How should U.S. policy address human rights?
Third edition. December 2016.
PREVIEW THIS UNIT. The preview includes the table of contents, a student reading excerpt, and one lesson plan. PREVIEW ALL UNITS. Additional unit descriptions for the Current Issues Series that summarize the historical context, student readings, and skill development are available on this MIRO BOARD.

Perhaps no subject is more thoroughly woven throughout international affairs than human rights. Human rights concerns and justifications permeate debates about military action, international trade, foreign aid, and security. Despite its pervasiveness in both global affairs and domestic politics, human rights remain an abstract concept for many. What exactly are human rights? How should governments protect them? How do human rights influence the lives of people around the world? Competing Visions of Human Rights: Questions for U.S. Policy prepares students to consider fundamental questions about human rights and their role in U.S. policy. The unit is divided into three parts. Each part includes:

  • Student readings
  • Accompanying study guides, graphic organizers, and key terms
  • Lessons aligned with the readings that develop analytical skills and can be completed in one or more periods
  • Videos that feature leading experts

This unit also includes an Options Role Play as the key lesson and additional synthesis lessons that allow students to synthesize new knowledge for assessment. You do not need to use the entire unit; feel free to select what suits your classroom needs.

“In an interdisciplinary global issues course for which sources are dynamic and current, it is a blessing to be able to rely on the well-crafted materials produced by Choices. I always start with such volumes as The United States in Afghanistan; A Global Controversy: The U.S. Invasion of Iraq; and The Middle East: Questions for U.S. Policy. I have also made extensive use of the Choices materials on human rights for the introduction of the course.” – Deb, Social Studies Teacher, New Hampshire

Part I: A Brief History of Human Rights

Part I places the development of human rights in the context of major events in history. There are two lessons aligned with Part I: 1) Human Rights in Action, and 2) Key Concepts in Human Rights.

Part II: Human Rights in Practice

Part II examines the international actors that promote, protect, and influence human rights and the challenges for human rights today. There is one lesson aligned with Part II: Promoting Human Rights through Social Movements.

Part III: Case Studies in Human Rights

Part III includes five case studies that highlight some of the key controversies surrounding human rights. There is one lesson aligned with Part III: Human Rights Controversies.


Human Rights in Action

This introductory exercise helps students define human rights. Students assess the role of human rights in cases from the United States and around the world, and are challenged to consider whether human rights are being violated and who is responsible for protecting them.

Key Concepts in Human Rights

Utilizing short videos of human rights scholars and practitioners, students explore fundamental concepts in human rights and consider the challenges of prioritizing rights.

Promoting Human Rights through Social Movements

Students consider the role of social movements in promoting human rights and assess creative forms of expression. Students explore source material such as protest songs from the Arab Spring, paintings inspired by Black Lives Matter, murals in Montreal for indigenous culture and justice, and more.

Human Rights Controversies

Students analyze primary source documents to explore in greater depth the controversies and fundamental questions about human rights presented in the five case studies in the reading.

The Options Role Play

The Options Role Play is the key lesson in the unit, and it asks students to examine four distinct options for U.S. human rights policy in preparation for writing their own option.

Taking Action on Human Rights

Synthesis Lesson: Students articulate their opinions on U.S. human rights policies based personal values, evidence, and political understanding. Students work in groups to design an organization to address concerns about human rights and create a visual publicity tool for their organization.

Assessment Using Documents

Synthesis Lesson: Students use primary sources to respond to the question of whether the United States is an international human rights leader. This documents-based exercise can be used to assess students' comprehension, analysis, evaluation, and synthesis of relevant sources and this curriculum unit.

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