Book Review: Teachers and Human Rights Education

Dear HumanDHS friends,

our dear friend, member of the Global Core Team and active peace linguist Francisco Gomes de Matos (see his profile here and some of his poetry works here) has written this  review for us. Please find it below.

Kind regards,
Uli Spalthoff

Review of

Osler, Audrey and Hugh Starkey (2010)

Teachers and Human Rights Education

Stoke on Trent,UK and Sterling, USA:
Trentham Books. xiii + 166 pp
ISBN 978-1-85856-384-8

Reviewed by Francisco Gomes de Matos, a peace linguist and human rights educator
Universidade Federal de Pernambuco and
Associação Brasil América, Recife, Brazil

This review will be divided into 10 sections:

1. Authors 2. Title/Cover 3. Aims 4. Organization 5. Foreword 6. Chapters 7. Epilogue 8. References 9. Index 10. Concluding remarks


Audrey H. Osler is a Professor at the Universities of London and Leeds.She has written and edited several books and has published articles in international journals.

Hugh Starkey teaches at the University of London`s Institute of Education .He is co-director of the International Centre for Education for Democratic Citizenship. The authors are internationally renowned in the field of Human Rights Education.

2. Commendably, the book has Teachers in its title, reflecting the authors`conviction that teachers need to be prepared to apply Human Rights principles to their educational work. Also humanizingly, the book´s cover is a drawing made by a child from India: it shows six children and their teacher in an outdoor classroom,surrounded by trees and vegetation.

3. Aims

The volume has multiple aims:”to clarify the relevance of human rights to teachers` everyday work,…”, to situate human rights education within a wider political context” and ” to examine critically the focus of much current human rights education in schools” (p.16).

A “linked aim is to consider the role of human rights and human rights education in enabling the development of successful multicultural democracies” (p.18).

4. Organization

This highly legible book has Acknowledgements (1 p.), Acronyms and Abbreviations (2 p.), Foreword (2 p.), 3 Parts: I.Human Rights: an Agenda for Action II. Politics, Cultures and Inequalities III. Human Rights and Democracies in Schools. There follow an Epilogue (4 p.), References (12 p.) and an Index (7 p.). Part I has 4 chapters; Part II has 3; Part III, 3 chapters.


In his cogent, eloquent prefatory remarks, Amnesty International Director Colm Ó Cuanacháin describes the authors´ contribution to educators and governments, as “a meaningful, effective and impactful way to bring dignity and justice to our world by teaching teachers how to teach in human rights”(xiii).

6. Chapters

Chapters vary in length from 12 to 16 pages. Commendably, all chapters but the first have human rights in their titles. The book`s varied and vast subject-matter is reflected in chapter titles:Three narratives (set in North America, Southeast Asia and Southern Africa); Contextualizing human rights; Human rights frameworks; Human rights, justice and peace; Politics, cultures and inequalities; Women´s human rights; Human rights and global change; Values, cultures and rights;Children´s human rights; Citizenship education and human rights; Human rights, politics and schooling.


The authors` inspiring humility is expressed thus: “As teachers and researchers we have learned a great deal from young people in different countries around the world.”(p. 144).


All References are in English. Revealingly,in this age of online communication, the authors include 28 online sources (dates of access given). The bibliography is up-to-date: It covers works published through 2010. Important journals are mentioned,among which Human Rights Quarterly, International Journal of Children´s Rights. Significant U.N and UNESCO documents are included.

In the otherwise comprehensive References I expected to find Betty Reardon`s Educating for Human Dignity. Learning about Rights and Responsibilities (University of Pennsylvania Press,1995) and Robert F.Drinan´s The Mobilization of Shame. A World View of Human Rights (Yale University Press,2001).

9. Index

The book´s conceptual-terminological breadth can be seen in its Index entries. Indexing is a most challenging editorial art-craft,so gaps may be found.Thus, conspicuously absent are entries for Discourse (cf. Pages 33, 89, 98, 102, 120), and for Language (cf. Pages 27, 28, 88, 95, 98). Critical Patriotism(p. 126) would deserve an entry. Researchers in Dignity Studies will be pleased to see 27 entries for Dignity. There are 22 entries for Peace, 14 entries for Violence, 20 for War, 38 for Justice, 22 entries for Women´s Rights, 25 for Citizenship, 44 for Democracy, 31 for Equality, 25 for Learners, 11 for Cosmopolitanism, 39 for Freedom, 46 entries for Rights. The entry for Paulo Freire misspells his first name: Paolo, instead of Paulo (Portuguese language spelling).

10.Concluding remarks

This is a clearly written, well-organized and well-documented book. Its highly legible print is enhanced by the writers` excellent exercise of their right to engage in critical thinking,especially when questioning educational actions.Let me quote one of their critiques: “Some Human Rights Education programmes in schools might be criticized for placing too much emphasis on the responsibilities individuals owe to each other (horizontal ties) and insufficient attention to the responsibilities which nation-states have toward their citizens and towards others living under their jurisdiction” (p. 126-127).

Before closing,mention should be made of the strategically effective use of Dignity by the authors in theirthoughtful, thought-and-action provoking book. Thus,in Figure 4.1 Human Rights Concepts, Dignity appears prominently, linked to Equality, Security, Justice, Peace, Democracy,Freedoms and Participation Citizenship (p. 47). Equally laudable is the presence of Dignity in Figure 5.1 Seven principles for women´s human rights (adapted from Mertus and Flowers,2008, Local Action, Global Change: A Handbook on Women´s Human Rights, published by Paradigm,Boulder and London). Dignity is presented as the First Principle,”the core basis of Human Rights is the protection and promotion of human dignity” (p. 63).

Much more could be said about this timely book,but that delight and humanizing benefit should be shared by readers. In short, a significant contribution to the Human Rights Education literature. Its authors and their publisher are to be congratulated for making this humanizing work available. May translations thereof appear.

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