Human rights education and the conscience of mankind: developing didactics of perplexity




The Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that ‘disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind’. From this point of departure, we argue that philosophical, political, and religious reflections on core concepts such as conscience, freedom, equality, dignity, justice, and peace can help to create an appropriate balance between a normative framework and a non-affirmative approach to human rights education. Teacher students can benefit from philosophical reflection, critical thinking, and individual judgement, as this will enhance the authoritativeness and self-determination of both teachers and learners. In terms of didactics, we consider the potentials of a concept-based approach inspired by the political philosophy of Hannah Arendt and her critical discussion of the perplexities of the rights of man.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...


Ank, I. & Toft Jakobsen, D. (2020). At være demokrat er ikke at være bange. Åndsfrihed under pres [To be a democrat is not to be afraid. Freedom of mind under pressure]. Aarhus: Klim.

Andersen, K.M. & Sigurdsson, L. (2020). Religionsdidaktik i praksis – dannelse til religiøs myndighed. Frederiksberg: Eksistensen.

Afdal, G. (2006). Tolerance and the curriculum. Religious diversity in Europe, vol 2. Münster: Waxmann.

Arendt. H. (1978). The life of the mind. Orlando: Harcourt. (Original work published 1971)

Arendt, H. (1979). The origins of totalitarianism. San Diego: Harcourt Brace. (Original work published 1951)

Arendt, H. (1983). Walter Benjamin: 1892-1940. In Men in dark times. Orlando: Hardcourt Brace

Arendt, H. (1989). Lectures on Kant’s political philosophy. Edited and with an interpretive essay by Ronald Beiner. University of Chicago Press.

Arendt. H. (1993). Truth and politics. In Between past and future. New York: Penguin. (Original work published 1961)

Arendt, H. (1994). Eichmann in Jerusalem. A report on the banality of evil. New York: Penguin Books. (Original work published 1963)

Arendt, H. (1998). The human condition (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Original work published 1958)

Arendt. H. (2000). Total domination. The origins of totalitarianism. In (ed. Baehr) The portable Hannah Arendt. London: Penguin Classics. (Original work published 1951)

Arendt, H. (2003). Some questions of moral philosophy. In (ed. Kohn) Responsibility and judgement. New York: Schocken Books. (Original work published 1966)

Arendt, H. (2005). The promise of politics. Edited and with an introduction by Jerome Kohn. New York: Schocken Books.

Benhabib, S. (1996). The reluctant modernism of Hannah Arendt. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage

Benner, D. (1980). Das Theorie-Praxis-Problem in der Erziehungswissenschft und die Frage nach Prinzipien paedagogischen Denkens und Handlens [The theory-practice-problem in science of education and question of the principles of pedagogical thinking and action]. Zeitschrift für Pädagogik, 26(4), 485-497.

Benner, D. (2005). Tekster til dannelsesfilosofi – mellem etik, pædagogik og politik [Texts for philosophy of formation - between ethics, pedagogy and politics]. Aarhus: Klim.

Benner, D. (2008). Bildungstheorie und Bildungsforsgung [Educational theory and research]. München: Ferdinand Schöningh.

Benner, D. (2015). Allgemeine Pädagogik [General pedagogy]. (8th ed.). Weinheim: Juventa.

Bernstein, B. (2000). Pedagogy, symbolic control and identity: Theory, research, critique. Lanham, MD: Roman & Littlefield.

Biesta, G. (2021). Education, education, education: Reflections on a missing dimension. In G. Biesta & P. Hamman (Eds.), Religion and education. The forgotten dimensions of religious education? (pp. 8-20). Leiden: Brill.

Christoffersen, J. (2018). Jura og politik – tanker om formalisme, idealisme og pragmatisme. Festskrift for Mads Bryde Andersen [Law and politics – thoughts on formalism, idealism and pragmatism. Festschrift for Mads Bryde Andersen] (pp. 757-778). Copenhagen: DJØF Forlag.

Council of Europe. (2016). Competences for democratic culture. Living together as equals in culturally diverse democratic societies. Strasbourg. Retrieved from

Danish Institute for Human Rights. (2020). Human rights in Denmark. Annual report to the Danish parliament. Retrieved from

Freeman, M. (2017). Human rights. (3rd ed.). Cambridge: Polity Press.

Göndogdu, A. (2011). ‘Perplexities of the rights of man’: Arendt on the aporias of human rights. European Journal of Political Theory, 11(1), 4-24.

Goodlad, I. (1979). Curriculum inquiry: The study of curriculum practice. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Gordon, M. (2002). Hannah Arendt and education. New York: Routledge

Iversen, L.L. (2019). From safe spaces to communities of disagreement. British Journal of Religious Education, 41:3, 315-326.

Kallesøe, D. & Groth, L. (2016). Lommefilosoffen [The pocket philosopher]. Viborg: Filosofipat

Kant. I. (1803/2000). Besvarelse af spørgsmålet: Hvad er oplysning? [An answer to the question: What is enlightenment?]. Oplysning, historie og fremskridt. Slagmark. Aarhus.

Kemp, P. (2011). Citizen of the world: The cosmopolitan ideal for the twenty-first century. New York: Prometheus Books

Koselleck, R. (2007). Begreber, tid og erfaring: En tekstsamling [Concepts, time and experience: a collection of texts]. Copenhagen: Hans Reitzels

Krukow, S. (2020). Menneskerettighedernes ambivalens [The ambivalence of human rights]. Dansk Pædagogisk Tidsskrift, 1. Retrieved from

Lenz, C. (2019). Creating world through concept learning. Conceptualizing the world: An exploration across disciplines (pp. 66 – 78). Brooklyn, NY: Berghahn Books.

Lilja, A. & Osbeck, C. (2020). Understanding, acting, verbalizing and persevering – Swedish teachers’ perspectives on important ethical competences for students. Journal of Moral Education, 49(4), 512–528.

Martens, E. (1999). Philosophieren mit Kindern. Eine Einfürung in die Philosophie [Philosophising with children. An introduction to philosophy]. Stuttgart: Reclams Universal Bibliothek.

Ministry of Children and Education. (2018). The aims of the folkeskole. Retrieved from

Ministry of Education and Research. (2015). Bekendtgørelse om uddannelse til professionsbachelor som lærer i folkeskolen [Executive order on education for professonal bachelor as teacher in primary and lower secondary school]. Retrieved from

Nevers, J. (2007). Spørgsmålets politik [The policy of question]. Slagmark, 48, 123-137.

Nussbaum, M.C. (2019). The cosmopolitan tradition. A noble but flared ideal. Harvard: Belknap.

Oettingen A.V. (2011). Almen pædagogik [General pedagogy]. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.

Osler, A. (2016). Human rights and schooling. An ethical framework for teaching social justice. New York, NY: Teachers’ College Press

Osler, A. & Starkey, H. (2018). Extending the theory and practice of education for cosmopolitan citizenship. Educational Review, 70:1, 31-40.

Parker, W. C. (2018). Human rights education’s curriculum problem. Human Rights Education Review, 1(1), 05–24.

Pedersen, R., Böwadt, P. R. & Vaaben, N. (2019). På tærsklen til at blive lærer. Studerendes overvejelser om deres kommende arbejdsliv [On the threshold of becoming teacher. Student’s considerations of their future work life]. Copenhagen: Københavns Professionshøjskole.

Sigurdsson, L. (2019). Citizenship and religion in troublesome times. In E. Amnå (Ed.), Nordic education in a democratically troublesome time: Threats and opportunities (pp. 30-33). Retrieved from

United Nations. (1948). Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 10 December 1948, RES/217A (III). Retrieved from

United Nations. (1989). Convention on the Rights of the Child. United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1577, p. 3. Retrieved from

United Nations. (2011). United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training. RES/66/137. Retrieved from




How to Cite

Sigurdsson, L., & Andersen, K. M. (2022). Human rights education and the conscience of mankind: developing didactics of perplexity . Human Rights Education Review, 5(1), 70–89.

Cited by