Talking about rights without talking about rights: on the absence of knowledge in classroom discussions
This article reports on research in three secondary schools in England where students were engaged in deliberative discussion of controversial issues. The teaching resources used illustrated rights-based dilemmas and the data analysis focused on the nature of the talk and the types of knowledge the students drew upon to inform their discussions. The article shares four insights: (i) there is a need to be more explicit about what constitutes human rights knowledge; (ii) human rights education requires the development of political understanding, which moves beyond individual empathy; (iii) educators need to value the process of deliberative discussions and avoid a push for conclusive answers; (iv) students need support to draw on knowledge from a range of disciplines. If these issues are not addressed, some students are able to engage in rights-based discussions with little knowledge and understanding of rights.
Association for Citizenship Teaching. (2018). The deliberative classroom: Topical debating resources and teacher guidance. Retrieved from: www.teachingcitizenship.org.uk/deliberative-classroom-topical-debating-resources-and-teacher-guidance
Adami, R. (2014). Re-thinking relations in human rights education: The politics of narratives. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 48(2), 293-307.
Al-Daraweesh, F. & Snawaert, D.T. (2018). The hermeneutics of human rights education for deliberative democratic citizenship. In M. Zembylas & A. Keet (Eds.), Critical human rights, citizenship and democracy education: Entanglements and regenerations (pp. 85-99). London: Bloomsbury.
Ball, S. J. (2017). The education debate (3rd ed.). Bristol: Policy Press.
Barnes, D. & Todd, F. (1978). Discussion in small groups. London: Routledge Kegan Paul.
Barton, K. (2020). Students’ understanding of institutional practices: The missing dimension in human rights education. American Educational Research Journal, 57(1), 188-217.
Barton, K. & Ho, L.C. (2020). Cultivating sprouts of benevolence: A foundational principle for curriculum in civic and multicultural education. Multicultural Education Review, 12(3), 157-176. https://doi.org/10.1080/2005615X.2020.1808928
Busher, J. & Jerome, L. (Eds.) (2020). The Prevent duty in education. Chams, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.
Department for Education. (2015). The Prevent duty. Departmental advice for schools and childcare providers (June 2015). London: Her Majesty’s Government.
Dryzek, J. (2002). Deliberative democracy and beyond: Liberals, critics, contestations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Endacott, J. & Brooks, S. (2013). An updated theoretical and practical model for promoting historical empathy. Social Studies Research and Practice, 8(1), 41-58.
Freire, P. (1996). Pedagogy of the oppressed. London: Penguin Books.
Habermas, J. (1996). Between facts and norms: Contributions to a discourse theory of law and democracy. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Hahn, C. (2020). Human rights teaching: Snapshots from four countries. Human Rights Education Review, 3(1), 8–30.
Hess, D. (2009). Controversy in the classroom: The democratic power of discussion. Abingdon: Routledge
Home Office. (2019). Revised Prevent duty guidance for England and Wales (updated April 2019). London: Her Majesty’s Government.
Howe, R.B. & Covell, K. (2010). Miseducating children about their rights. Education, Citizenship and Social Justice, 5(2), 91-102. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1746197910370724
Howie, P. & Bagnall, R. (2013). A critique of the deep and surface approaches to learning model. Teaching in Higher Education, 18(4), 389-400. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2012.733689
Jerome, L. (2018). What do citizens need to know? An analysis of knowledge in citizenship curricula in the UK and Ireland. Compare, 48(4), 483-499. https://doi.org/10.1080/03057925.2017.1295808
Jerome, L., Emerson, L., Lundy, L. & Orr, K. (2015). Child rights education: A study of implementation in countries with a UNICEF National Committee presence, Geneva: UNICEF PFP.
Jerome, L. & Lalor, J. (2015). Citizenship education learning and progression. SCOTENS. Retrieved from
Jerome, L., Liddle, A. & Young, H. (2020). The deliberative classroom. London: Middlesex University.
Karpov, Y. V. (2003). Vygostky’s doctrine of scientific concepts. In A. Kozulin, B. Gindis, V. S. Ageyev & S. M Miller (Eds.), Vygostky’s educational theory in cultural context (pp. 65-82). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Keet, A. (2015). It is time: Critical human rights education in an age of counter-hegemonic distrust. Education as Change, 19(3), 46-64. https://doi.org/10.1080/16823206.2015.1085621
Kim, G. (2019). “Why is studying hard a violation of human rights?”: Tensions and contradictions in Korean students’ reasoning about human rights. The Journal of Social Studies Research, 43(3), 255-267. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jssr.2018.06.001
Lingard, B., & Thompson, G. (2017). Doing time in the sociology of education. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 38(1), 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1080/01425692.2016.1260854
Mason, J. (2017). Qualitative Researching. London: Sage.
McAvoy, P. & Hess, D. (2013). Classroom deliberation in an era of political polarization. Curriculum Inquiry, 43(1), 14-47. https://doi.org/10.1111/curi.12000
Mercer, N. (1995). The guided construction of knowledge: Talk amongst teachers and learners. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Mill, J.S. (1859). On liberty. London: J.W. Parker and Son.
Osler, A. (2016). Human rights and schooling: An ethical framework for reaching for social justice. New York: Teachers College Press.
Osler, A. & Zhu, J. (2011). Narratives in teaching and research for justice and human rights. Education, Citizenship and Social Justice, 6(3), 223-235.
Pace, J. (2015). The charged classroom: Predicaments and possibilities for democratic teaching. Abingdon: Routledge.
Pace, J. (2019). Contained risk-taking: Preparing pre-service teachers to teach controversial issues in three countries. Theory and Research in Social Education, 47(2), 228-260. https://doi.org/10.1080/00933104.2019.1595240
Parker, W. (2018). Human rights education’s curriculum problem. Human Rights Education Review, 1(1), 5-24.
Reznitskaya, A. & Gregory, M. (2013). Student thought and classroom language: Examining the mechanisms of change in dialogic teaching. Educational Psychologist, 48(2), 114-133. https://doi.org/10.1080/00461520.2013.775898
Rowe, D. (2005). The development of political thinking in school students: An English perspective. International Journal of Citizenship and Teacher Education, 1(1), 97-110.
Shulman, L.S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4-14. https://doi.org/10.3102%2F0013189X015002004
Sunstein, C. (2000). Deliberative trouble? Why groups go to extremes. The Yale Law Journal, 110(1), 71-119. Retrieved from: www.yalelawjournal.org/essay/deliberative-trouble-why-groups-go-to-extremes
Walter, R. (2008). Foucault and radical deliberative democracy. Australian Journal of Political Science, 43(3), 531-546. https://doi.org/10.1080/10361140802267290
Young, H. (2017). Knowledge, experts and accountability in school governing bodies. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 45(1), 40-56. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1741143215595415
Young, I. (2002). Inclusion and democracy. London: Oxford University Press.
Young, M. & Muller, J. (2016). Curriculum and the specialization of knowledge: Studies in the sociology of education. Abingdon: Routledge
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2021 Lee Jerome, Anna Liddle, Helen Young
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with Human Rights Education Review agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).