CONTACT: STEPHEN PRADARELLI
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0007; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: May 10, 1999
UI Center for Teaching of Human Rights proposed
IOWA CITY, Iowa --For all thats terrible about
the crisis in Kosovo, the news and vivid images pouring out of Yugoslavia
provide educators with a unique opportunity to teach students about human
Unfortunately, teachers dont always have the
necessary tools to put human rights in context and make classroom sessions
meaningful. Providing teachers and teachers-in-training with training and
resources -- in the form of historical, political and cultural background
information, as well as contacts with experts on human rights "hot spots"
-- would be the primary mission of a proposed Center for the Teaching of Human
Rights in the University of Iowas Office of International Education.
"The issue of human rights has always been important
and has been the key to teaching many subject areas, including history, politics
and international studies, except the information is usually old," said
Paul Retish, director of the Office of International Education in the UI College
of Education. "There is much new material out there, but teachers and
people going into education may not know where to find it. Thats where
the center would come in."
The office promotes diversity in the College of Education
by assisting faculty to work with educational systems in other countries and
support those involved in cross-cultural and international research. It also
hosts international visitors and promotes and negotiates agreements with international
institutions for faculty and student exchanges and collaborative research.
Retish said the need for a human rights resource center
for educators has been made apparent by the ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia
and other countries, as well as problems closer to home, such as hate crimes
and school violence.
"The material on the Web and in movies lends
credence to the need for this kind of information," he said. "We
want to train faculty, provide pre-service and in-service training, tell teachers
what exists, how to use it, provide background on histories and behaviors."
The Center for the Teaching of Human Rights, which
would be separate from a proposed Human Rights Center at the UI, is still
in the planning stages, according to Retish. But he said the Office of International
Education is already providing many of the services he envisions being provided
by the center.
With funding from the United States Information Agency,
the office has been working with educators in the emerging democracies of
the Czech Republic, Armenia and East Timor to develop curricula that include
large components about living in a democracy and the importance of protecting
"We also try to get them to analyze the attitudes
and experiences in their own country to words such as freedom and human rights,"
In Indonesia, the office has included in teacher training
programs and in the schools discussion topics on human rights and the transition
to a democracy.
The office sponsors International Day at the UI each year
for local students and teachers to explore human rights issues. It is also
organizing a workshop for teachers, teachers in training and teacher trainers
to give them information on human rights and to share already established
"I would say we have begun, and what we are trying
to do is expand this idea into the College of Education being the center for
a program in the teaching of human rights," Retish said. "The movement
now is to determine support so we can expand the effort and to get out the
message that we are the place to look for materials, ideas and support in
developing curriculum materials in human rights."
More information about the Office of International
Education can be found at its Web site: http://www.uiowa.edu/~coe2/entities/inted/index.htm