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Stanford Helps Bring Human Rights To Community College Classrooms

Publication Date: 
October 04, 2011
Stanford Report
Cynthia Haven

In the following Stanford Report article by Cynthia Haven, Professor Helen Stacy speaks about the need for a multidisciplinary approach to the study of human rights issues.

Globalization has meant that the whole world is connected to the whole world's problems. Yet most of today's students live in a world no bigger than a cell phone keypad.

So how do you explain to them that the clothes on their backs may be sewn by slave labor in Asia, or how international human trafficking may be behind an Internet porn site?


"My hope is that human rights will form a central part of every college curriculum" – not only as a topic, but as a lens through which to see all topics, said Helen Stacy, director of the program on human rights at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

She said that human rights is typically pigeonholed as a "soft subject" in the social sciences or humanities, but such funneling "misses engineering students and IT students and math students."

For example, she said, students of computer science or statistics could be engaged in mapping human trafficking or drug smuggling. Young economists could study the supply-and-demand dynamics of crime.

The effort "to speak a language that speaks to all of the disciplines" could result in a human rights curriculum that extends into the high school and even the elementary school level, Stacy said. Moreover, the planned website with an online curriculum could help educators the world over – even an isolated educator sitting in Uzbekistan, she said.