education in the Institute and the human rights education they experienced in their social studies classrooms. In comparing the two, they wished there were more authentic learning experiences and a higher level of academic rigor in their social studies classes. Although the New York State curricula, at the time of the study, included human rights education related topics, the interviewed student participants did not recognize its presence and felt human rights education is not a prevalent part of the enacted public school curriculum.

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